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

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


This video is part one of two. In this episode
we’ll be exploring the work of Falguni Sheth and learning about race, racialization, and
political philosophy. In part two 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 gonna 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,” Falguni Sheth 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 they construct it, and how they do it? Sheth 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 get into it, and I’ll explain to you what all of that means. The technology of race is used by ‘Sovereign
Power,’ that’s a term that Sheth borrows from 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.’ Sheth talks specifically about liberal societies.
By ‘liberal societies’ she means 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. Sheth has a very interesting view of what Sovereign Power and its legal and political systems are for. She thinks 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 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 US 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 realised 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 a 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 legitimate but in hindsight they were actually errors.” Anything but systemic problems. Ok, so we’ve said that the technology of race is used by Sovereign Power trying to preserve itself. We’ve covered the ‘Who?’
But preserve itself against what exactly? Time to look at the ‘Why?’ Fortunately this bit’s pretty easy. Sovereign
Power wants to preserve itself against what Sheth calls ‘the unruly.’ The unruly is that which is “unpredictable,
undependable, or threatening to a political order.” Sovereign power doesn’t 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,
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 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 now time to bring race back into this,
tie all the threads together, and talk about 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 “the process of delineating a population
in contrast to a dominant population and a corresponding political tension.” It’s 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 racialized and pushed out, and you don’t get the protection or the benefits or whatever it is, well that’d be bad for you wouldn’t it? So better stop being unruly and tow the
line. Let’s say you and I represent sovereign power,
and there’s this group of people 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 skin colour but it might not: it could be religion, socioeconomic status, gender, or their sexuality. If they don’t have a distinguishing feature then we could always try giving them one, like a yellow star. Or a red wristband. They need to already be vulnerable already
compared to the dominant population, otherwise it’s going to very difficult for us to racialize and push them out. Maybe there’s some historical inequality that hasn’t
been rectified, maybe they’re underrepresented 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 is the hardest bit to understand.
The distinguishing 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 disgusting that as a neutral, objective, possibly biological category. Think about the lengths the Nazis went to to prove that
Aryans were a different race from Jews, Poles, whoever they wanted rid of at the time. Politics
disguising itself as neutral, objective science. Sheth thinks that physiological markers like
skin colour or genetics don’t constitute race. Rather, those features are used to point out populations that are
already being racialised and pushed out because Sovereign Power perceives them as unruly. That’s why some biological differences like skin colour are thought to constitute race, and some biological differences like hair and eye colour 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 WWII. Many so-called
Japanese Americans were actually American citizens, 2nd or 3rd generation descendants
of Japanese immigrants. They could be distinguished on sight from the dominant white population. Their ancestors had faced obstacles like the Alien Land Law 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 used that line as an excuse to literally lock them up. So to sum up, the concept of Race functions
as technology in a threefold way: Firstly, It classifies people according to their perceived
unruliness Secondly, It disguises that classification under criteria that are politically neutral, like skin colour 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 onto certain observable variations in humans,
sometimes biological sometimes not, and attaches sociopolitical importance to them in
order to preserve power. And this might actually explain a lot: discriminating
against someone because their skin is a different colour – it’s difficult to understand why
anyone would do that. But discriminating against someone 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 thought threatening and therefore shot by the police than young white men. Race is more than just a biological category: 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 realising. Sheth’s work has the power to transform not only our understanding of race but our understanding of racism. You might have heard people say, “I’m not racist because I don’t hate anybody because of the colour 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 they hate people because of
the colour of their skin: they’ll tell you that people “like that” are aggressive, or lazy, or rude, or whatever it is. You might also have heard people say, “You can’t be
racist towards white people,” and at first glance that can look very odd, but if Sheth
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 specialised and technical subset of discrimination. Obviously, if anyone were to just quote the dictionary definition or the “common definition”
of racism in order to refute that idea, they would be begging the question against all
of Sheth’s work. You would need to actually engage with her arguments, which leads me,
finally, to this. There are some final concerns to address before
we finish part one. Firstly, does this erase racial identity? Some people very proudly
self-identify as members of a certain race; if race is a tool of division and oppression created by the powerful then aren’t we taking that identity away from them? Sheth 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 about the failings
of liberalism in this episode. Does that mean liberalism as a project is doomed, that fairness and equality and justice can’t be had? Well, not necessarily. But what we need to
realise 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 recognise not only where
we fail to get them, but also where we set ourselves up to fail. Some people I’m sure will say Sheth 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 Sheth’s ideas, if you’re writing an essay or a 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 observe? I’ve suggested some ways already in which it might. Is it 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 Sheth’s 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 2, where I’ll be discussing the racialization of Muslims. There is a little bit more to racialization than I had time to mention today, so if want to hear more about it you can pick up a copy of Professor Sheth’s 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?” For more philosophical videos every Friday, please subscribe. This episode was sponsored by Audible.com,
if you go to audibletrial.com/philosophytube you can get a free audiobook, and a free 30
day trial of their audiobook service you can cancel anytime. And every time one of you signs up I get a tiny bit of cash, which I really, really, appreciate!

