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Res Philosophica

Volume 95, Issue 2, April 2018

Special Conference Issue: Race and Gender

Leonard Harris
Pages 273-302
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.1617

An Actuarial Account of Racism

I argue that racism is a form of necro-being entrapped in necro-tragedy. Necro-being, as I present it, is a condition that kills and prevents persons from being born. I defend a conception of tragedy: absolute necrotragedy; absolute irredeemable suffering in a non-moral universe. Explanations of racism are commonly subject to anomalies, for example, volitional accounts offer special desiderata to account for institutional racism; conversely for institutional accounts. I offer a way to see racism, given the existence of a vast array of kinds of racism: a descriptive actuarial approach. The account is intended to avoid the quandaries and anomalies of ‘explanation.’ I use rational-intentional explanations (including accounts by Jorge Garcia and Charles Mills) and social kind racial realism as inadequate explanations and examples of explanations with anomalies. These accounts also help demonstrate that logical systems of racism are inadequate. All such accounts explain racism as a coherent system and offer correlative reasons for its wrongness. I consider death, mortality, morbidity, and irredeemable misery as primary indicators of racism across an array of types of racism globally: racial necro-being.