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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 39, 2014

Andrew J. Pierce
Pages 23-42

Structural Racism, Institutional Agency, and Disrespect

In recent work, Joshua Glasgow has offered a definition of racism that is supposed to put to rest the debates between cognitive, behavioral, attitudinal, and institutionalist definitions. The key to such a definition, he argues, is the idea of disrespect. He claims: “φ is racist if and only if φ is disrespectful toward members of racialized group R as Rs.” While this definition may capture an important commonality among cognitive, behavioral, and attitudinal accounts of racism, I argue that his attempt to expand the definition to cover institutional or “structural” racism is less persuasive. Alternatively, I argue that structural racism must be understood in terms of injustice rather than disrespect. This involves giving a fuller account of how institutions are related to the beliefs, actions, and intentions of individuals, and thus how they can come to embody a certain kind of agency.