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100 thoughts on “Racism, Law, & Politics (Race Part 1) | Philosophy Tube”

  • These ideas are really great, but I'm not sure how this definition of racism/racialization is different from, say, homophobia.

  • The idea of all of these things being institutional is purely conjecture and is assumed. It's interesting to think about but purely just a guess of what it might be.

  • How can we say that the categorization of races only arise out of "ruly-unruly" relations when we know of scientific attempts to categorize humans based on common biological traits independent of who is currently at power in a given society(or has more of it) and who is being sistematically oppressed while being critical of former and current ideas of different races?

  • As I watched the video, it sounded to me that he was making something natural, like race, into a social construct. Then the statement at 8:09 confirmed my assumption, where he said, "The rules for deploying the concept of race come from power." After that statement, I stopped listening to this faggot.

  • What if the concept of 'otherising' came before the concept of 'sovereign power'? Lets say I have no power over my neighbour nor him over me. He plays his music loudly until the early hours of the morning which makes me refer to him as a 'dick head'. I then start referring to everyone that plays music at unsociable hours as a 'dick head'. Would i without any additional power just have invented a race? If he calls me and everyone like me 'boring' has he just invented a race? To each other we are both unruly. If there is a war between the boring tribe and the loud tribe and the loud tribe win power wouldn't the racism have existed before the power? Aren't they just more powerful racists?

  • This isn't about Sheth's ideas, this about your presentation of her work. The fact that you are telling people how to structure a response to critique is a red flag to me (paraphrasing) "Answer the follow question if you want to critique: Does her model of racism actually represent how we see racism in the world". This is doing the same thing as what the people in power are doing, according to her work. It frames any response that doesn't conform as "unruly" or "not what I'm thinking or saying". If we try to have a distinguishing argument or the vulnerability to state our arguments, you'll pick them apart and offer that hers offers the better question when it might have not even been the question in the first place.

    I hope this paragraph shows that there's a bit of hypocrisy in how you're making this argument. I think that her ideas of power aren't just applicable to political theory. It's human nature to act like this and labeling anything like this is actually just doing the same thing. To call it racialization is just intellectually dishonest. There's something bigger here.

  • I can see why Sheth focusses on the fact that race is purely a political and economic instrument and that it doesn't matter, whether there are actual differences between populations, because that was never the point.

    But she is missing one very important factor here. For example, if I were a racist, I could answer that the fact that whites managed to push all others into a subserviant position, would have to prove that the others either never tried, or tried and failed. And as the first one is easy enough to disprove, I could, seemingly prove racism by the fact that it has succesfully been created.

    So, it is important to point out that the supposed races do not exist at all, there is no biological difference of any kind. This proves, first of all, that the rise of Europeans is just due to a series of coincidential geographic factors. More importantly, it shows us that the subdividing of our species could have happened in any other possible way, and any other possible feature could have been attributed to each group, and these claims could have made themselves true to just the same extent that our racist stereotypes did.

    This is philosophically fascinating, because it shows us exactly to which – huge – extent human nature is malleable. It is also politically extremely relevant, because it completely debunks the neo-liberal dogma of the individual that can overcome all obstacles by sheer power of will – and their claim that therefore poverty was the individuals fault.

  • While I agree with the overall assessment that race is a technology to solidify and maintain power structures, racism can and does go in any direction. This presupposes that the only power structure is the societal level. Beyond that, I would challenge the assertion that race or racism are defined by power. That was more of a sweeping assumption than really reasoned through.

  • I love her definition of race! As a biologist, I have always seen race as mostly a human construct because, so long as individuals who appear different can produce viable and fertile offspring, they are of the same species. Even that can be difficult when you start talking about plants and sometimes when talking about animals but the general rule holds most of the time and it definitely holds for humans. I think the idea of race came about before we knew enough about biology to understand how similar we are at a cellular and genetic level. Before we knew much about genetics, we used always classify living things based mostly on how they looked and many of these classifications held because physical traits do tend to be inherited. However, being humans ourselves, we have perhaps given ourselves more classifications before we were able to understand the whole genetic picture and, of course, some things we just made up to oppress people (i.e. you can't really tell who is a Jew without looking at their actual family history and I am an example of this because I'm Jewish but don't really have any of the classical physical features). When we figured genetics out, we corrected our genealogical errors in animals species fairly easily because mostly only biologists gave a damn about that, but when it came to correcting our misconceptions about our fellow human beings, a lot of people are still attached to the old way of thinking. I like how she relates this to power because, so often, you hear racists talking negatively about people they consider to be less than themselves in terms of having their power taken away from them. They can't seem to see it as sharing power with their fellow human beings. The narrative seems to be that, if they allow those people to share in the power, those people might take all the power away from them and oppress them in the same ways that they have been oppressing others. It's a fear of losing some kind of power that is special because only people who look like them have had it in the past. Just look at how threatened racist in the US got when we elected Barak Obama and how they seem to feel justified now that we have Trump. They act like Obama took their power away because of the color of his skin and Trump has given it back to them because, not only is he white, but he at least tacitly supports racism.

