'White Vilification' and Epistemic Injustice
Louise Richardson-Self (University of Tasmania)

October 25, 2017, 3:30pm - 5:30pm
Department of Philosophy, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne

Atrium 213, Old Arts, University of Melbourne
Royal Parade
Melbourne 3010


Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne

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Abstract In Australia, federal legislation prohibits hate speech on the basis of race. This legislation is facially neutral (Gelber 2014). That is, any person of any race, colour, or national or ethnic origin may lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) if they are the victim of an act which is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate them, and that act is done because of this identity trait. While the majority of complaints lodged with the AHRC are from people of colour, white Australians are increasingly lodging complaints of racial vilification. Two recent cases stand out. First, in 2016 Senator David Leyonhjelm complained of being called an “angry white male” in an article written by veteran Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny. Second, again in 2016, at least two people lodged a complaint against Federal Member of Parliament Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected to Australia’s lower house of parliament, for a statement to the effect that “white men of a certain age” have “never experienced racial discrimination in their life”. In this paper, I hold that white vilification complaints do not constitute hate speech in the Australian context, but that they do constitute an epistemic injustice against people of colour. Two types of epistemic injustice occur when white people allege racial vilification. The first is a willful hermeneutical injustice committed by the white vilification complainants (Pohlhaus 2012). The second is testimonial credibility excess, an excess that is granted by the general public to the white vilification complainants (Medina 2011). 

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