James Lindsay argues why falling prey to bad theory can make it harder to ascertain moral responsibility where racism is concerned
Given the events of the past few months, it has probably been explained to you at least once that all people who are “white” and “white-adjacent” are allegedly complicit in “systemic racism.” This may have come as a surprise to you, operating under the assumption that you, like most people, don’t think too highly of racism, can’t recall having supported it, and don’t feel at all as though you are complicit in something you’re not only not participating in but are also completely against. Something about this whole “systemic” thing may seem off to you, and you deserve a chance to understand it before you’re forced to accept it and take up a “lifelong commitment” to social activism on its behalf.
Your confusion is warranted. Because you’re not racist—or, if you are, because you take real and concrete steps not to let it influence the people you interact with in society—it can be off-putting to be accused of complicity in a “system” you didn’t even know exists and certainly wouldn’t support if you did. Whether you felt like any soul-searching should possibly precede genuine skepticism or not, you’d be right to ask what this “system” is, how exactly you’re “complicit” in it, and where these ideas came from in the first place.