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Theorising and Exposing Institutional Racism in Britain: The Contribution of Ann and Michael Dummett to Critical Philosophy of Race

Journal of Applied Philosophy

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By helping to introduce the relatively new concept of institutional racism into Britain, Sir Michael and Ann Dummett expanded the concept of racism beyond the limited sense it had been given in the 1940s and 1950s when racism tended to be associated with the scientific concept of race and when the focus tended to fall on the intent to harm or speak harm of a group that was identified as a race by science. They recognised that ‘race’ was primarily a political and not a scientific concept. This led them in a different direction from that taken by the next generation of mainstream philosophers working in this area, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, who adopted the UNESCO approach of highlighting the scientific deficiencies of the concept of race. However, although they both succeeded in developing ways to break through the forms of self‐deception that allow institutional racism to go unnoticed and at the same time offered instructive insights into the ways politicians hide behind the racism of others, I argue that they failed to see, as clearly as Sartre and Fanon did, that the conception of institutional racism necessitates a structural changes in society beyond anything they contemplated.