Blackness and Blood: Interpreting African American Identity

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2015-05-25 01:52Z by Steven

Blackness and Blood: Interpreting African American Identity

Philosophy & Public Affairs
Volume 32, Issue 2 (April 2004)
pages 171-192
DOI: 10.1111/j.1088-4963.2004.00010.x

Lionel K. McPherson, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy
Harvard University

In his Tanner Lectures, “The State and the Shaping of Identity,” Kwame Anthony Appiah defends a version of liberalism that would give the state a substantial role in deliberately sustaining, reshaping, and even creating the social identities of its citizens—our identities as African American, women, Hispanic, gay, Jewish, and the like. He calls this role “soul-making,” which is “the political project of intervening in the process of interpretation through which each citizen develops an identity with the aim of increasing her chances of living an ethically successful life.”

Appiah believes that an ethically successful life is integral to an objectively good life. “A life has gone well,” he tells us, “if a person has mostly done for others what she owed them (and thus is morally successful) and has succeeded in creating things of significance and in fulfilling her ambitions (and is thus ethically successful).” He supports a liberal democratic, soul-making state that not only would seek to protect persons from harming themselves but also would seek to promote for citizens the kinds of lives that are good or valuable, perhaps even if these citizens failed to recognize how such governmental interventions would contribute to their objective well-being.

According to Appiah, our social identities can themselves be a major obstacle to our pursuit of an ethically successful life. This is likely to happen when a social identity is incoherent, when it has “a set of norms associated with it, such that, in the actual world, attempting to conform to some subset of those norms undermines one’s capacity to conform to others.” He believes that many existing social identities are incoherent in just this way. Further, he maintains that people who suffer from an incoherent social identity should want to be suitably informed about its incoherence, because social identities are among the tools with which we shape and give meaning to our lives. “The incoherence of a social identity,” he argues, “can lead to incoherence in individual identities: to someone’s having an identity that generates projects and ambitions that undermine one another.” In previous writings Appiah advocated tolerance, not state soul-making, for confused or incoherent social identities. But here he argues that, when ordinary dissemination of the relevant facts fails to reform faulty social identities, it may be legitimate for the state to intervene in order to increase the chances that citizens will attain their autonomous ethical aims…

…The case that Appiah makes to demonstrate the incoherence of African American racial identity proceeds as follows. He argues that the common-sense criteria for ascribing African American racial identity are inconsistent with the facts. This argument rests on the claim that many Americans, including most African Americans, accept the so-called one-drop rule for black racial designation: a person is black if and only if she has at least one traceable black ancestor. The rule has the peculiar consequence that some African Americans may be physically indistinguishable from whites….

…In trying to make sense of African American attitudes about their racial identity and its relation to their ethical aims, it may be more revealing to work from observed social practices to conceptual commitments, rather than the other way around. As a thought experiment, imagine a group of persons who regard themselves as belonging to the same race and who live within a larger multiracial society. Further suppose that within this racial community, call it the “black nation,” racial essentialism is both widely accepted and treated as practically important. We would expect the lives of such a people to be, in some significant respects, structured around this shared belief and joint practical concern. Within the black nation there would be sharply defined, public criteria for racial identity. Community leaders would seek to regulate carefully the criteria for proper racial ascription. Using these criteria, members of the community would closely track the racial lineage—for instance, at birth and marriage—of fellow members. There would probably be norms against both interracial marriage and interracial sex, given the latter’s propensity to produce hybrid offspring. Members of the black nation would not only contest any assertion or suggestion that blacks are naturally inferior but also would insist on the recognition of the natural, i.e., biologically based, virtues of blackness. There would be commercial enterprises whose business consisted in researching the racial ancestry of prospective political leaders, spouses, and in-laws. Terms such as “mulatto,” “quadroon,” and “octoroon” (or their functional equivalents) would be the standard nomenclature for referring to interracial progeny, rather than the more vague terms “mixed race” and “multiracial” that now have some currency; and these designations would not be understood as falling under the racial category “black,” as this would be a misnomer. Dissemination of the facts about the prevalence of passing and interracial reproduction would be cause for alarm, not merely surprise, within the black nation…

Read the entire article here.

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The Philosophy of Race

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, Social Science on 2012-11-28 17:05Z by Steven

The Philosophy of Race

Routledge
2011-12-14
1,584 pages
Hardback: 978-0-415-49602-5

Edited by:

Paul Taylor, Associate Professor of Philosophy; African American Studies
Pennsylvania State University

Since at least the early 1990s, philosophical race theory has emerged as a dynamic and fertile area of serious scholarly inquiry, and this new four-volume Major Work from Routledge meets the need for a comprehensive collection to facilitate ready access to the most influential and important foundational and cutting-edge scholarship.

Volume I (‘Philosophy and the History of Race, Race in the History of Philosophy’) brings together the key texts to have shaped the most widely recognized forms of ‘race thinking’. The second and third volumes in the collection, meanwhile, explore the questions that race raises in philosophy’s traditional subfields. Volume II (‘Racial Being and Knowing’) gathers the best and most influential work to unravel the implications of racial practices for metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology. And Volume III (‘Race-ing Beauty, Goodness, and Right’) collects the key scholarship to deal with the consequences of racial practices for aesthetics, ethics, and politics.

