Social philosophy: racial discrimination



The prolonged and discordant debates over discrimination, diversity, and equality have continued to stir controversies in relation to the inequality meted against women, the plight of the people from minority races and the risks associated with a majority supporting the ideologies that preach against intolerance towards discrimination (D’Odorico, 2013). Racial discrimination is one of the most contentious topics that stretch the broad banner of discrimination. Along the process of discussing racial discrimination, the issues of inequality to access of resources and discrimination against racial minorities at the workplaces are evidently inevitable. Besides, the history of racial discrimination in the society has been one that has spearheaded the campaigns towards attaining diversity within organizations.

This paper will discuss racial discrimination from the lenses of social philosophy; in a process that will lie bear the utilitarian view of racial discrimination. In addition, the paper will give an overview of intersectional approach towards racial discrimination, hence strengthening the point that the approach given by social philosophies towards discrimination reflects the ethical standpoint that these philosophies entail in relation to handling the contemporary social issues of discrimination, diversity, and equality.

The nature of racism

Discrimination is defined as an act of distinguishing people based on their attitudes, beliefs, social characteristics, and physical appearances. In as much, many scholars have included the term wrongful in explaining the meaning of discrimination, Neblett and Roberts (2013) note that this is not to mean that all acts of discrimination are unlawful. In the US for instance, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act allows for prejudice against pregnant women in certain circumstances. However, other discrimination forms such as racial profiling are deemed not only unethical but also unlawful in most countries. Racial discrimination, therefore, refers to prejudice directed at people of a certain skin color. In analyzing the philosophical view of discrimination, the challenge of drawing a line between the acceptable and unacceptable forms of racial discrimination exposes the differences in ideology among the social philosophers.


Utilitarianism is a moral theory that is developed on the precepts of utility maximization. When expounding more on utilitarianism, Mill (2014) explained that utility, as taken from the context of the philosophers, means life satisfaction, happiness, welfare and well-being. It is important to note that these definitions of utility are essential in understanding the different distinctions that guarantee the morality behind a utilitarian approach. When thinking of utilitarianism, therefore, the significant point of convergence includes acting upon priorities, equality for all and focus on welfare.

Utilitarian view of racial discrimination

Racism is an unjust system that treats people differently for no reason. The different races that people belong to do not guarantee them lesser or unequal treatment. In justification of the unequal treatment, the racists will argue that the other races are inferior. However, the consideration here should be the natural inferiority that is attached to the minority races.

The standard argument by the utilitarian philosophers is established on the idea that the productivity of a society is optimized when the treatment of people is conducted on meritocracy, competence, and sacrifice. In most racial societies today, services are given to certain races due to the perceived superiority of these races. However, it is important to note that different jobs require different personality traits and skills that can be provided not only by the members of the superior races. Therefore, the utilitarian argument goes further to discredit racial profiling as an activity that does not provide the maximum utility, happiness, and welfare for the community.

The utilitarian approach explains that treatment of people within a society should be done based on the qualifications of the people (Mill, 2014). This means, therefore, that racial discrimination fails to advance the public welfare by assigning treatment to people based not on their qualification but on their physical appearance. Besides, a person who benefits from a racially motivated treatment is racial in his or her own way. This explains that the continued justification of racial discrimination may benefit only those who are proponents of racism, hence leaving majority of the public with poor welfare.

Intersectional approach to racial discrimination

The intersectional approach arises from a combination of different oppressions that produce something unique other than one of the discriminations would produce when standing alone (D’Odorico, 2013). The inter-sectionality of racial discrimination is interpreted with the relations that this institution has with gender inequality. This is to say that many African American males are at high risk of police shootings than the African American women, though the shootings may be racially instigated. In conclusion, the combined effects of racial discrimination are viewed as unethical from the utilitarian approach, hence strengthening the point that the approach given by social philosophies towards discrimination reflects the ethical standpoint that these philosophies entail in relation to handling the contemporary social issues of discrimination, diversity, and equality.

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  1. D’Odorico, G. (2013). The politics of belonging: intersectional contestations. Ethnic and Racial Studies37(5), 884-886.
  2. Mill, J. (2014). Utilitarianism (4th Ed.). Raleigh, N.C.: Alex Catalogue.
  3. Neblett, E. & Roberts, S. (2013). Racial identity and autonomic responses to racial discrimination. Psychophysiology13(4).
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