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Race and Truth

- Abstract

IS A truthful discussion of racial matters impossible in the present generation in this country? Let us suppose for a moment (it is not a supposition I would defend) that the souls of whites and blacks are so corrupted by relations of inequality that no human being, white or black, is capable of perceiving the truth of these relations undistorted. We are each, in other words, irredeemably prejudiced and lost in darkness; truth is unable to abide among us. In that case (again, a situation I by no means concede), persons trying to be truthful would have to pay each other the compliment of a civil skepticism. They would systematically regard all utterances in racial matters with a grain, or more than a grain, of salt. They would assume that most of what passes as “enlightened opinion” on matters of race, emanating from blacks or from whites, is partly prejudice, partly euphemism, partly nonsense, and only partly true; perhaps, ultimately, true only in such a distorted context as to be even in that kernel of truth profoundly untrue.

Even in the worst case, then, one would still have a method, however negative, for getting closer to the truth. One would doubt every utterance, break it up into its components, and coldly evaluate the partial merits of each.

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