Sunday, May 13, 2007

A strict-constructionist anti-racist.

At the end of a long discussion, theCSO said,

"I consider myself a strict-constructionist anti-racist. I don't believe in discrimination on the basis of what is in your genes. However, I think sometimes we can quite reasonably discriminate on this basis of some cultural factors,"

I don't know how to respond to that. In some ways I like it as it gives a neat answer to the perinnial Chalicechick question "What is a properly anti-rascist approach to cultures that treat women badly?"

But I don't think it is a whole answer.




kim said...

On the grounds that culture is changeable and arbitrary (and somewhat voluntary), it makes sense. We have (somewhat) changed our culture to be less racist/sexist, after all, at least some.

PG said...

I don't understand what the CSO said. I think there's a massive difference between how one treats a "culture" and how one treats an individual. Racism against cultures, if ONLY against cultures and not against individuals within them, is regrettable but not a serious moral evil, whereas racism against individuals is a huge moral evil. I don't consider it "racist" to think that the caste system associated with Hinduism is wrong, particularly in modern capitalist society. (For one thing, if that's racist, I'm a self-hating Hindu-raised person.) However, I would consider it racist for someone to judge Hinduism solely on practices that its mainstream leaders have abandoned, such as concerns about caste, sati, etc. I think it's wrong for someone to judge the value of Islam solely by Saudi law instead of by reading the Koran and looking at why some educated, working Western women convert to Islam. And this is the kind of racism (or as Said put it, Orientalism) that is too common today. I don't judge Catholicism solely by the extremely-bad-consequence-producing policy against condom use even in HIV-ravaged nations; Catholics (and others) shouldn't judge other religions or cultures by a few negative factors either.