De-radicalization of Racism: How and Why Philosophy Under-Specializes the Development of (Critical) Race Theory

There have been a lot of nasty-ass rumors embraced by philosophers and your run of the mill academicians surrounding the material substantiations of time as “histories,” and the meta-physical “flow of time,” as linear continuum towards progress and development. It is assumed without provocation that the variety of “histories” offered by racialized oppressed peoples enclosed within [H]istory—understood as a universal account of white civilization—emerges as continuities that further the evolution of not only our American society, but the edifice of the West. In short, we are told to believe that the multiple histories that now emerge at this moment are in fact the inevitable result of the genius of the Dialectical Hemi-(spherical engine) driving the expression of multiple subjectivities. But time need not revolve around such a mythical perspective; a perspective that demands from colonized people that they cherish their past enslavement and historical debasement by racism, and accept that their contemporary suffering, their present dehumanization, and their ongoing exploitation by the political economics of the university, blessed them with the post-colonial discourses to be shared with a now attentive white audience waiting to take stock of their critiques. The dominant schema of America’s liberal democratic order suggests that history be read and time be gauged by the falling away of the organized oppressive structures of the past, where the present is known by the remnants the last fading vestiges of racism, and the future will be identified by the absence of the barriers and attitudes of the past and present filled with only enlightened white folks who are adamantly against racism. This progressive teleology—the idea solidified by integration which suggests racism and the political economics of white supremacy will simply disappear over time—is the largely accepted political dogma of not only our social life, but the unquestioned paradigm of our academic lives as well.

As a function of its unique specialization, academic education determines for us what figures and categories are synonymous with knowledge. As such, even the most creative scholar who aims to be “radical,” forges their weapons from the formal templates of criticality outlined within disciplinarity, where the newly acquired linguistic armaments of race, class, and gender do little more than justify the revisions made to already bourgeois Black women’s thought like Anna Julia Cooper so that they may be copyrighted as canonical figures and made into Black feminists who truly supported the pluralist democratic ethos realized by America’s civil rights era. While intersectionality, popularly referred to the study of “Race, Class, and Gender,” what I have called the “trinity of bulls**t,” in previous writings, remain the three stooges of any inquiry into racist oppression, this rhetorical trope does little to tell the reader anything about the actual methods and/or concepts needed to understand the complicated nexus between racism, political economics and sexual exploitation.

It only contends that we should make “discursive space” to hear from the subjects many have agreed to believe come to embody this allusive trinity. As Peter Kwan has argued in a series of articles entitled “Jeffery Dahmer and the Cosynthesis of Categories,”“Complicity and Complexity: Cosynthesis and Praxis,” and “After Intersectionality,” intersectionality (specifically the idea of race and gender) has been used primarily as a tool to center an identity politics that justifies defining race and gender as Black women, rather than on the systemic dynamics of racist sexual exploitation. In short, the rhetorical tropes of race, class, and gender are thought to be evidence of something like rigor and interdisciplinarity, but in reality they announce categories that disciplinary consensus has decided are represented by specific antebellum women authors compatible with integrationism, feminism, and the revisions to and selective reading of their thought along these lines.

Similarly, I have argued in previous works like “Concerning the Under-specialization of Race Theory in American Philosophy: How the Exclusion of Black Sources Affects the Field,” that disciplines reward scholarship dealing with race that abide by the correct ethics of disdain,—

those ethics that outline the proper rules of engaging racism and colonial oppression—so that the resulting engagements of non-European peoples against their oppression can qualify as philosophy is of the utmost concern(Curry 2010, p.50).

