Good piece, but I think we need to refine the principle a little. What is experienced certainly counts, as does what is intended.

But there is also what we might call the "reasonableness" of the reaction to experience. If I accidentally step on your toe so hard that I break it, then certainly I am culpable to some extent, though much less than if I had intended to break it.

But what if I merely brush lightly against your toe, and your response is to react as if I'd broken it? Brushing lightly against your toe, even if unintentional, might perhaps be a very minor invasion of personal space - but I think most people would agree it's far from equivalent to breaking it.

Then, of course, there are cases where intent is bad but the results aren't. What if I fully intend to break your toe, but because my aim is so incompetent, in fact I just brush lightly against it? Aren't I almost as bad as the person who intentionally *does* break your toe, and arguably worse than the person who does it accidentally?

I am deliberately not giving examples from race-related situations here because this is a general point. We can't say experience trumps intention or vice-versa, or that all experiences - or all intentions - should be taken equally seriously. It's more complex than that.

And, as I hope the examples above make clear, this complexity does not automatically favour either the intention behind an action *or* the experience of the person affected by it. Sometimes the intention is more significant than the experience, sometimes vice-versa.

Barnaby is a journalist based in Suffolk, UK. By day he covers science and public policy; by night, film and classical music. He has also been a cinema manager.

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