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24.2.07

Racism Is Objective, Take 2

Alon Levy (in comments and at his blog interprets my previous post as saying that "majority-race people should accept minorities’ judgments in assessing whether they engage in racism." He counters with the example of Jews who claim that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic -- noting, rightly, that we shouldn't just take their word for it.

The thing is, though, that I wasn't saying that "majority-race people should accept minorities’ judgments in assessing whether they engage in racism." My point was that whether or not something is racist or not depends entirely on its effects on others, not the intentions of the actor. One important source of information about those effects is the testimony of purported victims. But it would be poor methodology, not to mention patronizing, to automatically take someone at their word that an action is racist -- rather, we should give consideration to their arguments, factoring in everything else we know about the context of the action and the objection to it.

Levy's interpretation of my argument comes close to being accurate with respect to the particular example I used in my post -- Native American mascots -- due to the nature of the alleged benefits weighing in favor of keeping the mascot. Defenders of Chief Illiniwek claim that the Chief honors Native Americans. Honoring, though, is an act whose success can only be judged by its subjective impact on the intended honoree -- that is, does the honoree feel honored or not. So the honest testimony of Native Americans is the only evidence we have to go on for this particular issue.

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