Friday, June 9, 2017

A Tactical Retreat for Race Denial by F. Roger Devlin

Academic offers “new philosophical foundation for anti-racism.”
Michael O. Hardimon, Rethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism, Harvard University Press, 2017, $39.95 hardcover
American academics have spun so many fantastic theories about race and “racism” that it almost seems they are willing to embrace any position, no matter how implausible. Perhaps the most implausible is that although there is an enormous amount of “racism” in America, there is no such thing as race. Finally, an academic seems to have realized how silly this sounds, and, in a dense volume published by Harvard University Press, has tried to come up with something a little less silly.
Michael Hardimon, son of a white mother and black father, is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at San Diego. He strongly identifies with the “anti-racism” of the academic Left, but criticizes the absurdity of race denial. He realizes that to deny biological race is to fly in the face of both popular perception and scientific evidence, so he tries to build a case for the view that even if there is such a thing as race, it doesn’t matter. He describes his own position rather grandly as “deflationary realism.”
Prof. Hardimon sets out four concepts of race, which he labels 1) minimalist, 2) populationist, 3) the racialist, and 4) his favorite, the socialrace [sic] concept.
He defines race in the minimalist sense as a group of human beings
  • that, as a group, is distinguished from others groups by patterns of visible physical features.
  • whose members are linked by a common ancestry peculiar to members that group, and
  • that originates from a distinctive geographical location.
Needless to say, there is no reference in this definition to behavioral traits. With that exception, it roughly corresponds to the way the man on the street thinks of race. And Prof. Hardimon manages to acknowledge that races in this minimal sense exist. In the oppressive environment of the American academy today, this is enough to make waves, but perhaps his African ancestry helps; race denial is a white invention.
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