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Making Sense of Shame in Response to Racism

Webster, Aness Kim

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Some people of colour feel shame in response to racist incidents. This phenomenon seems puzzling since, plausibly, they have nothing to feel shame about. This puzzle arises because we assume that targets of racism feel shame about their race. However, I propose that when an individual is racialised as non-White in a racist incident, shame is sometimes prompted, not by a negative self-assessment of her race, but by her inability to choose when her stigmatised race is made salient. I argue that this can make sense of some shame responses to racism. My account also helps to highlight some of the emotional and cognitive costs of racism that have their root in shame as well as a new form of hermeneutical injustice and distinctive communicative harms, contributing to a fuller picture of what is objectionable about racism.


Webster, A. K. (2022). Making Sense of Shame in Response to Racism. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 51(7), 535 - 550.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Apr 8, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 15, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 15, 2022
Journal Canadian Journal of Philosophy
Print ISSN 0045-5091
Electronic ISSN 1911-0820
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 51
Issue 7
Pages 535 - 550


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (216 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

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