  • So…
    1) Understanding how it's used in politics and law
    2) who constructs it, why and how

    How are either of these at odds with it being constructed?

  • Thank you! I've always sort of thought this, but I never could explain this or really understand it. Now I can hear this belief in words.

  • Race and Otherness are tools used by Sovereign Power to perpetuate itself by dividing 'different segments' of the citizenry under Sovereign Power against one another. You're saying that racism is a feature, not a bug, of Liberal Democracy, and that groups like the Nazis can exploit this feature in times of crisis to stoke waves of fear they can ride into Power (which they then use to deliver on their promises of racial violence), or more liberal regimes like the United States under Roosevelt can use this feature to to address security concerns during War Time, by justifying along racial lines, the imprisonment of those deemed likely to be unruly by The State.

    Further, because bigotry is a learned phenomenon and not something natural to human beings, it can be deduced that Sovereign Power has in interest in the perpetuation of racist ideas and memes as well as an interest in the disbursement of propaganda among its citizenry that delineates peoples into artificial groups. Even supposed symbols of National Unity like The Flag, which is meant to embody Liberal Ideals like Freedom of Speech just as much as it is a symbol of The Military or The Troops, are used to divide citizens against one another. The current hay throwing contest in the United States over kneeling for the National Anthem is being used by Sovereign Power–the Vice President, for example–to basically say, "You believe in the Flag, and They do not. They are not as American as You."

    The disbursement of these memes into the consciousness of the the general population helps to perpetuate the idea of Otherness, keeping it boiling just below the surface of Liberal Democracy, ready to be used by Sovereign Power when it is needed.

  • A very interesting idea but I can't help but feel like the argument explains how oppression works in a "liberal" society and not just racism. I guess my question is if we view "racism" as a technology and not as a construct, do we inadvertently conflate distinct types of oppression. For example are we conflating racism and classism, or even more specifically are we conflating racism and ethinc chauvinism?

  • I've drawn a similar conclusion about race and racism independent of Sheth's work after 11 years of studying political philosophy. My conception of racism is that of a political economy akin to that of capitalism, communism, or liberalism. I'd be interested in talking to you about that offline if you want to PM me.

    I haven't read Sheth's work, but one thing that would've made this video better is clarifying the notion of race as a technology. It seems that Sheth is talking about technology in the same sense that Jacques Ellul talks about it when he refers to technology as a technique. Is this indeed the case? It may have been helpful bringing that out to the forefront in the video.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Now, since so much of this is centered on the concepts put forth by Foucault, a queer man specifically talking about the regulation of sexuality, try reapplying these concepts to the regulation of gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

  • This seems to work as far as it explains what is considered race when racism is concerned. But racism definitely exists on levels that are divorced from sovereign power. After all, while today the state seems closer than ever, it is still not the dominant social entity in a lot of areas. In these places, the dominant social entity might be the mayor and council, the reverend, etc, etc. In this case, whoever holds social sovereignty (is that a thing?) is racialising groups and defining unruliness, presuming they are doing that sort of thing in the first place of course.

  • Dude you've once again made me question everything I thought obvious and unquestionabe about this issue… Goddammit.

  • Olly, I don't see any reason to entertain those who hysterically accuses anyone trying to get to the truth of racism of "redefining" their precious dictionary definitions. Racism isn't confined to dictionaries.

    Apart from that – I think it's time to get unruly.

  • I think Sheth’s concept is true in the sense that race is often used by power to control groups, but I think it’s wrong in the idea that race is introduced by that power. Race is a vestige of our evolution from tribalism. We are hard wired to distrust the “others”. Therefore anything that makes it easy to identify the other will lead us to distrust them.

    The problem I see with Sheth’s interpretation is that it is simply casting the people in power as the “other”. It is the less powerful tribes building a united front against the more powerful tribe. That will inevitably lead to war.

    What we need to focus on is individuals. Point out instances of racial discrimination, we need to know that’s happening so those actions can be publicly criticized. But recognize your tendencies towards tribalism and take that into account when you are judging other people. My brain’s wiring that makes me feel more anxious when getting into an elevator with a black man does not justify me treating that person differently. Just like any undesired behaviour, you can’t hope to fix it if you won’t acknowledge it.

