I posted on this earlier (on Hursthouse and Confucius), but I want to pose the question in a more simplified form, because the main question might have gotten lost in the complexities of that post. Here’s the situation: imagine that you were raised in a culture of racism. You have gotten older and have disavowed those beliefs, but you find that it is incredibly difficult to “wipe out” the years of “training” you were subjected to while growing up. When you see a black person, you feel emotions that are oriented towards the training you received. You feel repulsion at the sight of an interracial couple, or fear when faced with blacks, or whatever. You don’t act on those feelings, but try as you might, you can’t seem (beyond some initial successes) to get rid of them. You are ashamed that you have them, but still they crop up much to your shame and embarassment. Now the question:
Are you a racist?
- (a) If ‘being a racist’ is based on what you do, then you’re not a racist because you successfully overcome your emotions to act in a non-biased manner.
- (b) If ‘being a racist’ is based at least partly in feelings, then you are a racist. Clearly in such a case there would be degrees of racism here — some feel powerful emotions, and embrace them or cultivate them. Yours are not powerful, but present. Still, it would mean that you have racism in you.