"To maintain racist beliefs you often have to avoid reality"

American philosopher Lewis Gordon is visiting South Africa this week and is scheduled to speak at the Numsa Research and Policy Institute in Johannesburg on Wednesday, on the role of Communism and Class in Radical Black Thought. He sat down with Eusebius McKaiser to unpack the issue of racism and race denialism.

Sometimes what people believe and what they do is not the same thing. In the process some people will swear for instance they are not racist as they exhibit every racist belief, manifestation.

Lewis Gordon, american philosopher and author

The problem is connected to a form of moralism. The thing with moralism is when we get moralistic... certain descriptions we make about people impute all kinds of other things to them.

Lewis Gordon, american philosopher and author

One of the first things you learn in a racist society is how to deny racism, one of the second things you learn is how to lie to yourself in how you deny racism.... to maintain racists beliefs you often have to avoid reality.

Lewis Gordon, american philosopher and author

Gordon explains why people are defensive when called racists.

He says at the heart of the problem is a 'noxious fallacy', the notion of a purely good and perfect human.

Our imperfections are elements of ourselves that we work at constantly. So we forget that sometimes the issue when we meet a person who may have a problematic belief, is not to condemn the person immediately, but to ask and work with the person about whether the person is committed to doing something about that problematic belief.

Lewis Gordon, american philosopher and author

Because sometimes mistaken beliefs have interesting elements of how human beings relate to each other, he says.

Gordon responds to the question; can black people be racist?

The problem with those kind of arguments is that they completely evade the empirical reality. The empirical reality is you know that you can find out about black people and racism when black people have a whole lot of power in the world.

Lewis Gordon, american philosopher and author

Click on the link below to listen to the full discussion...

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