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When a child is born of a mixed union between a black and a white person, white

When a child is born of a mixed union between a black and a white person, white people and the media tend to consider this child to be black. When this child becomes an adult, people will assume he or she is black until informed that there was a white parent as well. As a white person, this used to seem natural to me, since mixed children look more like black people than white people. As I get older and think about these things more, though, I wonder; does this really make any sense, or is this just a default assumption I've unconsciously acquired, with no actual physiological base? Do black people look at mixed children and think that these children are basically white, unless informed there is a black parent in the mix? Or is there some truth to the notion that racially mixed children lean more in appearance towards their non-white parent? (We seem to have the same assumptions concerning mixed white and Asian children, for example)

Yes, inthe United States, the child of a blackand white couple is typically labeled black. Unfortunately, many do not recognize the historical relationship betweenracial categorization and white privilege. In short, whiteness was conceived in the 18th Century as a mark of privilege.Racial categorization was aboutmaintaining the dignity, the citizenship, the rights of white people. It was also about the denying non-whites these same privilegesand rights.

It is worth noting that these racial classifications are socialconstructions that have changed throughout history. For instance, people of Irish, Italian, andSlavic heritage were not always considered white in the United States. I strongly suggest the documentary film Race: The Power of An Illusion (

Nevertheless,I would seriously challenge (i) the idea that mixed black and white children‘just look more like black people than white people’ and (ii) the idea that ‘peoplewill assume he or she is black until informed that there was a white parent.’ Mixed-race children turn out in variousheights and builds, shapes of face, texture of hair, and skin of amazingly diversehues. Some mixed-race children are aspitting image of their white parent, just one shade darker. It is not that people do not detect thatthere is a white parent involved, it is that when we run into ambiguity, traditionwould have us assign the mixed-race child to the non-white race. Such isthe racial categorization that is assigned to a personfrom the outside.

But what about the identitywe claim for ourselves? Racial identityfor a mixed-race person can be quite confusing, considering that he or she is oftenbeset with competing cultures, traditions, and allegiances. Linda Martín Alcoff captures it well when shewrites: "I am not simply whitenor simply Latina, and the gap that exists between my two identities – indeed,my two families – a gap that is cultural, racial, linguistic, and national,feels too wide and deep for me to span. I cannot bridge the gap, so I negotiateit, standing at one point here, and then there, moving between locations asevents or other people’s responses propel me. I never reach shore: I neverwholly occupy either the Angla or the Latina identity. Paradoxically, in whitesociety I feel my Latinness, in Latin society I feel my whiteness, as thatwhich is left out, an invisible present…" (“Mestizo Identity”).

Is it racist to believe that African Americans are less intelligent than

Is it racist to believe that African Americans are less intelligent than Caucasians on the whole since scientific studies show that African Americans have lower IQs? Does not being racist presuppose the hypothesis that cultural biases predispose African Americans to have lower IQs? I mean do you have to believe that IQ differences are due to cultural differences to not be racist? Supposing that differences in IQ were due to biological differences would it be racist to suppose that African American tend to be less intelligent or would that assessment be unwarranted without an understanding of the relationship between intelligence and IQ? I mean you can be intelligent in ways that aren't measurable by IQ can't you? But if IQ differences are in fact biological what is the difference between being racist and scientific? Isn't the idea that some groups are statistically more likely to produce people who are less intelligent than another group one way which racism is defined? Or is that an incorrect definition...

There are a lot of complicated issues here! But let me just address one.

Let's suppose it true that black Americans do, as a whole, have lower scores on IQ tests than do white Americans. To suggest that there might be a biological explanation for this fact is to suppose that African Americans are, as a group, (i) biologically different from white folks and (ii) in some relevant respect, biologically similar to each other. That is, there has to be some relevant biological feature that black people generally have that white people generally do not. That is not itself a racist idea, but it is, so far as anyone can tell, just plain false. Black people have various genetic features that causes them to have dark skin, but these genetic features are not significantly correlated with very much else. And, indeed, I recall reading a year or so ago a study someone did that suggested that the skin tone of the early migrants to Europe changed within a couple dozen generations.

