Intention vs Effect


"I didn't know. I didn't ‘mean' to be prejudiced/racist, therefore it isn't racism." 

In discussions about the definition of racism, white people will frequently argue that a particular statement or action does not constitute racism because racism was not intended. As noted elsewhere, in Human Rights law and anti-racism education, intentionality is irrelevant. It is the effect/impact of the action on the target person/group that is to be considered and takes precedence.

In addition, people may argue that they had never been taught the correct or appropriate information—"I didn't know"—and therefore they cannot be racist. However, while their statement may be factually correct, ignorance does not justify racism or mitigate the effects of their actions; it can be another form of defensiveness. To assist individuals in identifying "what they know or do not know," a number of Learning Actions have been designed to address Knowledge Gaps.