chapter  12
13 Pages

Racism and Sexism in Academic Practice: A Case Study

Racism is commonly understood as prejudicial opinions about and behaviours towards members of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, or linguistic groups who are considered to be inherently inferior to one’s own. Anthony Appiah categorizes ‘racial prejudice’ as

[t]he tendency to assent to false propositions, both moral and theoretical, about races-propositions that support policies or beliefs that are to the disadvantage of some race (or races) as opposed to others, and to do so even in the face of evidence and argument that should appropriately lead to giving those propositions up. (Appiah, 1990, pp. 15-16)

According to this definition, racially prejudiced statements and practices are those that use people’s racially attributed characteristics to justify discrimination and exclusion. A major problem in combating racism, however, is that it is not always easy to identify racialist attitudes and practices. Not only are racist attitudes and practices often disguised under more benign notions, but racism changes its character, forms and actors according to the setting within which it operates. For example, the racism of educated intellectuals, which is the subject of my paper, is not necessarily conscious and does not directly originate from holding ‘other’ as inherently inferior. Sometimes, this ‘otherness’ might seem exotic and as such interesting. It can even generate attraction and fascination. But this fascination is often irrelational, that is they cannot associate with the ‘other’ individual on equal terms, and their relationship embodies some power relations that preclude equality. The inequality in relation to power, whatever that power might mean, complicates and obstructs interracial communication and relations. In other words, our ‘otherness’ prevents them from seeing us as individuals, as ourselves. It prevents them from understanding us and relating to us. Often they might not even try to understand us.