Now, as I said, the idea that black people are biologically distinguished as a group, in ways that go beyond skin tone, is not itself racist. But it is at the root of much racist thinking. It was generally supposed in the 18th century, for example, and by folks as smart as Thomas Jefferson, that black people were fundamentally and importantly different from white people, and that was part of what justified their racism. But if the only thing black people have in common is dark skin and African ancestry, then it's hard to see what would justify treating such people in the ways racists would prefer.

There is much wisdom on such matters in work by Anthony Appiah.

Most people, I'd guess, have racial preferences in dating. I don't think that

Most people, I'd guess, have racial preferences in dating. I don't think that this is morally problematic in itself, since there is surely no obligation to date anyone, or members of any particular group. Still it strikes me that many cases of racial preference in dating are likely rooted in racism. For instance, I have never been attracted to black women; and while I would insist that I have no duty to be anything like an equal opportunity dater, I strongly suspect that my preference in this case is at least partially the result of racial prejudice. (I imagine that I would more often find myself attracted to black women if I had not internalized various stereotypes, racially-based aesthetic norms, etc.) Is this a problem? Does it matter to our evaluation of a particular attitude if, though perhaps innocuous in itself, it has a causal origin in bigotry?

I doubt whether we should feel that we ought always to treat everyone entirely equally to avoid being called racist. We are allowed to have preferences and sometimes these will be on racial grounds, perhaps, provided that those preferences do not systematically discriminate against people in ways that do them harm. Unless we had some fairly fixed preferences, it would be very difficult to discriminate among different sorts of people in any way whatsoever, and dating is based on such discrimination. It is as well to be aware of one's prejudices and to consider whether it is worth trying to challenge them, but there is nothing wrong in acknowledging them and recognizing their role in defining a personality.

Blind dates are fun because they force the individual to respond to partners with whom one might not otherwise consider going. On the other hand, if every date were to be a blind date, this would not be evidence of having an open mind but rather of a lack of character.

What is racism and why is it wrong?

What is racism and why is it wrong?

Hm, your question is so deep yet so brief that one wonders what is motivating it. But perhaps a brief question initially warrants just a brief answer. I imagine that racism is a position that holds (1) that (physical) race is a meaningful/legitimate category or way of classifying human beings and that (2) different qualities tend to be found in people of different races and that (3) some of these qualities are more valuable than others. Having stated it so baldly and so roughly it is NOT obvious why it is wrong; in fact it may well be correct (although actually proposition (1) is definitely a hard one to defend empirically, and proposition (2) is so statistical in nature, admitting of so many individual exceptions, that it is probably useful as a practical guide to behavior, if that is how people who endorse (10-(3) probably want to use it.) But of course what makes it "wrong" to most people is that it is (a) factually wrong (ie either one or more of those three propositions are false, or perhaps the specific qualities judged to be 'more/less valuable' are wrongly so judged) and (b) even if it's factually correct, the type of behavior it sanctions is morally objectionable for any number of reasons... (but details here would have to be worked out by looking at specific cases of alleged racism ....)

just some thoughts.


Dear Philosophers,

Dear Philosophers, Can we regard Race discrimination as an aesthetic issue? By this I mean to view the differences among different races as aesthetic preference. So, can we say that when a person doesn't like a specific human race, he/she is just making an aesthetic choice, and, consequently, if we do not allow him/her to express his/her preference we are limiting his/her freedom of speech? Thank you

