Racism, Law, & Politics (Race Part 1) | Philosophy Tube

this video is part 1 of 2 in this episode we'll be looking at the work of Phalguni chef and learning about race racialization and political philosophy in part 2 we'll look at a case study and discuss the racialization of Muslims in so-called Western liberal societies we've got a lot of ground to cover today so I'm going to jump right in there's this big debate over whether race is a series of biological categories or whether it's just a social construct and in her book toward a political philosophy of race Phalguni chef tries to break away from that binary she says that to talk about race just as a biological category ignores all the ways that it's used in politics and law and to talk about it just as a social construct ignores the more interesting questions of who constructs it why do they construct it and how do they do it chef thinks that the concept of race is a type of technology it's a mental tool used by those in power that's the who they use it to manage unruly populations that's the why and they do this through racialization that's the how so let's go through it and I'll explain to you what all of that means the technology of race is used by sovereign power that's term that chef borrows from Foucault and for the purposes of this video we can take it to mean whoever is officially in charge and the systems through which their power is expressed chef's talk specifically about liberal societies by liberal societies shimming societies with certain basic assumptions at their heart for instance a division between the public and the private spheres an insistence that all citizens are equal emphasis on the rule of law where the law is thought to be fair and consented to democratically by the people liberalism also usually means capitalism and since the tail end of the 20th century it's increasingly meant neoliberal capitalism with an emphasis on low welfare low taxes and free markets chef has a very interesting view of what sovereign power and its legal and political systems of four she thinks that the purpose of the state is to conserve its own power and by extension conserve those basic liberal assumptions the function of government is not to ensure peace or justice or fairness or anything like that this is the self-preservation Society she thinks there's a paradox at the heart of liberalism liberal societies will talk the talk of inclusiveness and universal human rights for everyone even as they systemically exclude from that embrace certain groups of people think about how the founding fathers of the u.s.

