The Only 2 Types of Racism We Need to Worry About According to Sam Harris

Sam Harris did a podcast with Chelsea Handler and the topic was white privilege. This podcast was done for her Netflix special on the topic. However she did not use any of the material for her special but Sam Harris was able to use the conversation in whole for his podcast. 


Although Sam and Chelsea see things very differently when it comes to the topic of race, the conversation was very pleasant and amicable. 

Early in the conversation, Sam talked the watering down of the word "racism" and articulates on the only two types of racism we should really worry about. Here is what he said:

It seems to me that there are probably only two kinds of racism that we need to worry about. There's real racism...from people who are racist. And what that means is, that these are people who don't actually share our political goals, they don't want to live in a society where people enjoy political equality...they think white people are better than black people, or whatever their brand of racism is. They think some people shouldn't have the same rights and freedoms as other people because of these "important" racial differences. They think certain people should get out of the country and move back to Africa...whatever their belief system is. Clearly that kind of racism exists. I think it's a tiny number of people at this moment in our society subscribe to it. 
And there's probably a gray area around that where you haven't thought through any kind of noxious political program but you actually just don't like people from other races because you're not comfortable around them. And this extends to other cultures right. You're a xenophobe. You don't want to hear people speaking with accented English right. You just want white blonde people all around you. That's how you're comfortable. Okay, that's racism. That's racism that some people can completely grow out of by just having more exposure to different people. Okay, that's great. We want them to grow out of it. The people who are irredemable we call neo-nazi and white supremacists and we wanna keep them at bay in anyway that we can. And we are right to hate the fact that we have a president who can't say anything ethically intelligible about this problem as it exists.
There is another type of racism that [is] totally legitimate to worry about..which often is called systemic or institutional racism. Which is, bias somehow gets built our laws or our institutions or the way we are doing things. And it may not in every instance reflect any individual's racist bias but yet it works against the advantage of one or another group. And then there are perverse versions of this that had the best of intentions where you have a bunch of committed non-racists actually suddenly realizing they've become racists. This just happened at Harvard.

What Sam was referring to at Harvard was the recent affirmative action lawsuit against Harvard. The lawsuit argued that Harvard admissions office holds Asian-Americans to a higher standard and uses a subjective "personal rating" to limit their admission. This lawsuit trailed a 2009 study that showed Asians needed an average SAT score of 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than blacks (out of 1600 points) to get into elite private universities such as Princeton and Harvard.

You can check out this conversation in its entirety by listening to Sam Harris's Making Sense Podcast. The episode was published on October 14, 2019.

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