  • I don't see how this definition of race could explain the white identitarian movement.
    This definition leaves out a big part of human psychology. This technology only works because people are sensitive to outsiders. Race is exploited by populists, but its roots are inside the human brain. Us vs Them feelings have always been around. Nationalism is based on it, so is racism.

  • you're racist, you realize that? People who think "Everybody with that distinguishing feature is like that" is a TINY minority, the dumbest of a niche within niches. Most people don't think about races, and people calling that "racialization" are off their wacker, so outside that line of thinking that they can only relate to nazis and slavery. You have lost the ability to understand people, to read between the lines – normal people don't talk as if they were dictionaries, so you need to probe further to actually understand their position – not jump to conclusion, or finding excuses in their persona against their arguments

  • Can someone explain the significance of the red wristband at 6:32. I can't find anything about it on google.

  • I only started watching your videos about a month ago and this is my favorite video of yours its nice to know the theory behind what was so apparent when reading Howard Zinn. Thank you.

  • This is particularly true for a highly diverse country like India. Indian society has so many verticals and horizontals. Country is vertically divided into states (based on their ethnicity/language) again horizontally divided into castes/religions. Though biologically/racially almost all the Indians are same, it's so relevant the way its done here… Tamils are played against Punjabis and Keralaiets against Biharis, based on their language, movies, literacy rates etc. Again within a state, each caste is played against the other. And nationally across the states religions are played against each other.. Its such a complex society and the sovereign power of every state tries to imbibe these racial thoughts into the individuals and politicians celebrate Holi almost every election on these attributes…

  • What's missing for me in this video is that groups of people don't even have to be specifically unruly, dividing societies into races has an intrinsic benefit by it's self to sovereign power, because now the people of a society are less likely to revolt, because each group is weaker on it's own. And also the group of people that is privileged is more likely to bond with you, because they actually have privileges at the cost of the marginalized group (e.g. slavery).

  • Could disguisied politics also come in the form of social factors? Here in Sweden the argument against immigration is that it brings with it a culture that serves a threat to our society and values (people from Afghanistan are often pointed out as misogynistic, and a threat to women's freedom)

  • Regarding the issue of whether one can be racist against white people, it isn't contrary to her work (as presented – I haven't read her book) since this kind of otherizing can be done to religious minorities regardless of their phenotype.

    What you're describing here, as it applies to race (phenotype), is "institutional racism," and I have no problem with that. In fact, the observations presented (whether yours or hers) are quite astute. But when a black person, for instance, is prejudiced against white people, that is interpersonal racism. It just plainly is, and saying otherwise is a certain kind of political correctness gone too far – and I don't usually make arguments like that, as a card-carrying SJW (and yes, I am using that term a bit facetiously), but it strikes me as the kind of good intentions that pave the way to hell.

  • This kind of thinking leads to absurd situations.

    1) Black man is punching, kicking and beating a white man, spitting on him and calling him "a white trash". He's prejudiced .
    2) White man looks oddly and suspiciously at a black man. He's racist .

    This is ridiculous.

    I'm not English native speaker so my linguistic intution could be much different than yours but both in my native language (Polish) and English I feel that "racist" is a very strong and emotional word while "prejudiced" sounds gently, too officially. "Racist" has strong connotations with slavery, death camps, lynching – all the most disgusting things we could imagine, "prejudiced" doesn't have that impact for me. It's almost as we're saying in the first example: "Oh, he's only prejudiced… but that white guy though, he's racist ".

    Plus I don't see why we need that redefinition since we can always talk about "racism" and "institutional racism". So our language as it is now allows us to describe reality.

    I think that kind of thinking brings more damage than good. It'll bring chaos in definitions, a lot of misunderstanding and much more divisions in society.

  • The 'unruly' part of the theory is off/wrong. Race is a feudal concept where when one group wants to have what the other group possess, they create a logic to justify the dynamic. Sometime it's their land, most of the time it's their bodies. The conquering usually does it to the conquered. In the process, the difference (real, preserved and created) between the two groups are codified and weaponized against the conquered. The construction of race is always the result of the needs of the concepts creator and in their acting by it, it becomes real for both the conqueror and conquered. Universally the conquering group calls it's self 'white' or other allusions to things that can be connotated with purity or rightness, assumes moral superiority, and calls the conquered something else while imposing characteristics on that group that allude to 'usability' and needing control or elimination. They're usually given a name that implies their not worthy of full humanity like your video says or marked for death (usually both). The conquered group (as is the case with all groups of humans) isn't 'unruly', it's simply being put to use by process of dehumanization. Both groups can assume potential or active unruliness from each other but that comes well after the racialization happens. The conquering group universally sees it's self as more orderly than the conquered group but there are many examples where they conquered group isn't seen as unruly, but instead possessing an incorrect order or perspective. For example, Nazis saw Jews as supremely organized but their way of organizing the world and themselves was evil and parasitic. Western race concepts in the English colonized world happen to be based on visible simplifications of phenotype, which was possible due to it being constructed in a time of excellerated intercontinental trade.