These ethics de-radicalize analyses of racism, because an actual investigation into racism in the discipline of philosophy would begin with institutional criticisms that attack the organizational integrity of philosophical organizations like the American Philosophy Association (APA), the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP), and the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), the largely white philosophy departments with histories of racial discrimination, and the work of white philosophers contributing to the erasure of Black, Latin American, and Indigenous peoples in an effort to solidify white thinkers authority on racism and colonialism over and against the reading of authors who are part of the groups that actually suffered under oppression. In philosophy, this is largely done by explaining away the racism of white scholars like John Dewey (who supported segregated education, assimilation, and the naturalness of racial antipathy) and Josiah Royce (who advocated the United States take up the “white man’s burden,” and British colonial administration in the South) , and revising the theories of European thinkers like Immanuel Kant (a figure Emmanuel Eze demonstrated was not only racist, but responsible for racial taxonomy), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (who supported slavery and argued Africans were outside of history and civilization) and Michel Foucault (who not only steals his analysis of prisons from the Black Panthers, but dismisses the persistence of racism based on skin color), so that what the discipline says counts as their (now revised and inclusive) “non-racist ideas,” amounting to little more than proclamations that Americans should strive toward democratic progress, and that (white) individuals are moral and rational, take priority over the highly developed racist associations (think Josiah Royce’s idolization of Joseph LeConte), anthropologies (think of Kant’s founding of physical geography and pragmatic anthropology), and actual thoughts of these historic white thinkers. Failure to abide by this disciplinary etiquette results in being labeled as “ideological,” “political,” and “anachronistic”—a nasty ad hominem intended to suggest that the scholar in question has no grasp of history despite the deliberate ahistorical nature of reading American and European authors of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century as being in line with sixties’ brand Kingian integrationism.

These aforementioned propagandas are meant to deter the young Black philosopher from questioning the institutional legitimacy of philosophy’s disciplinarity. The initial strategy pursued by many departments is usually positive and involves offering the young Black philosopher evidence of inclusion and progress in the field. This is usually done by showing the Black graduate student/s that the department either has people who write on W.E.B. DuBois and/or Frantz Fanon or people who are sympathetic to these authors’ work. This is usually combined with introducing the student/s to one or more of the Black philosophers who comprise less than 1% of the discipline in an effort to show the student that there are people who look like them doing work in philosophy. Mind you, very rarely are these gestures followed with actual curricula changes, like classes and/or dissertation support aiming to cultivate a comprehensive specialization in DuBois and Fanon equal to that of white figures like Kant, Hegel, or Dewey, or followed by the hiring of Black faculty (even in the cases with one professor—it is usually just that one expected to teach all of Africana philosophy and European traditions as well) with specializations on these figures once the deficiency in Africana philosophy is recognized. As dissatisfaction grows with the inculcated chimeras of pluralism and diversity in philosophy, the Black graduate student is warned that their “growing anger,” and “radicality,” not only threatens their careers, but their matriculation. This repressive apparatus (the doctorate) is used to wed the Black philosopher to their duty as a philosophical thinker on race—which is to gradually change (by moral appeal) how whites think about Blacks. In other words, the Black philosopher is recognized not as race theorist, but racial therapist by sanction.

Perhaps the direst consequence of philosophy’s racism on the Black mind is the Black philosopher’s obsessive hope in the redemptive character of white innocence; or what Joe Feagin has described in our conversations as “white virtue.” Because racism is understood to be a “mistaken idea” held by ignorance, academic philosophy maintains that Black philosophers arguing with and talking to whites, even dead whites through their scholarship, uncovers the virtuous purity and innocence of white reason. Accepting that whites can and have changed as a result of integration and the desegregation of the academy is made into a professional prerequisite. Almost a decade before Derrick Bell introduced what would come to be known as his racial realist thesis, Robert F. Williams, author of Negroes with Guns, argued in that work that:

The stranglehold of oppression cannot be loosened by a plea to the oppressor’s conscience… We have come to comprehend the nature of racism. It is a mass psychosis…the logical inventions of a thoroughly diseased mind. The racist is a man crazed by hysteria at the idea of coming into equal human contact with Negroes. And this mass mental illness called racism is very much a part of the “American way of life (p.110-111).

A rigorous study of American racism marks history through the endurance of epochs, not differences between generations, where the conscious realization of America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow and domestic colonization stems from the civilizational motif solidified by the teleological continuity of empire, not the idealized hope that white colonizers instilled in their progeny the ideas to overthrow their own economic, political, and military superiority over the world. In other words, the descendants of whites carry with them the aspirations for, not the aversion to, the legacies of their colonial parents.


