How Racists Are Made Into Unicorns

The “White Supremacy” Controversy

It’s a few Twitter outrage cycle past, so you probably need a quick refresher. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones wrote a post urging people to reserve the word “white supremacy” for Neo-Nazis and the KKK, and not for the underlying racist structures of which Neo-Nazis and the KKK are merely the most visible parts. Predictably, this misguided post received some pushback, especially from those familiar with the term’s origins.

The No-Racist Phenomenon

While the majoritarian view of language is rarely explicitly stated, it is implicitly endorsed by many. To fully make sense of its implications, we need to consider another curious modern linguistic phenomenon: the word “racist” apparently cannot refer to any person in the actual world. That is, our language has been engineered such that there are no racists.

Semantics of Non-Reference

In The Racial Contract, philosopher Charles Mills introduces the concept of epistemology of ignorance. Normally, epistemology is concerned with knowledge. However, according to Mills, structural racism prescribes for the dominant group — the whites, in the actual world — an epistemology that purposefully eschews knowledge with respect to matters of structural racism. The concept thus refers to

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
廖顯禕

廖顯禕

Academic studying objects and spaces where cognition meets oppression. Taiwanese.