  • What do you think about the influx of people of color in the House of Representatives now that midterms is over? Do the sovereign view that as a threat? If so, what do you think will be their response?

  • Interesting. Like anything else; religion, class, sexism, race is indeed a mental tool. It's like a software, or malware, used to keep a group distracted against another so that the sovereign powers can feast on their ill-gotten gains.

  • This may seem like an obvious question but what is this idea of unruliness and why does sovereign power want to supress it so much? is it because unruliness challemges that power? if so, how?

  • Can non-white people be racist against white people in contexts where white people do not, as a group, hold more power than a non-white group? For example, a white person living in a country that is majority non-white and has a non-white ruling class. Could the Chinese, in China, be racist towards a white person who is living there?

  • The video is good, but the idea that you can't be racist against the race in power still doesn't make sense. Yes, racial categories are somewhat arbitrary and used as a tool by people in power to cause discrimination against "unruly" groups. But going from there to saying that it's only racist if you discriminate in the way that people in power want you to seems like a non-sequitur to me. What it really implies is not that racism against the race in power is definitionally impossible, but that it is very uncommon, while racism against minorities is very common.
    I've seen your 1984 video, but I still have to side with the people saying that "racism is prejudice plus power" is Orwellian. Just because it isn't exactly the same as what happens in 1984 doesn't mean it can't be Orwellian – by that definition, virtually nothing could be considered Orwellian. It still limits the scope of language by saying that certain scenarios don't count as racist, and therefore the term can't be used for them. Just because it doesn't eliminate the term entirely doesn't mean it isn't limiting our ideas.
    Finally, to adress the claim that "it's just discrimination, not racism" – that definition seems especially silly. Discrimination doesn't refer specifically to race at all. It can mean sexism, homophobia, creedism, etc. Racism is simply the type of discrimination that refers to race. It reminds me of people who say "I'm not a feminist, I'm an egalitarian" even though feminism is a type of egalitarianism.
    If you really want two different terms, you could use a new term to mean "prejudice+power", but redefining racism to mean this just doesn't seem like a good idea.

    In summary, black people can be racist, but racism against them is far more common than racism against white people.

  • This was fascinating to watch and gave me a lot to think about. Such as, a possible refute against changing the dictionary definition for not covering enough… Who writes the dictionary? That answer also answers why the definition is not sufficient.

  • This is an awesome tool for bridging serious gaps that, honestly, my generation can’t feel as easily. I’m Black, I hate talking to white people about race. I feel I have to at this time because I have to be able to live with myself when I die. The worst conversation to ever have to have when you’re in my age group is with a white friend whose gotten called out by someone much younger for doing racism. The moment they think about it they’ll have a list in their head of all the times they were doing racism and I get that it. I have been on the receiving end of it and in a lot of cases I didn’t even know how to put it in words. One of my warmest memories as a child would seem shockingly racist if I described today. I won’t, I knew what she meant from what she did. What you do tells anyone so much more than what you say and means so much more. If a person understood the video, you’ll know that the social dynamics gives a bit of an advantage to people that are experiencing being on the receiving end of those structures.

    The first time I ran into Poggee was in an ethics class, he’s possibly a bit of a hypocrite in real life, was when I was in a college ethics class. The teacher was a bit of a friend and the professor would get so annoyed that I’d undermine the argument as soon as she would give it. I’d make arguments that the professor knew were philosophical close but with easy to catch logical flaws. In the moment it would seem completely irrefutable however! Plenty of classes that the whole class would find themselves at a loss. I never got the chance to show the trick that they were acting in ways and presenting in ways that had already made the optics of presenting the argument just plan ridiculous in the class at the very moment the arguments were being presented. Especially the teacher and because of the obviousness of me being a black person they lost their vocabulary to say it. My presence dumbed them down or the society we live in dumbed them down, depending on how you took the video. We don’t pick the world we are born into, we just try and make it better. Playing devils advocate to never have any acknowledge your race and exclude you from the conversation mentally because you find seeing your friend ruin the material by contradicting it to be equivalent to scratching a chalkboard and want to maintain your gpa in a required class probably didn’t.

  • This is one of my favorite videos on race because of the depth of information and the simplicity of its explaination, well done!!!

  • This theory gets so obvious when you look at other cultures that have racialisations that your's doesen't.
    For example: As a european, I was genuinly surprised, when I learned that Latinos are a racialised group in the US. I mean the are the descendends of the conquestadores, the people that literally put white surpremecy into action.
    AOC, the "woman of color" giving reactionaries so much trouble right now, even has the same name as the main conquestador: Hernan Cortes.