  1. MindOverMatter

    Another great piece Tommy! Everything that you have detailed above begs the question if academia can handle the actual realities of non-whites and be serious about the destruction of white supremacy. On top of that, the work of non-whites will not be legitimated by any academic discipline unless it has a genealogical intellectual connection (real or fabricated) to whites. How do non-white scholars combat this dilemma when the pressure to publish articles in “notable” journals which predominantly wish to see white intellectual works? As a student, I press for my work and readings to be of a critical nature against the dominant white paradigm and to include those intellectual figures who have not been the mainstream thought. How do you play the game without playing yourself?

    • Dr. Tommy J. Curry Author


      I think the idea is to work with the system until the system itself negates your racial integrity. Working within a white supremacist system demands the intellectual subservience of Blacks, Latin peoples, and Indigenous thought to white concepts, so to resist this we must work outside of it. Publishing in Black journals and citing only Black and other non-white work is part of our strategies of resistance. In this way we do not legitimize the journals or work of whites on these issues without their recognition of the historical efforts and works of Blacks and other non-white scholars. Secondly, as a student it is important to utilize every paper, every conversation and every peer relationship for your intellectual development as a race/Black theorist. This would include attending Black conferences, like NCBS, and/or focusing specifically on Black thought.

      • liferunsby

        Dear Professor Curry,

        I’m a first-year PhD student in Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. I’m also Asian-American. As such, I am also an incredibly under-represented group in the philosophy academy. I fully empathize with the above concerns: the predominantly white academy seems to be either unaware or not concerned with the structural racism, naive linearism, and white hegemonic outlook embedded in its theories, methodology, and professional practices. In short, I agree with every critical aspect of your post; something needs to be done, and that something is not just to theorize on the philosophical margins of the subfield “Race, Gender, and Class.” That approach would falsely ease the consciousness of many white philosophers, as well as confine any minority academic to, well, an intellectual minority in the academy.

        I have worries, though, with both your positive suggestions and conclusions at the end of your post. You recommend to MindOverMatter in a reply comment the following strategy:

        “Working within a white supremacist system demands the intellectual subservience of Blacks, Latin peoples, and Indigenous thought to white concepts, so to resist this we must work outside of it.”

        Granted that minorities such as us– women, blacks, Latino/as, indigenous peoples, Asians, Pacific Islanders–do exist in the academy, and do exist in wider society, how do we completely disengage from the system without thereby marginalizing our very influence? In other words, if minority academics keep to themselves, their own journals, and their own circles, how do they avoid consequences such as reduced public presence, influence, funding, voice, etc.? I am concerned that a complete turning-of-backs on the white academy will result in a minority academic class that is not paid any more attention to than those minorities who do strive to shake up the consciousnesses of whites.

        I do see your concern regarding the dangers of legitimating white consciousness by constantly trying to appeal to them, i.e., to play the “racial therapist” role. I think, however, that there may be a more balanced approach available that involves a general rejection of white academy norms while still remaining engaged with the academy itself in an effort to change it. So, race, gender, and class theorists may continue with their work but demand that such work move from the margins to a level of prominence typically only afforded to philosophers in mind, language, metaphysics, (white) history of philosophy, etc.

        Also, I was a little taken aback by your ending conclusion:

        “In other words, the descendants of whites carry with them the aspirations for, not the aversion to, the legacies of their colonial parents.”

        Whether this is true or not, what good does it do when minority academics assert this and similar statements? I am concerned about the loss of potential allies in the white academy. Of course, I am mindful that the claim, “whites can and have changed as a result of integration and the desegregation of the academy” is mostly a consciousness-soothing Western lie; whites as a whole are still largely unaware of the racism and dismissive attitude implicit in their practices and methods. But this does not therefore entail that we should shun whites as potential allies altogether. I believe there is something to be said for raising the awareness of all peoples, not just minorities, but whites too. Moreover, by attacking whites as a whole, we lose the crucial support of white women theorists, and feminist theorists more generally, who are well-aware of the profoundly unjust and debilitating conditions that exist for minority academics.

