Implicit Bias, Colorblindness and Institutional Racism Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Mitchell, Megan
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • This dissertation concerns the nature and extent of institutional racism. It consists of three articles, each of which draws upon the history of and current conditions facing black Americans to establish more general conclusions about institutional racism. In the first article, I observe that striking inequalities in education, income, incarceration rates and employment have persisted between black and white Americans despite a decline in explicit anti-black racism among whites and a rise in legislation intended to prevent many of the most virulent forms of discrimination. I ask, "Are these pervasive inequalities the result of institutional racism?" I notice that for some social scientists (I call them "structuralists") the answer to this question is trivial. They hold that racism is a system wherein advantages are divided along racial lines. Consequently, institutions that create or support racial inequalities are, simply in virtue of that fact, racist. I maintain that the question is meaningful and the answer important. Against the structuralists, I defend the view that institutions are only racist insofar as they perpetuate the racism of agents. So, if current racial inequalities are the result of institutional racism, then it must be the case that the institutions that cause them were created or are currently sustained by racist individuals, who, consciously or unconsciously, express their racist beliefs and attitudes through the policies, practices, and organizational structures they adopt or maintain. However, if part of the motivation behind presenting a theory of institutional racism is, as I think it should be, to aid in its eradication, one might worry that this more restrictive theory will fail to yield any targets for political action. The increasingly covert and unconscious nature of much agential racism could make it very difficult to prove that any specific institutional actions are racist. I assuage this worry by demonstrating in the second article that the pervasive phenomenon of implicit racial bias is an instance of institutional racism. In the third and final article, I argue that colorblind policies and rational racial profiling, when perpetuated against black Americans by the state, are racist.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Hill, Thomas E.
  • Wolff, Robert
  • Preston-Roedder, Ryan
  • Boxill, Bernard
  • Boxill, Jan
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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