Everyone is racist

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

We control what
you think with

Icon language.svg
Said and done
Jargon, buzzwords, slogans

The phrase everyone is racist is used in two ways:

  • By anti-racism advocates, arguing that nobody can be totally non-racist
  • By more committed and unashamed bigots, usually in statements like "Everyone is racist, I just admit it."

"Everyone is racist"[edit]

Racism is the belief that humans can be meaningfully defined into biological ethnic categories in order to separate supposed superior from inferior races and/or generally showing discrimination or hostility against person(s) on the basis of their race. Thus, racism is either a belief (set of ideas) or an outward behavior. The naming process whereby the term racist is applied to individuals in popular usage does not usually imply an acceptance of a definite structured racism.[1][2]

Racism, as a set of ideas, may be seen in persons associated with practically any ideological schema not constructed to avoid such ideas. Liberals, conservatives, socialists, Christians, and others may harbor racist ideas. The notion of unconscious bias has been generalized to include unconscious racism. Nevertheless, there is no reason to suppose everyone is detectably racist in this way unless you stretch the definition of racism to vague meaninglessness. Unconscious bias is a measurable phenomenon, defined as either in-group bias, or outgroup negativity.[3] Since it's largely misunderstood, some media has engendered the understanding that unconscious bias is a reliable indicator of racism.[4][5] In reality, some unconscious bias can be understood in terms of "in-group favoritism".[6] Thus the presumption, "everyone is racist", is weakened to the point of negligible probability.

The two ways about it[edit]

Many claim that racism is pervasive throughout culture, so that everyone is racist in some ways. Racism is regarded as immoral by most Westerners, and to hold racist beliefs without empirically acting upon them is sometimes regarded as a thought crime, or sinful (evil), or at least an indication of poor character.[7] This view is compatible with Christian dogma.[8] On the other hand, the actual racial bigot will sometimes admit his own racism while claiming "liberal racism" causes liberals to be racist. Liberal racism does not qualify as racism by any general definition. The central problem burdening the resolution of the project of describing the degree to which an individual can be sinful is not a scientific process. Sin is ambiguous, just as the most subtle forms of racism might be considered unidentifiable.

"I just admit it"[edit]

The initial quote makes three claims: 1) "everyone is racist", 2) "the speaker himself is a racist", and 3) "since everyone is racist anyway, the speaker is no worse than other people".

The premise assumes that there are necessary universal forms of racism by declaring "everyone is racist" is true, and implicitly concluding an admission of racism is therefore honest and normal. Honesty is traditionally expected from those supposed to be of good character, thus there is an implicit passive-aggression in the statement: something to the effect of "I am more ethical than those who refuse to admit their racism."

Thus the person who says, "Everyone is racist, I just admit it," is offering us two separate claims, one that is false and one that is likely true: it is false that everyone is a racist, and it is true that we may fairly regard the speaker as a racist.

Implicit association[edit]

Implicit bias, assumed to be unconscious, may be generally analyzed with a psychometric tool known as the Implicit Association Test (IAT)[9][10] which profiles and evaluates biased ways of thinking about any number of social categories which individuals may be incapable or unwilling to admit in direct reporting. "The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about."[11]

Project Implicit Mission Statement: Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition — thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a "virtual laboratory" for collecting data on the Internet.[12]


"We cannot be certain that any given IAT can diagnose an individual. At this stage in its development, it is preferable to use the IAT mainly as an educational tool to develop awareness of implicit preferences and stereotypes. For example, using the IAT to choose jurors is not ethical. In contrast, it might be appropriate to use the IAT to teach jurors about the possibility of unintended bias."[13]

The following Facts may provide an Overview to the General Topical question "Am I racially biased?"

1: Virtually everyone is implicitly biased. (Or: "Everyone is biased")
This is undoubtedly true, i.e., that a given individual will certainly be biased about some group of people or set of beliefs. What is not true, generally, is that everyone is biased about the same group of people or the same set of beliefs. The Project Implicit, for example, provides these results for implicit bias between people of European origin and those of African origin: 18% showed little or no preference between African American and European American Groups. If one goes to the Project Implicit webpage and takes the relevant test, a distribution summary is given. It summarizes 3,314,277 IAT "race task" test scores taken between December 2002 and December, 2015.

2: Implicit bias is not identical to racism/sexism/etc., but may result in implicit racism/sexism/etc. in decision-making.
Many people ask "What can I do about an implicit preference that I don't want?" Project Implicit answers:
"It is well-established that implicit preferences can predict behavior. But, there is not yet enough research to say for sure that implicit biases can be reduced, let alone eliminated, or whether implicit bias reduction will lead to behavior change.[14]

3: Implicit bias is unavoidable, and so should not be shamed. The Implicit Project policy holds that it is unethical to use the IAT to diagnose racism, sexism, or other negative attitudes. Yet people should be encouraged to use the IAT to become aware of implicit bias. You may find the tests here.


"Everyone is racist — I just admit it," is an argument that certain racist individuals and organisations[Who?] use to justify their prejudices, with the premise being a form of more general argument: "everyone is [negative quality X], therefore [my (extreme) form of X] is OK", with racism/prejudice being X in this case.

REMARK: "Everyone is racist, I just admit it," is not an argument of the aforementioned form, unless one also proposes "Admitting one is X is admitting an extreme form of X."

External links[edit]