What seems to be at issue in this question is not racial discrimination, in terms of which the question begins, which would seem to imply that what's at issue is negative bias towards people in virtue of their race, which certainly wouldn't be an aesthetic, but a moral issue; the second sentence suggests that what's really at issue in the question is the nature of the basis for distinguishing among people with respect to their race, which is a distinct matter, and which need not--although, admittedly, it tends to--have moral and political implications. Now there is no doubt that individuals from different races often appear different--even if, as recent empirical work has suggested, there is little to no genetic difference between such people, so that they are not essentially different, even though they appear different--and it does not seem implausible to me that one might, whether because of habit, preference or other reasons, find individuals of certain races less attractive than those of other races. The mere fact that one finds individuals of certain races more attractive than those of other races need not itself have political and moral implications, and if in saying that one preferred individuals of certain races to those of other races, one were merely signaling one's aesthetic preference, this need not reflect on one's moral status at all, for the aesthetic preference need not have moral implications. Given current US law regarding freedom of speech, provided that one isn't in a politically sensitive position and thereby not speaking for oneself, but from one's position, it seems to me that there is no bar against the expression of one's preference for individuals of certain races, rather than others, regardless of whether in so doing one is expressing an aesthetic or a moral judgment, and no law could be passed that banned or even limited such expression. (Even if this expression did even incite others to mistreat members of the less aesthetically races, hate speech has been upheld in the US Supreme Court.) To be sure, if in expressing one's preference for individuals of some race(s) as opposed to others, one were making a value claim, in addition to registering an aesthetic preference, then even though, in the appropriate circumstances, even such expression could not be curtailed, such expression would reflect morally on the agent expressing such a preference, but if the preference were indeed merely aesthetic, then it does not seem to me that it would have any such implication whatsoever.

I studied Sinology for a year, and met a great deal of Chinese people. Whenever

I studied Sinology for a year, and met a great deal of Chinese people. Whenever the topic came up, most of them - particularly the women - insisted that they would only ever date Chinese men, and were particularly vocal about not dating blacks or Japanese men. On the other hand, I met a Korean woman who had moved to Germany (where I lived at the time), and who said she had come looking for a husband, because she believed "Korean men are no good". Interracial relationships are becoming more and more common, and with them come stereotypes: there is one stereotype that would have us believe that all women love black men, and another that all men love East Asian women. For many people (though not as many as the stereotypes would have us believe), these racial preferences in dating and sexual attraction are real, not just media tropes. There really are women who only date black men, and men who only date East Asian woman (as well as the reverse, and all other possible combinations). The relationship of...

Some of the stereotypes that drive such preferences could, of course, be racist. But it is also true that the factors that attract us to others erotically are not generally matters of simple choice, and the mere presence of a preference "type" does not seem to me to be clear evidence of racism. Some of us prefer tall partners--is this "shortism" because we tend not to prefer short partners?

I think of racism as consisting in beliefs or practices that would deny equal moral, political, or economic rights to members of the targeted race. I don't think anyone has any kind of a right to have me attracted to them as a potential romantic or sex partner, so I can't really see how my preferences in these areas can have the consequences of denying anyone equal rights.

Having said this, I also think that many cultures do lend some support to sexism or to regarding women as second-class citizens. I wouldn't blame a woman from such a culture for having a preference against men of that culture.

I recently had a discussion about racial pride. It is my belief that

I recently had a discussion about racial pride. It is my belief that circumstances of birth are random and just as they should not be a source of shame, cannot be claimed as a source of pride. One has nothing to do with being born Irish, therefore how can they claim this as a source of pride? We all sneer at white supremacists for claiming a sense of pride in their race, yet people all over are doing essentially the same thing. Pride implies achievement. You did not achieve anything in being born, it's just something that happened to you. I was born in America, I didn't do anything to be born here, so I can only claim that I'm proud to be an American so far as I haven't chosen to move elsewhere. I think you all get the idea here. Everyone loves to say they're proud of their ethnicity or heritage, but is this logically correct? I would say no.

By the same token one shouldn't be proud of say one'smother if she discovered a cure for cancer. It also depends upon what you mean by pride. A warm, postive feeling about the connection. I don't see any problem with that.

I don't think our emotions follow the dictates of reason. There are all sorts of feelings that we have that would not seem to be "justified."That is the way that we are put together. Some philosophers seem to imagine that we can talk/ reason ourselves out of such feelings. For the most part, i don't think so.