        Overall, though, I greatly appreciated the message of your post and look forward to reading more of your work. And I hope to continue grappling, as other minority academics are, with these very intransigent yet incredibly important issues. I hope that continuing work by you and others will help lead the way to a more equitable, socially conscious academy and society.

        • Dr. Tommy J. Curry Author


          Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. I can appreciate your sentiments, but thematic appeal to “coalitions” in philosophy with white women specifically white feminists do nothing to aid in the overthrow of white supremacy. Quite recently, Ronald Hall has shown both that 1) white female and feminist professors do little to champion diversity in the curricula or in disciplines upon their hiring, this was a 2006 article entitled “White women as Post-Modern Vehicle of Black Oppression:The Pedagogy of Discrimination in the Western Academe,” in the Journal of Black Studies which you can find here:

          Secondly, embracing feminism (Black, white, etc) as though these movements themselves are against white supremacy is a huge assumption not really substantiated in the scholarly or societal record. Here again, Ronald Hall’s 2010 work An Historical Analysis of Skin Color Discrimination in America: Victimism among Victim Group Populations specifically his chapter entitled “Better white than Male,” explicitly rejects the idea that white women can in fact understand white supremacy, because their historical role as members and auxillary to the Klu Klux Klan and the mothers of white supremacy blind them from understanding their roles in the system of dehumanization. Additionally, a recent article I have published in The Crit, entitled “Will the Real CRT Please Stand Up: The Dangers of Philosophical Contributions to CRT,” which you can view in its entirety here: documents what happens when white feminists insert themselves into CRT. As is the case with most white ventures, Black thinking is erased.

          I am a little concerned as to your statement that “Whether this is true or not, what good does it do when minority academics assert this and similar statements? I am concerned about the loss of potential allies in the white academy” referring to my comment that white progeny aspire to rather than have aversion for white supremacy. As a philosopher, I am surprised you malign truth for politics. If this statement is true, I take it to be an indictment of the discipline rather than a signal for coalition building with whites only have self-interest at stake, whereas non-whites are risking their careers, their livelihoods, and their self-respect. It is precisely this asymmetrical disciplinary praxis that makes coalitions (in my view) with most whites in philosophy impractical.

          I understand your concerns but if Black scholars who turn their backs on white scholars are no better off than those who seek to transform white scholars, what is there to lose? We know philosophy with regard to Blacks has not changed in 40 years. We were 1.2% of the population in the 1980’s and are about 1% now. Why continue to waste the careers of many, on the possibility of change in a few. These intellectual resources could be put to much better use. The status of Black philosophy under the white supremacism of the discipline was recently a topic of discussion in the Radical Philosophy Review, I would love to hear your thoughts on the pieces in it. You can find it here:

          • liferunsby

            Dear Professor Curry,

            Thank you for your detailed and insightful reply. It helps to clear up a couple of misconceptions I was no doubt operating with, namely, 1) that feminist philosophers are crucial allies for minority philosophers, and 2) that feminist theory can help break the trend of white supremacy (at least not when the feminist theorists themselves are white and/or failing to actively engage white supremacy in the academy).

            In regards to my alleged maligning of “truth for politics,” I’ll just say in my defense that I did not mean to imply that the truth of do “white progeny aspire to rather than have aversion for white supremacy?” is irrelevant, and that politics alone should drive what we assert. Again, I did not mean to imply those two claims, although, I admit, I phrased things quite badly there.

            The claims I meant to press there were 1) it is not obvious that all/most white philosophers aspire to white supremacy, and 2) even if most white philosophers do have such aspirations, perhaps these aspirations are largely unconscious and thus can be changed through active engagement with them, the academy, and the implicit assumptions underlying such aspirations. Such engagement would require more race/gender/class philosophizing directed, at least in part, at the interplay between blacks/other minorities and the white majority.