  • Thanks for making this video and not relying entirely on Foucault as scaffolding. I paint about the metaphysics of sovereignty and proto-fascism. Though he's written a great deal on aesthetics he's very cold. I find contemporary conversations about the politics surrounding middle eastern muslim folk to be more relevant to the times. Anyway there are not many videos on youtube that talk about contemporary painting in an intellectually generous way. I feel like you'd get a hoot out of it. More than joe rogan anyway. poor bastard hates art

  • Thinking out loud, based solely off what I've heard here, Professor Sheth makes the claim that racism is a construct of power. Does that not beg the question, "Is it possible for anyone of the general population (people that do not craft or enforce law/rules), regardless of colloquial racial classifications (White, Black, Asian, Spanish, etc), be racist?" In essence, racism is a misnomer and should be reclassified as classicism? I'd like to get your take Olly.

  • This implies that in our post-Holocaust Western society, the now secularized Jewish population no longer has an "identifying feature" that sets it apart from the white ruling class, and now essentially IS part of the white ruling class. This further implies that modern Zionism is essentially a form of white supremacy.

  • Very good video, the same techniques in reverse create in groups such as who is patriotic, who is a good citizen, or define the qualities of those that make up the base in groups of the sovereign power. There are a lot of good concepts in this video.

  • is this definition of racism extendable to all bigotry? because, i have a hard time agreeing that an individual can't possibly be bigoted against a person with white skin for that reason (in a place where white people hold power, of course). sure, maybe race is about power and it isn't racism per se, but i still find it morally wrong to think poorly of someone for nothing other than the color of their skin or their gender or other human features that aren't controllable.

    i usually just say there are two forms of racism/bigotry, an institutional one that comes from power and the like, and then an interpersonal, individual one. even though white people hold the institutional power and the privilege in america, it would still be morally wrong (in my view, that is), to spit on or attack a white person for being white, for example.

    thanks for the videos though, it's nice to see good, researched, and well-presented long-form videos that get people thinking.

  • Hmm… I think it's correct that race is largely a construct originally meant to suppress parts of the population perceived as a threat.
    However, as a result of this, eventually that particular race sort of becomes more real. If you keep treating those people differently, eventually they really will become a different group. They will end up with a lot of disadvantages that should be considered when crafting policies or what not to actually help them.
    That is to say, just because race only exists when you make it exist, you shouldn't just, say, snap your fingers and stop thinking about any particular race altogether as if it had never happened. As bogus and flawed as the concept is, it's still valuable after the fact.
    To be clear, I think ideally things should work towards removing race again. By targeting welfare etc. in ways that restore the playing field and reduce the differences until they are basically gone and the term for a particular race becomes meaningless again. Abandoning the concept of any given race before that wound has healed would actually do members of that race a disservice. Basically past discrimination would inherently have accumulated to give effective discrimination today even if technically there currently isn't any "new" discrimination.

  • Recently found your channel and watching through it.
    I think even though there is "race" as almost purely biological phenomenon (biological and genetic describer of population), the concept of "race" as a societal construct that uses some of those biological, as well as social/cultural traits to oppress "unruley" and "other" is a really good one, and technicly they don't contradict each other.
    I recently adopted a view that race is this two different but connected things: "biological race" and "social race" and they not always match.

  • If we are eliminating race as the true determining factor in these types of discrimination, I think it is, at best, a poor choice of word and at worst, deceit and needless politicizing to continue to use the term "racism" to refer to a much broader category than just racial bias (whatever you think of the existence of a factual concept of "race"). If you are talking about a broader category of discrimination, don't use the same word, because if you go around accusing people of being "racist", when their biases really don't have to do with race, you're only going to start arguments from false premises. You yourself pointed this out; to paraphrase, you said that people will claim to not be racists because they don't discriminate based on race; but these people are still "racists" because they discriminate against "people like that", even if the "that" to which they are referring has nothing to do with race. I think they are absolutely correct in saying they are not racist if they don't discriminate based on race, ESPECIALLY if, like many people in arguments I have seen, you fail to define what YOU mean by racist, because they are operating under a different definition. To be clear, I understand what you are saying when you state that Sheth was expanding the definition of racism to include features of discrimination the old one does not account for. I am saying that if you do that, you should not continue to use a word that implies that the cause is race.

    In other words, because the word racism is obviously derived from a racial origin, if you are going to redefine the word to include ALL types of discrimination, why not use the word "discrimination"? Why take the specific word "racism", which has for a long time applied to the specific case of discrimination based on perceived race, and apply it to all discrimination, when we already have a word for that? Because if you do that, people who say "you CAN be racist against white people" are not "begging the question", as you claim, they are operating under a different definition that you (general "you", as in anyone who uses the "you can't be racist against white people" argument) have failed to clarify. They are not begging the question, you are operating under false pretenses that frankly, I think is a needlessly confusing thing to do for exactly that reason. Hence why I think that to continue to use "racism" is deceitful.

