The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

Racism, Rand Paul, and Red Herrings

A political storm is brewing in bluegrass country. On Tuesday, Tea Party endorsed Rand Paul, son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, earned a smashing victory over his challenger in the Kentucky Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. But, for reasons detailed in today’s NY Times Caucus Blog, the younger Paul’s view on civil rights could eclipse his chances of victory in the general election.

If the interview that Paul did on Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show is any indication, then he holds the following view of civil rights: the federal government is justified in preventing public institutions (e.g., schools) from discriminating on the basis of race (etc.), but not in preventing private institutions (e.g., businesses) from like forms of discrimination. When pressed by Maddow to disown or defend this apparently anachronistic view of civil rights, Paul chose to defend it: first, by claiming that he personally repudiates bigoted discrimination; and second, by claiming that laws proscribing private institutions from discriminating on the basis of race (etc.) pose a threat to free speech. Unfortunately for Paul, however, it seems that both claims are red herrings. The issue is not whether Paul is a bigot. The issue is whether he believes that a society which grants people the freedom to discriminate is more just than a society that grants people the freedom to be free from discrimination.

Related Articles:

Race, Colorblindness, and Continental Philosophy
By Michael J. Monahan , Marquette University
(Vol. 1, September 2006)
Philosophy Compass

Reparations and Racial Inequality
By Derrick Darby , University of Kansas
(Vol. 5, January 2010)
Philosophy Compass

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