            Of course, given your other claim, and I think it is a compelling one, that “philosophy with regard to Blacks [and other minorities (?)] has not changed in 40 years,” there indeed seems to be little to lose. So, yes, I am at this point favoring your proposed strategy of refusing to engage and thereby legitimate the white dominant structure.

            I suppose the main question I have now is, how should the various minority groups in the academy move forward at this point? Would it be best to move forward together in some sort of collaborative effort, or through specialization in our respective fields, e.g., black philosophy, Latino/a philosophy, Asian philosophy?

            In other words, what are the possibilities for minority coalition-building?

            And thank you for the references to papers. I have a lot of reading to do!

  2. Blaque Swan

    So basically, in order to succeed in the study of philosophy, you have to ignore or overlook the racism the exists within academic philosophy?

    But how can true philosophy overlook racism and the ways oppressed peoples know and understand the world around them?

    So . . . philosophers who’d otherwise do great and wonderful work have to engage logical fallacies?

    I’m sorry. I just all sorts of confused. Are you saying that philosophy’s standards include denying or rationalizing reality? I don’t understand how that can make for real philosophy. That’s your argument, right? That academic philosophy, in maintaining its racism, is denying it’s own standards.

    Also, am I to understand that calling out past philosophers’ racism is frowned upon, and that this rejection is based on the idea that people are products of their time? That whole “products of their time” argument doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. To suggest, for example, that Dewey and Royce are simply products of their time is to suggest that Frederick Douglass, Dubois, Sojourner Truth, et al weren’t their contemporaries. Can’t academic philosophy, or maybe white philosophers handle the complexities that come with being human? I mean, what’s wrong with acknowledging, for example, that Thomas Jefferson was an avowed white supremacist but that at the same time, he was on to something with “all men are created equal”? Or, are you saying that academics in the field of philosophy should be free to, for example, began their analysis with an anti-racist contemporary of Jefferson’s?

    By the by, what are your thoughts on Tommie Shelby’s WE WHO ARE DARK? I enjoyed it for the most part, but did think he was a little conservative in his analysis. Most importantly, what’s the name of the model on the cover?

    • Dr. Tommy J. Curry Author

      Hello Blaque Swan,

      There have been criticisms of racism in philosophy since the popularization of the field in the late 1970’s. What has not happened in the field is a study of racism that looks at organizations, and institutions as the perpetrators of racist acts against Black, Latino/a and Indigenous peoples. Philosophy continues to maintain that racism is ignorance, a mistake idea that can be corrected with knowledge and reason.

      You are absolutely correct–I am saying that philosophy when dealing with racism is mired in contradiction holding as you state so well that “Dewey and Royce cannot be compared to Douglass, DuBois, and Truth,” because they are outside of their time. I call this practice Ideo-racial apartheid. [w]hite philosophers are dedicated to saving white thinkers not looking for the “truths” that emerge in reality.

      I have actually written a long criticism of Tommie Shelby’s book which you can view here,44

      I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and/or responses to my critique of his work.

      • Blaque Swan

        My lack of familiarity with Delany’s work notwithstanding, I agree with your reading of WE WHO ARE DARK.

        Actually, Shelby helped my articulation of ideas a lot. For example, previously, I found it hard to explain why in certain circumstances black children ostracize high achievers. After reading Shelby, I could explain that the issue wasn’t one’s fidelity to ignorance but rather, the issue was whether or not the high achiever believes blackness is ignorance personified. Looking back it seems so obvious, but at the time, it wasn’t. That’s one reason I recall the book with some fondness.

        That said, there were spots when I found Shelby’s logic flawed or underdeveloped and spots where I disagreed with his conclusion and/or his premise. Ie, racial solidarity in the face of racial oppression isn’t, or isn’t only, a means to an end, it’s an end unto itself. It becomes the balm in Gilead.