  • Race is a 'social construct' what else could it be? What you do with it is certainly debate worthy but it is what it is. If it's a matter of biology, then, you can't use religious beliefs as a race like too many people do.

  • If an Egyptian (not a tanned white kid, an Afrikan) becomes a Christian is he no longer black? Would the taxi stop?No, because he's a social taboo, 'black' raced.

  • This video is amazing! Thanks for the work you put into it… Sheth just became my preferred modern philosopher and that is because I found your video!!! So thank you!

  • I know this video was made 3 years ago, but thought of a question that I find interesting. What does it mean for society when members of the community of vulnerability move into communities of strength, as they so often do. Such as women gaining suffrage and volition, and gay people being accepted into society. Do you think it enlightens the community of strength at all, or do the new members simply take on the positions of the original community of strength. Because I think it's the latter, as the racialisation of muslims is being promulgated by previously vulnerable groups just as much as by the majority group. If so, that's a pretty depressing answer because it leaves me with little confidence in the human condition. I think there must be more to it.

  • This helps me understand the "racism and power" idea better. HOWEVER, IMHO, the argument "POC" can't be racist" can be a way of letting some shitty people off the hook.

  • I think this is a useful concept and is part of how race is constructed, but I don’t think it encompasses the whole issue on many levels. The obvious o e would be the construct if the white race. Are they viewed by the sovereign as unruly? Also this theory implies that if the sovereign power can be convinced that a group is no longer unruly then they would no longer be racialized. I just don’t see that as happening in general.

  • Yes, power has used the concept of race to divide populations not on the basis of genes but on the basis of status and culture, for example the british and the americans used to regard irish people as an inferior race even if they looked white, Italians were considered not white until not long ago in America, often latinos with 100% european descent aren't considered white in america, latino is not a race as I understand the actual meaning of the word yet it is considered as such in America. I am a liberal and this is how I understand the word race; the collection of similar traits and charasteristics among the members of a population within a species that are necessarilly explained by similarities in their genetic code.
    Given that definition we have a lot of races in europe, the italic, the british and irish celtic, the germanic, the slavic, the iberian etc, (those are not the name of races by the way just the name of populations that fit the mentioned definition of race, and all of them are a mixture of various races) there's a lot of races in Africa as well, and a lot in Asia, Also we can say that people with subsaharan african descent are a race, northern europeans are a race southern and central europeans are another, East asians are a race etc, and humans are a race too. those traits in my opinion make no difference in your culture by themselves, but in America given the historic division by race of the population, race has been linked to ethnicity and people has been encouraged by their peers and the society to indentify strongly with their ethnicity, personally don't like that approach, Liberalism advocates for ethnical and racial integration, not racial segregation, not racial benefits, that's why I don't like black lives matters, affirmative action, nor the Alt- Right, as a liberal however I respect every individual's right to protest as long as he or she respects other people's rights too. I make no exceptions regarding who is entitled to bennefit from the Liberal principles.

  • Even if you take Sneth definition of race as the valid one, if already "racialized" people gets to identify with their suposedly asigned race, and hate people from another race or have negative prejudice on them just based on their race and not their behaviour those people are being racist even if that racism is pushed on them they could choose not to subscribe to that mindset.

  • I know this video is really old, but I wanted to comment on the "you cant be racist to white people" bit. The difference between how academics use it vs. how the common person uses it, much like the word "theory" in science, is obviously the core as you say. However, it seems to me a much more dangerous idea to play with. We have to change how we talk about not only racism, but discrimination. It seems like people treat the word discrimination much less severely than they do the word racism, and this is a mistake. We should emphasize in our classes that discrimination is just as bad as racism, and therefore still very wrong, because it seems to me that a lot of angry young liberal arts majors take the "you cant be racist to white people" argument to mean they can make generalizing and dehumanizing statements about white people and its ok because "they have the power".

  • Legitimate question; not trying to argue or "discuss" anything, just a question.

    At what point do western countries say "no more, were full".
    With UNICEF predictions of over 4 Billion Africans alone by the end of the century, and a precedent set that if you can make it to European soil you can stay, and also the difference in fertility rates between white Europeans and immigrants, there has to be a limit.

    You cannot seriously think that open borders are sustainable in the long run.

    It just seems like nobody here thinks of the country their grandchildren are going to inherit.

    At what point, demographic %, does it cease to be and just another African country?

    I love how people think that these immigrants are going to vote for politicians with the same morals that they have. Just look at iLohan Omar and the district that voted for her into power. It has a VERY BAD somali gang problem that shouldn't EVEN EXIST.

