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Forgetting what One Knows: Unintentional Racism and Lapses of Good Judgement

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Unintentional racism is usually understood as a product of ignorance: it is the result of an agent’s lack of knowledge of the ways her behaviors or actions are influenced by and producers of racism. But, unintentional racism is not always a product of ignorance due to a phenomenon I call ‘overlooking’. When an individual overlooks, she unintentionally fails to notice something. This results in her suffering a lapse of good judgment: she forgets what she knows is the appropriate way to act or behave, and thereby acts contrary to what she otherwise knows is best. If we interpret unintentional racism as a product of ignorance, it follows that in cases of unintentional racism informed (i.e., non-ignorant) individuals cannot be labeled “racist” even when their behavior or actions indicate otherwise. The paper ends with a sketch of some normative considerations concerning the complicated relationship between overlooking and moral blame.

Author(s):

Philip Mack    
Marquette University
United States

 

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