Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 48, 2023

Peter Bornschein
Pages 65-74

Are Cultural Explanations for Racial Disparities Racist?

Negative characteristics are sometimes attributed to racial groups on the basis of culture. Sometimes these cultural characteristics are invoked to explain racial disparities. Many antiracist activists and intellectuals argue that such attributions are racist and, in this respect, are no different than attributions of negative characteristics to a racial group based on biology. In a recent essay, Lawrence Blum provides a typology of different kinds of views that attribute negative cultural characteristics to racial groups. One of the views that Blum identifies treats the relevant cultural characteristics as malleable but does not attribute those characteristics to existing structural factors. Blum characterizes this type of thinking as a form of racist thought. I argue that Blum is mistaken in doing so and that there are good reasons for academics not to treat cultural explanations for racial disparities as too taboo to even consider.