There are two main questions that any person who follows Kantian Ethics must ask before they perform any action. Is the action the accepted norm, meaning will others act in the same manner? Will the act respect others and their shared goals? If the answer to either question is no, then under Kantian Ethics it is deemed that one should not perform the action. Immanuel Kant devised a theory by which a person must decide whether or not to perform an action not based on the outcome or consequences, but instead based upon whether or not those actions will fulfill a shared duty to mankind. Racism is not a duty to mankind and as such conflicts with Kantian Ethics.
It can be argued that Kantian Ethics were limited by their place in time and that they did not translate well to the generations that came to judge the philosopher by his limited dealings with other races that were outside of his influence. There is also basis to assume that as Kant did not travel outside of his native Konigsberg, he came to understand other races only through rumor and gossip brought to his attention by traveling merchants, missionaries, colonizers, and many others. When given information in such a manner it is easy to make assumptions concerning others as the basis for unbiased truth does not exist. The idea that Kant was in fact a racist is arguable from both sides, and can be construed as a lack of proper knowledge and not so much a true hatred or disdain for other races.
According to Kantian Ethics racism would be contradictory the theory that Kant laid down long ago, the deontological thrust of his writings that indicated in a universal tone that all people were meant to have equal worth. In regards to his racist views towards African-Americans and Asian-Americans, such a morally philosophical statement is easily seen as
confusing and extremely difficult to decipher as it does not mesh with the statements made by the man who developed the theory. There are several arguments that can be made for and against Kant in this regard, but overall Kantian Ethics, as neutral and universal as they would appear, are a balanced set of beliefs that come from a rather unbalanced point of view. While it is unfair to demand a more worldly view from a man who did not make it habit to explore the wider world, it is also reasonable to assume that such a gifted philosopher could determine the validity and truth behind the rumors and gossip he was given.
While there is no ironclad argument against racism when it comes to Kant and his beliefs, the theory he developed, Kantian Ethics, would easily argue for an end to racism, a call to find every person equal. What many people believe of Kant is that he was a great philosopher and a very noted historical figure. A good number will never truly know of his racist remarks or beliefs, as such information has become somewhat difficult to find and therefore has slipped through the cracks of time when speaking of what seems like a morally sound philosopher. If careful and investigative study is undertaken however it can be discovered that the basis for Kantian Ethics likely referred largely to a white, male-dominated community.
While arguments in Kant’s favor are not entirely as strong as the arguments against his character, it is important to note that while the individual’s beliefs were reprehensible, what is left as his legacy, namely Kantian Ethics, can be taken as a far more universally accepted rule of thumb for individuals to follow. In conclusion Immanuel Kant is by far and large unable to argue against racism, but Kantian Ethics may very well be one of the cornerstone beliefs that can offer up a very simple and direct manner on how to treat others. While Kantian Ethics do conflict with racist attitudes in some regard, they can also be utilized as a tool for the greater good.