        But, my confusion. Is there or is there not such a thing as black culture? If there’s not, then we got a whole other can of worms, right? But since there is such a thing as black culture, even allowing that it’s pluralistic, there will still exist what some may allege is “black solidarity.” After all, even should skin color become inconsequential, and there’s no advantage or disadvantage accorded it, we’ll still be “solidified” in maintaining our cultural heritage. If I follow Shelby and others’ logic through to its conclusion, I get the sense that people think that US blacks have no independent culture and that we folks wouldn’t voluntarily choose to be black. And that’s clearly wrong and racist. Kinda like Freud’s penis-envy theory is wrong and sexist. I’m confused that others don’t see that. Are African Americans nothing but our race such that we cease to exist in its absence?

        Now, Shelby aside, what’s philosophy’s methodology, exactly, that African American philosophy is deemed less “rigorous” than other branches of philosophy? Moreover, how can the philosophy academy be so obviously racist without its logic collapsing in on itself? If philosophy uses something kin to the basic process of geometry’s proof (which was my mental scaffold for the two philosophy classes I took), doesn’t racism become obvious at about the 4th or 5th statement? Or, is the problem in the given, in that white superiority is taken for granted?

        • Dr. Tommy J. Curry Author

          Philosophy doesn’t really have a methodology. I suppose analytic philosophers would argue that “boolean logic” is the soundest method of understanding reality, but there is much disagreement between analytic, continental and american philosophy. Generally speaking, analytic philosophy doesn’t care about race/racism, continental philosophy generally understands it through Foucault/Fanon and existentialism where suffering demonstrates Black humanity, and American philosophers embrace white supremacist thinkers like Josiah Royce and John Dewey who rant about community and democracy. African American philosophy is sometimes attacked as less rigorous because it doesn’t have the same “canonical figures” of these other traditions, or specific approaches like existentialism, Marxism, phenomenology, etc to understand the world. This is what my work tries to address, but it is an uphill battle, since many Africana philosophers are content being “part” of the (white) philosophical canon.

          • Blaque Swan

            So basically, there’s not a lot of effort put into developing black philosophy because historically, not a lot of effort has been put into developing black philosophy? Isn’t that circular reasoning?

            Also, if suffering demonstrates black humanity, does causing, ignoring, or embraces the proponents of race-based suffering demonstrate white inhumanity? Moreover, how can American philosophy be altogether “rigorous” itself when it’s unable to wrestle with the complexity of white supremacist thinkers? How is it possible to understand the whole sum of their thinking on democracy and society if we don’t take into account a large portion of their thoughts? Yes, we can decide to understand Royce and Dewey’s thoughts on democracy as applicable to all people; but, that’s not their true reality. Shouldn’t any serious philosopher (and sincere anti-racist) be interested in unraveling their thoughts on race? The truth of the matter is that history is not a linear continuum (Dark Ages, anyone?) nor is racism simply a matter of ignorance or a mistaken idea. It’s the sum of a million decisions, conscious and intentional. It’s a reality unto itself. How does history progress if no one challenges the racism of these thinkers? Right? None of these organized oppressive structures just organically disappeared; they had to be brought down. Insisting on their virtuous purity and innocence does just the opposite.

            I hope you’re successful in your endeavor. I wish I could help. One day, I will.

