To rationalize what you already want to do

My academic mentor, ethicist Glen Stassen, once told a story that sums up why people, even moral people, do terrible things. Glen said that he and Dot, his wife, were having a minor disagreement over some mundane thing. Glen stated his desired resolution, likely through an exhaustive ethical explanation. Dot, after considering his argument, laid down a devastating claim: “I think the reason you became an ethicist was so that you could find a way to rationalize what you already want to do.” Glen laughed as he recounted the story and confessed with a grin, “Maybe she’s right.”

The creation of whiteness begins in the same spirit, as explained by Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi:

Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto Black people.

Whether the policy has been slavery, segregation, or mass incarceration, the idea of racial superiority still fuctions now because it was developed in order to safeguard the accumulated wealth and power acquired by European colonists, slavers, and segregationists. Sometimes we determine what we want to do, first, and then we find the reason to justify our actions. 

From “Know Your Place: Helping White, Southern Evangelicals Cope with the End of The(ir) World” by Justin R. Phillips