Archives For January 2016

Two Kinds of Racism

21 January 2016 — Leave a comment

Close Up of a Fountain Pen Writing on a Piece of Paper

A letter I wrote to the NYTimes, which was not published.

To the Editor,

In George Yancy’s article “Dear White America,” he writes:

What if I told you that I’m sexist? Well, I am. Yes. I said it and I mean just that.

I think that this passage is confusing because it conflates two distinct types of sexism. One type of sexism might be called doxastic sexism – doxastic means relating to an individual’s beliefs. Thus, in response to the question, “Do you believe women are inferior to men?” a doxastic sexist would say yes. I doubt Yancy is a doxastic sexist. Another type of sexism might be called implicit sexism. Implicit sexism is not doxastic; it does not have to do with what one actually believes, but rather with how one behaves. The broader effects of implicit sexism include the persistent wage gap, gender disparity among the occupants of leadership positions in business and government, and a cultural indifference to disrespect towards women.

His failure to distinguish between doxastic and implicit sexism is probably why Yancy has

watched [his] male students squirm in their seats when [he’s] asked them to identify and talk about their sexism.

I suspect that Yancy’s male students would not squirm in this way if asked to accept their implicit sexism. However, I suspect that most would rightly object to being called doxastic sexists, since they do not believe that men are superior to women.

Similar remarks apply to racism, the main subject of Yancy’s essay. Just as in the case of sexism, I will admit that I am an implicit racist, that this is a deep problem, and that I don’t quite know what to do about it. Despite this, I would squirm in my seat just as Yancy’s students do if I were asked to admit to being a doxastic racist, since I simply do not believe that white people are superior to black. I believe that they are equal.

Sincerely,

Alexander Richey

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