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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > January February 2018 > Psychology, Skepticism, and Confronting Racism

Psychology, Skepticism, and Confronting Racism

What Does Skepticism Have to Do with Racism?

Racism is abhorrent. It is therefore easy for a movement such as skepticism to adopt anti-racism stances, but skepticism must avoid promoting viewpoints because they are politically popular or self-satisfying. Skepticism promotes beliefs that are consistent with thoughtful interpretations of the existing evidence.

Racism is not scientific nor is it reasonable. Racism is essentially a negative attitude toward others based on their membership in a particular race. Racism per se is not pseudoscientific; it is a general mindset toward particular races rather than an identifiable scientific claim. However, racism is typically bolstered by folk scientific claims that do not hold up under scrutiny. The most inflammatory of these types of claims is probably the theory that members of certain races are genetically inferior. This type of folk theory overlooks obvious scientific problems. Racial categories are socially constructed, based more on appearance than genetics. Social and economic factors exert systematic influences that can perpetuate racial stereotypes.

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