  • The work is BS. Ask guys like Umar Johnson, I think he will tell you he’s biologically different? To say race isn’t a thing is just ridiculous. It’s like saying men and women is a construct, not biological…

  • Interestingly, despite certain phenotypic clustering of biological markers for race, many anthropologists view racial classification as of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance. This is because there is more genetic variation within a racial population (8.3%) than between races (6.3%) so you are actually not more likely to share more genes with a random individual of your own race than of another. This is called Lewontin's Fallacy since it has been critiqued whether the clustering is of taxonomic significance, but the idea of humans being heterogeneous with homogeneous races is still evident.

  • Re: The argument over whether it's possible to be racist to white people, I definitely don't disagree with Sheth's theory of racialization but I don't necessarily think that it, on its own, wholly defends the idea that white people can't be subjected to racism (or more broadly that any [group which is broadly in power in a society] can't be subjected to [the tactics with which it executes and maintains that power]). Namely I think that there are more layers to the concept of power than most people are willing to look at; Obviously there's the top-level political power structure which is currently slanted toward straight white cis men, and under which it would be difficult to argue that a straight white cis man is oppressed by society as a whole on the basis of his straightness, whiteness, cisness, or maleness. But this isn't the only power structure that exists, there are substructures within it which, while smaller and weaker, are just as real to the person living under them, and are arguably more directly tangible to that person as they're more likely to be enforced in an immediate way; smaller beasts move faster. A family unit presents a power structure in the same way that society does, just a smaller, more direct one, and within that structure the parent holds power over the child and thus if a particular parent happens to be a misandrist, a male child can be locally oppressed on the basis of his maleness within that structure, despite that not being the case in society at large. Similar examples can be constructed for, say, a white family in a majority-black town or neighborhood and facing persecution from their neighbors, etc. Obviously I don't know how often or, indeed, IF this happens at all in America or Britain, but if it does, I don't think it would be off-base to refer to that situation as "racism against a white family." And you can really scale this down as far as you want to; I, a trans woman, currently own and run a Discord server in which I have complete unilateral control over what discussions are allowed within its text channels and who is allowed to be in the server. If I so chose, I could exclude straight men or cis women or whoever from this server; I don't, but I could, because within this server I hold the power. It's an incredibly petty, small form of power that it would be laughable for someone to claim to be "oppressed" by, but it is still a definite differential of power, and that's by design. Subcultures in general are, broadly speaking, a way for a group of people who feel that they lack power in society to create a smaller society in which they DO have power; the gay community is a sub-society in which gay people can have the power over sexual norms and regulations that they're denied in society at large; enthusiast communities are sub-societies in which people with niche interests claim the power over "taste" norms that they don't have in society at large (and enthusiast communities tend to spawn their own sub-sub-cultures, for example the CRPG community, which is an offshoot of the video game community that was formed as a reaction to a perceived lack of respect or fondness for a particular style of game), and my discord server is a sub-society in which I personally claim the power over what individuals and conversations are allowed, which I absolutely lack in society at large.

    I'd like to reiterate that none of this should be construed as me trying to rebut Sheth's reading of race, which as far as I can see is absolutely correct, or making any claims about "white oppression" or anything silly like that, I just thought it worthwhile to point out that the seemingly simple question of "who's in power" can be quite a bit more complicated than simply looking at who makes the laws, simply because in any hierarchical system even the lower-end rungs can be above the very bottom. Regardless, great video all around.

  • I just think the definition is far too ambiguous. The term race can be applied to any group. In the video you say a negative feature, an unruly feature can be attached to any group and that group becomes a race. Political parties, republicans are a certain way and democratic socialist are evil and another way, religion, wealth, poor people are x, y, z and rich people are x, y, z, and even intellance with people being born disabled. I remember years ago reading an article that said coke drinkers are not as Pepsi drinkers according to some survey. So you can't trust ignorant coke drinkers. I wouldn't say she's making a new definition by applying so widely, that it's not that racial identy can be escaped, because as long as there are to opposing sides to anything, they can be grouped, then called races, then subjected to racism. It just seems like a huge over simplification and redefining of the word racism. Maybe I missed something, help me put if I did.
    Thank you

  • i wish i could inject this knowledge into the brains of anyone whose basic understanding of racism leads them to say ‘yea but black people are racist to white people’ for absolutely no reason

  • Correct use of “begging the question” ⭐️
    To be clear I think the phrase has taken on new meaning as to say “leads to the question…” or “makes you wonder…”
    Still a little pet peeve so, it’s nice to hear it in this.

  • You can never trust someone you've screwed over. The more 'the unruly' are abused the more reason they have to be unruly and the more fearful of retaliation people become. They become more likely to abuse again. A vicious circle sustained primarily by the abuser out of fear.

  • How does talking about race as a social construct ignore the questions of who what and why it's constructed? because it's only when you talk about it as a social construct that you're pointing towards these questions, right?