An Epistemology of Ignorance: Charles Mills on Racism

The radically divergent perspectives on reality of blacks and whites are a straightforward reflection of the radically different realities in which they live. Segregation has deep cognitive consequences as well as the more familiar consequences for one’s chances at a good education, home ownership in good neighborhoods, being able to escape gang violence, etc. That doesn’t mean that black majority opinion is always going to be right, of course. But you would expect that those more subject to the inequities of the system will in general be the ones more likely to have a realistic perspective on it. Whites have not merely an unrepresentative group experience, but a vested group interest in self-deception. Sociologists have documented the remarkable extent to which large numbers of white Americans get the most basic things wrong about their society once race is involved. (See, for some hilarious examples, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s “Racism Without Racists.”) My favorite example, from a poll about three years ago, is that a majority of white Americans now believe that whites are the race most likely to be the victims of racial discrimination! If that’s not an epistemology of ignorance at work, I don’t know what would be.

Read it all here.

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