Preached liberty and justice for all whilst owning slaves it's not always as stark as that but Sheth says that the promise of liberalism is very rarely realized for everyone but sovereign power has to preserve the basic liberal assumptions so what does it do it creates exceptions it rules out certain groups of people as not being eligible for entrance into the promised land as not being eligible for protection benefits voting rights whatever as a bonus if a population is enslaved or there's an unjust war or refugee crisis or a financial crash then those disasters can be written off as mistakes as misapplications of the principles of liberalism because sovereign power can always say oh the exceptions that we made at the time looked illegitimate but in hindsight there are actually errors anything but systemic problems okay so except that the technology of race is used by sovereign power trying to preserve itself we've covered the who but present itself against what exactly time to look at the why fortunately this bits pretty easy sovereign power wants to preserve itself against what chef calls the unruly the unruly is that which is unpredictable undependable or threatening to a political order sovereign power does not make exceptions of people randomly if your existence or the way you live threatens any of the basic liberal assumptions or even as is often the case if it's just perceived as a threat to them then you're in danger of being marked as unruly so for instance if you openly display your private values in public if you remind people that the law isn't always administered equally if you actually need the welfare state in order to survive then in the eyes of sovereign power you can be a threat whether they're consciously aware of that and whether you actually are or not so sovereign power wants to preserve itself against perceived challenges from the unruly by making exceptions of people it's time now to bring race back into this tie all the threads together and explain how making those exceptions works racialization is the process by which a population is divided and one group is pushed further and further away from that promise of liberalism both in the law and in the minds of the people it is quote the process of delineating a population in contrast to a dominant population and the corresponding political tension it is how sovereign power creates exceptions to its own rules and makes those exceptions seem totally legitimate and natural racialization protects sovereign power and suppresses the unruly because there's an implied threat of violence for those who can't get into the promised land if you're in the group that's racialized and pushed out and you don't get the protection or the benefits or whatever it is well then that'd be bad for you wouldn't it so you better stop being unruly and toe the line let's say that you and I represent sovereign power and there's this group of people that we think are unruly and we want to racialize them in order to do that we first need two things they need to have some distinguishing feature that we can use to point them out to the dominant population and say look there's the enemy it could be a physical thing like their skin color but it might not it could be their religion or their socioeconomic status or their sexuality if they don't have a distinguishing feature then we could always try giving them one like for instance making the weary yellow star or a red wristband they also need to be vulnerable already compared to the dominant population otherwise it's going to be very difficult for us to racialize and push them out maybe there's some historical inequality that hasn't been rectified maybe they're not represented in positions of power maybe they're new immigrants to our nation and they need our help to survive we take their perceived unruliness and we say everybody with that distinguishing feature is like that and that's how we write them all off as bad and begin to justify excluding them from society as a race a race that we have effectively just created now this bit is the hardest bit to understand the distinguishing features then become the criteria by which sovereign power tells us it's making the distinction it's actually distinguishing on the basis of unruliness but it's disguising that as a neutral objective possibly biological category think about the links that the Nazis went to to prove that Aryans were a different race from Jews or poles or whoever they wanted rid of at the time it's politics disguising itself as neutral objective science chef thinks that physiological markers like skin color and genetics don't constitute race rather those features are used to point out populations that are already being racialized and pushed out because sovereign power perceives them as unruly that's why some biological differences like skin color are thought to constitute race and some biological differences like hair and eye color are just natural variation within a race because the rules for deploying the concept of race don't come from biology they come from power all this theory might seem a bit abstract so let's look at a concrete example consider the internment of japanese-americans in the USA just prior to World War two many so-called japanese-americans were actually American citizens second or third generation descendants of Japanese immigrants they could be distinguished on-site from the dominant white population their ancestors had faced obstacles like the alien land more and laws against mixed marriages so compared to the white population they were already vulnerable when the war started the US government worried that they might rise up and commit mass sabotage that was the perceived unruliness and so on President Roosevelt's orders 120,000 people had their ordinary rights suspended and were imprisoned in concentration camps the state took a bunch of people who were in their eyes potentially unruly drew a line around them said everybody within that line is the same in terms of their threat to us regardless of how much individual evidence we may have for their cases and use that line as an excuse to literally lock them up so to sum up the concept of race functions as technology in a three-fold way firstly it classifies people according to their perceived unruliness secondly it disguises that classification under criteria that are politically neutral like skin color and finally it hides the true relationship of violence between citizens and sovereign power sheth's model of race is neither biological category nor social construct rather race latches on to certain observable variations in humans sometimes biological sometimes not and attaches socio-political importance to them in order to preserve power and this might actually explain a lot discriminating against somebody because their skin is a different color it's difficult to understand why anyone would do that but discriminating against somebody because you've been told people like them are a threat suddenly that's a lot easier to understand and it might explain a few things too like how young black men in the US are much more likely to be bought threatening and therefore shot by the police than young white men race is more than just a biological Katamon it's a socio-political one it's worth noting that once racialization becomes part of the law and the common discourse we can perpetuate it without even meaning to or realizing shets work has the power to transform not only our understanding of race but our understanding of racism you might have heard people say I have not racist because I don't hate anyone because of the color of their skin well now we know there's more to race than that we are better equipped to identify racist thinking in others and in ourselves I've had the misfortune of meeting a few racists in my time and they won't tell you that they hate people because of the color of their skin they'll tell you that people like that are aggressive or lazy or rude or whatever it is you may have also heard people say you can't be racist towards white people and at first glance that could look very odd but if chef is right that race comes from power given that white people have historically held the balance of power we can see that racism is a more specialized and technical subset of discrimination obviously if anyone were to just to quote the dictionary definition of racism or the common definition of racism to try and refute that they would be begging the question against all of shets work you would need to actually engage with their arguments which leads me finally to this there are some final concerns to address before we finish part 1 firstly does this erase racial identity some people very proudly self-identify as members of a certain race but if race is a tool of division and oppression created by the powerful then aren't we taking that identity away from them chef considers that and says no racial self-identity follows after a population has already been racialized the racialized population learns from sovereign power to identify themselves as different from them they are to be distinguished and we can have both secondly we've talked a lot of other failings of liberalism in this episode does that mean that liberalism as a project is doomed that fairness and equality and justice can't be had well not necessarily but what we need to realize is that the ideal of a liberal society is one that we often fall short of fairness democracy equality these might be worth striving for but we need to recognize not only where we fail to get them but also where we set ourselves up to fail some people I'm sure are going to say that chef is redefining the word race and you can't just redefine words well hold your horses there because she's not just plucking a new definition out of thin air so much as she is arguing that the old definition in the dictionaries and the common discourse actually leaves a lot of very important things out and if we wanted to critique chef's ideas if you're writing an essay or comment then the thing to do would be to ask does her model of race explain how we see the concept actually being used in the world not just how the dictionary says we should see it being used does it make any predictions about what we might observe does it explain any of the things we observed I've suggested already some ways in which it might easy useful remember though that it also makes some predictions about whose evidence we are more likely to think is authoritative in a society governed by sovereign power so what do you think of schatz work on race and power if you'd like a firmer grasp of how this theory translates into reality then you can click on my face right now and head on over to part two or I'll be discussing the racialization of Muslims there is a little bit more to racialization that I had time to mention today so if you want to hear more about it you can pick up a copy of Professor Schatz book leave me a comment telling me what you thought next time we could either look at John Stuart Mill's essay on Liberty or we could discuss what is fate and for more philosophical videos every Friday please subscribe this episode was sponsored by audible.com if you go to audibletrial.com/preneurcast you can cancel at any time and every time one of you signs up I get a tiny bit of cash which I really really appreciate

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