Why is it that when a white person says a racial slur, such as "nigger" it is

Why is it that when a white person says a racial slur, such as "nigger" it is thought to be the most heinous crime. However, when a non-white, in particular blacks call whites "crackers" it is dismissed as nothing. Why is there such a double standard in American society? Why is reverse racism rampant more than ever? Whites have to fear of being shunned for voicing their injustices, because if they do, they will be called a racist. If a white is mistreated due to race in the work place nothing occurs. On the other hand, if it happens to a black it gets mass media coverage. The politics are backwards, the NAACP, pushes racial equality for blacks, yet they are immersed with racism towards whites; not all are but it has been displayed. If a white were to make an Organization for the advancement of their race it would be an outcry for its dismantle. Shouldn't all race Organizations be abolished since we're under the same umbrella, the Human race? I too often experienced this firsthand, being of black decent. I...

The questioner makes a number of factual claims which seem to me to need rather a lot of support. In fact, I'm not sure that any of the factual claims the questioner makes are correct.

Who is it that dismisses racially charged remarks by blacks as "nothing"? What examples of workplace mistreatment due to whiteness does the questioner have in mind? Which of the NAACP's leaders are racially biased, and what is the evidence of that bias?

Where is the evidence that "reverse racism" is rampant? Are whites being randomly stopped by black police when driving through black neighborhoods? Are whites suddenly more likely to receive jail time for drug crimes? or to receive the death penalty for capital crimes? Have dozens of studies shown that a job applicant whose details (e.g., name) make it clear that he is white is less likely to be interviewed than one who is clearly black, even if all relevant details of the CVs are otherwise identical? Have similar studies shown the same thing about applications for apartments?

Until some support is provided for these kinds of claims, I'm not sure there's much to be discussed.

Is racial profiling immoral because it is ineffective? For instance, would the

Is racial profiling immoral because it is ineffective? For instance, would the racial profiling of blacks become increasingly justifiable if blacks increasingly became criminals?

I've argued for an affirmative answer in my response to question 2466. This appears also to be the view of Joseph Levine (response to question 2535). If these earlier responses leave you unsatisfied, then please write in again and say what these reasons are.

For months I have had an exhaustive debate with various colleagues on the ethics

For months I have had an exhaustive debate with various colleagues on the ethics of testing for correlations between race and IQ. I have arrived at the conclusion that while current methodological quagmires surrounding the testing render the results of such a study untrustworthy at best and potentially racist at worst, I still think that in the interests of free inquiry such tests proceed. However, the question remains, can a study on intrinsic group differences which is fraught with methodological uncertainty and whose results have relatively narrow applicability have any ethical basis? Are there other considerations for deciding whether such a study should or shouldn't be conducted?

I am no expert on these matters. (For an expert opinion, you might consult Philip Kitcher's recent work.) But I would like to point out that "the interests of free inquiry" is an ambiguous phrase. It is one thing to say that ethically, such a study should not be conducted. It is quite another thing to say that the government or some collection of private citizens should take action to prevent a scientist from conducting such a study. Just as "free speech" considerations prohibit the government from preventing certain kinds of speech but do not deem all speech to be ethically permissible, so "the interests of free inquiry" may prohibit the government from preventing certain kinds of studies but do not deem all studies to be ethically permissible.

An interesting question is whether a private grantmaking organization should fail to fund such a study. Considerations of "free inquiry" do not require it to be blind to the reasons why such a study might be unethical (just as the interests of "free speech" do not require that a private university or other private institution provide a forum for advocates of all sides in a dispute to speak). When the government is the grantmaking organization, matters get even more complicated.

So what I am trying to say is that there are several questions here: (i) is such a study ethical? (ii) If not, how should that fact be taken into account by governments, grantmaking organizations, scientific institutions (such as journals and universities), and individual scientists themselves (where the answer may be different for different members of this list)?

As for whether such a study is ethical, I would say (speaking nonprofessionally -- I am not an ethicist) that if it is reasonably believed that the outcome of such a study would likely be grossly misused by the public at large, then that fact constitutes a strong (though perhaps not decisive) reason to believe that it would be unethical to conduct such a study. (Other reasons would have to be weighed against this one, including whether any benefits might result from carrying out such a study.)