Not long ago I had long discussions with a friend writing a paper on racism. I pointed him to a series of articles on Kant and racism, and while there was a great deal of heat in the discussions, because he is a tremendous admirer of Kant, it the end I think I persuaded him to see Kant in a different light.
Let me talk about racism directly. Racism is the use of power to enforce a category of race. It is the avoidance of the fabric of racism in the society, because this makes the implicit racism more powerful. This is like many other forms of discrimination, many other forms of oppression: elevating to a high level certain people and their texts, in order to force the direction of the world in particular ways. Kant is one example, he's remembered well, but almost by accident. Kant, the writer, was trying to reimpose God, and other forms of hard category. He feared a material, rationally dominated world, and so he attacked "pure reason" as a way of reasserting pre-rational ideas. It is a thread running through the skeptical philosophers: attack the connection between perception and reality, as a way of reasserting the need for a basis in reality, and of reality.
I face this on a regular basis in the real world, as there are drifting tensions in my own life. Race, and its related bundle of words, are everywhere, and in my part of the world, many of us, me and my friends, come from households that are immigrant to America, and have parents and relatives who have what they call old fashioned ideas, but are basically just bad excuses for the way things always were. I will take one example, a friend of mine is hoping to marry, she is dating a man who is not of the same ethnic background, and is conflicted because her parents don't approve. They don't approve because of the ethnicity.
Her conflict is that she has to pretend to listen, or lose contact with her parents. Visits home become stressful. She hates herself, because she is being a bad daughter in the eyes of her world, and hates herself because marrying is required to be a good daughter, and this is the man she thinks she wants to marry. I listen, because I can not tell her in good faith to not talk to her parents, or to leave the man she loves, and who, as far as I can tell, loves her. This dilemma is not tied up with race necessarily, the conflict between parents wanting to pick, or at least strongly influence, their children's choice of mate is old and comes from money, social standing, religion, nationality, occupation, and who knows what else triggers the disapproval of parents.
So I see this. And I feel it. Get along, or be true to a truth that the checkered colors of skin, or shapes of nose, or whatever else, are random, compared to the qualities of the person.
This is why I find the world I am in so intolerable, it is very clear that there is a craving for race and racism. There is a demand by people who ought to know better to conform. The only thing people can do, is to avoid such groups, because the result is always grief. One of those on Second Life is Philosophy Island, which is a racist organization that actively promotes and protects racism in its ranks, and then makes excuses for it when questioned.
While at a recent meeting on "Philosophy Island" one of the leaders there Rhiannon Dragoone began with her gloss on Kant. I pointed out that a problem with Kant's logic is his racism, she immediately said this was "off topic." As some one with the power to ban, who does ban, this was an exercise of power. However, the question was not off topic, because Kant's theory of race is not separate from his division into perceptions and reality, in that he offers the idea that there are some perceptions which point to an underlying immutable series of principles.
Kant asserts what he calls the categorical imperative as the basis for morality, and the will to morality as being in the person. If racism is immoral, then Kant fails being moral, but if not Kant, who is the perfect example of what Kant says should be a moral human being, then who? If Kant is moral, then racism must be true, since he sets these things as being equal to each other, and a direct result of the same argument that he presents in his critiques.
Then I left. Rhiannon ejected another person for elaborating, and then thanked Sunfire Langer, another leader there, for hurling insults. This from someone who makes a big deal about no personal attacks. Sunfire Langer made excuses in a private IM.
I find this a great deal on Second Life: people setting what they call discussion groups, which are really vehicles for using the petty powers of banning, and the veil of being unknown to the public, as a way of creating their own little egotistical bubble. Philosophy Island is one of these organizations: it is a racist and abusive group of people who present as being reasonable, until their underlying illogic is pointed out. Then they call you an idiot and ban you.
Sunfire said not to take them seriously, and that is the best advice I can give. Don't get sucked into them, or give them credit for being anything except what they are.
I promised when writing this blog, that I would stay away from explanations of the bigger picture, and focus only on what I see and what I know. I do not know what drives people to these kinds of categorical evils, but I see them, and wish I could do more than push words into the ether.