Global white ignorance

Authored by: Charles W. Mills

Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718967
eBook ISBN: 9781315867762
Adobe ISBN: 9781317964674


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In a 2007 essay, “White Ignorance” (Mills 2007), I set out to map a non-knowing grounded specifically in white racial privilege. I was trying to contribute to the new “social epistemology” in philosophy by introducing the issues of race, white racism, and white racial domination into the debate. These factors have been crucial to the distortion of social cognition over the past few hundred years (i.e., modernity), but have been little discussed in philosophy in general and in epistemology in particular. 1 “White ignorance” was meant to denote an ignorance among whites—an absence of belief, a false belief, a set of false beliefs, a pervasively deforming outlook—that was not contingent but causally linked to their whiteness. “Whiteness” here, of course, has no biological connotations, but is being used in the sense that has become standard within critical whiteness studies, to refer to people socially categorized as white within a racialized social system (Painter 2010; Allen 2012). So I am presupposing throughout a social constructionist analysis, for which race is real but a social rather than natural kind (Haslanger 2012).

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