Can facts be racist?



Here is the sequence of events. 1. Richard Dawkins tweets that all the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College Cambridge. 2. Cue a twitter onslaught – accusing Professor Dawkins of racism. 3. Richard Dawkins writes that a fact can’t be racist.

It seems to me pretty silly to call Dawkins a racist, for some of the reasons he spells out here.

But I want to focus on his claim that a fact can’t be racist. That seems to me a bit silly too. You don’t have to be a post-Derridean, neo-Lacanian, Baudriallardian-wannabe to recognize that the meaning of ‘facts’ can only be drawn from their use and context.

Take a simple example. Imagine there was an imaginary newspaper, let’s call it the Mail Daily, which only cited certain facts about immigration – let’s say negative facts. True facts. Facts which might have to do with crime, for example, or housing shortages, or the abuse of the welfare system. Imagine that the Mail Daily never gave any positive facts about immigration – never emphasized any of the enormous benefits that immigration brings.

Would it be fair to accuse the Mail Daily of being racist in its coverage of immigration? That’s a rhetorical question.