  3. cordoba blue

    Dr Curry said: “As dissatisfaction grows with the inculcated chimeras of pluralism and diversity in philosophy, the Black graduate student is warned that their “growing anger,” and “radicality,” not only threatens their careers, but their matriculation. This repressive apparatus (the doctorate) is used to wed the Black philosopher to their duty as a philosophical thinker on race—which is to gradually change (by moral appeal) how whites think about Blacks. In other words, the Black philosopher is recognized not as race theorist, but racial therapist by sanction.”
    There’s several things going on here. The black community is always burdened with the problem of “appealing” to whites to change their perceptions of race. This, however, is really an option, not a mandate. I formerly stated, as did other commentators that African Americans should not waste time repeatedly trying to psycho-analyze the white mind. “Why can’t whites interpret what’s really happening in race?” “Why are whites so self-congratulatory about simple allotments black people should have received years ago?” “That’s such a typical white response!”
    I believe in pan-Africanism, and black people identifying themselves as an entirely different nation, rather than trying to assimilate into any white one they find themselves in. Why keep hitting your head against a stone wall? No, analysis of whites is non-productive because it always implies a dependence on the white mind to change or modify it’s outlook on race. Ultimately you have no control over what anyone else does. You only have control over yourself. Sounds trite but it applies here. I don’t like that blacks are relegated to racial therapist. It’s demeaning.
    Plus, I agree that academic institutions, in the Western Hemisphere at least, present WHITE philosophers {Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard} as the standard spring board from which to extrapolate. And of course these men thought in entirely white ethnocentric terms.
    I took a few classes in philosophy in college, and no consideration was ever given to the existential world of the African America. He just didn’t exist. Period. It was all about how the white European mind encountered the world, essays on interpretations of reality, essays on the concept of how external experiences are sifted through various lenses,,,,but always from a white perspective! Race was never thrown into the mix or even considered. It was assumed the ethnicity of the students was white and European, and they would naturally identify with these “common experiences”.
    And I can see how feeling disgruntled because so few black philosophers were studied could be interpreted as radical, and thus discouraged. African Americans are seen as an “aside” rather than a cohesive part of the human experience. Black students who inquire about more analysis of black thought are viewed as “wanting to study racism” and not in effect studying philosophy. As if the two aren’t intertwined. How a black mind interprets reality is certainly just as valid as how a white mind interprets reality. It would greatly enrich philosophy courses if we could couple the very limited perspectives of the white Europeans with African American, Asian, Latino, and Native American philosophy.
    When I was in college, the study of how different cultures view their universe was labeled “Cross-Cultural Psychology”. It was not considered a philosophy course per se. I found this course one of the most enlightening classes I ever took. It made me realize our human commonality and human diversity like I’d never considered it before. I always had the perspective of a Judeo-Christian lense, until I realized that hundreds of various cultures during many different periods of time had many tenets and beliefs that offered fascinating perspectives I’d never considered. It was a beautiful, not exaggerating, awakening.
    We are denying students so much by not incorporating these cultural variations into the dusty, stultifying archaic frames of what we still call Philosophy 101 {yawn}.

  4. atleast5letters

    Your words have a certain rhythm I cannot describe. I’ve never been able to hear the voice behind the words before reading this piece. Although I only understood 3/4 of it, I was impressed! Thank you!

  5. ThirtyNine4Ever

    Good work! On a sort of related note. People who I have known with degrees in philosophy tend to be able to intellectualize questionable viewpoints about race (or anything) better than any group I have come across. I think it is the years of complex thinking and the extremely strong logical background.

  6. Danderson

    Dr. Curry,

    I stumbled upon your article while doing a google search for Philosophy programs with a focus in Critical Race Theory, which I became interested in after taking a class on “Race and Philosophy” at American University, where I am currently a Senior Philosophy Major. Though I have an admittedly limited knowledge of CRT, I thoroughly enjoyed your article, particularly because at the end of my course I found myself asking – ‘Well, now what?’ With a mind to this type of philosophy-in-action, I have a few questions/comments.

    1) I come from an upper-middle-class Jewish family and was raised in Nebraska, and have generally identified myself as off-white (in the context that Charles Stuart Mills uses it). What possibilities are there for coalition building with off-while theorists who, I maintain, have fewer epistemological blocks to realizing their position of privilege.

    2) As a step toward undermining the way in which racist power manifests itself, I agree that there needs to be a re-conceptualization of ‘racism’ moving away from an understanding centered on personal (mistaken) prejudice. My course of action thus far has been to engage in discussions with my white peers trying to expose them to various other conceptions of racism (my preference is for David Theo Goldberg’s conception of racisms). What suggestions do you have, theoretical or action oriented, for attempting to shift pre-conceived notions about what racism(s) entails.

    3) I’m finding it difficult to justify going into post-grad (M.A./PhD) work in philosophy because of the institutional and subject oriented biases that you explicate quite nicely. Do you have any suggestions for an almost graduated Senior on where and how to continue a course of study that might avoid some of these pitfalls and allow for a practice of philosophy-in-action.

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