The final volume in the collection (‘Intersections and Positions’) assembles the most important work to grapple with the methodological and geographical complications that accompany a commitment to racialism. (Race is an inherently contextual phenomenon and some of the material gathered in this volume—in particular, that exploring racialization in Japan, Brazil, and Norway—provides a refreshing counterweight to the philosophical zeal for abstraction.)

The Philosophy of Race is edited by Paul C. Taylor, a leading scholar in the field. The collection is fully indexed and has a comprehensive introduction, newly written by the editor, which places the material in its intellectual and historic context. It is an essential work of reference and is destined to be valued by scholars and students as a vital one-stop research resource.

CONTENTS

  • Volume I: HISTORY
    • Part 1: Philosophical Historiography
      • 1. Cornel West, ‘A Genealogy of Modern Racism’, Prophesy Deliverance! Towards an Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity (Westminster Press, 1982), pp. 47–68.
      • 2. Robert Bernasconi, ‘Race, Culture, History’ (plenary lecture at Sodertorn University, 28 May 2009), pp. 11–46.
      • 3. David Theo Goldberg, ‘The End(s) of Race’, Postcolonial Studies, 2004, 7, 2, 211–30.
    • Part 2: Early Figures and Moments
      • 4. Harry Bracken, ‘Philosophy and Racism’, Philosophia, 1978, 8, 2–3, 241–60.
      • 5. Richard Popkin, ‘Hume’s Racism Reconsidered’, The Third Force in Seventeenth-Century Thought (Brill, 1992), pp. 64–75.
      • 6. Meg Armstrong, ‘”The Effects of Blackness”: Gender, Race, and the Sublime in Aesthetic Theories of Burke and Kant’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 1996, 54, 3, 213–36.
      • 7. Bernard Boxill and Thomas E. Hill, ‘Kant and Race’, in Bernard Boxill (ed.), Race and Racism (Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 448–71.
      • 8. Patricia Purtschert, ‘On the Limit of Spirit: Hegel’s Racism Revisited’, Philosophy & Social Criticism, 2010, 36, 9, 1039–51.
      • 9. Tom Jeannot, ‘Marx, Capitalism, and Race’, in Harry Van der Linden (ed.), Democracy, Racism, and Prisons (Philosophy Documentation Center, 2007), pp. 69–92.
    • Part 3: Late Modern Race Theory in/and the Canon
      • 10. Berel Lang, ‘Heidegger and the Jewish Question: Metaphysical Racism in Silence and Word’, in Julie K. Ward and Tommy L. Lott (eds.), Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays (Blackwell, 2002), pp. 205–21.
      • 11. Kathryn Gines, ‘Race Thinking and Racism in Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism’, in Dan Stone and Richard King (eds.), Imperialism, Slavery, Race, and Genocide: The Legacy of Hannah Arendt (Berghahn, 2007), pp. 38–53.
      • 12. Jonathan Judaken, ‘Sartre on Racism: From Existential Phenomenology to Globalization and “the New Racism”’, in Jonathan Judaken (ed.), Race After Sartre (SUNY Press, 2008), pp. 23–54.
    • Part 4: Critical Race Theory and the New Canon
      • 13. Diego von Vacano, ‘Race and Political Theory: Lessons from Latin America’, in Jorge Gracia (ed.), Race or Ethnicity? On Black and Latino Identity (Cornell University Press, 2007), pp. 248–66.
      • 14. Howard McGary, ‘Douglass on Racial Assimilation and Racial Institutions’, in Bill E. Lawson and Frank Kirkland (eds.), Frederick Douglass: A Critical Reader (Blackwell Publishing, 1999), pp. 50–63.
      • 15. Nancy Fraser, ‘Another Pragmatism: Alain Locke, Critical “Race” Theory, and the Politics of Culture’, in Morris Dickstein (ed.), The Revival of Pragmatism (Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 157–75.
      • 16. Vivian M. May, ‘Thinking from the Margins, Acting at the Intersections: Anna Julia Cooper’s A Voice from the South’, Hypatia, 2004, 19, 2, 74–91.
      • 17. K. A. Appiah, ‘The Uncompleted Argument: DuBois and the Illusion of Race’, Critical Inquiry, 1985, 12, 1, 21–37.
      • 18. W. E. B. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept [1940] (Transaction Publishers, 1992), pp. 97–103, 114–17, 129–33, 137–40.
      • 19. Frantz Fanon, ‘The Lived Experience of the Black’, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. R. Philcox [1952] (Grove Press, 1967), pp. 78–99.
      • 20. Lewis R. Gordon, ‘Racism, Colonialism, and Anonymity: Social Theory and Embodied Agency’, Fanon and the Crisis of European Man: A Essay on Philosophy and the Human Sciences (Routledge, 1995), pp. 37–67.
  • Volume II: Racial Being and Knowing
    • Part 5: What Races Are, What ‘Race’ Means
      • 21. Charles W. Mills, ‘”But What Are You Really?” The Metaphysics of Race’, Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race (Cornell University Press, 1998), pp. 41–66.
      • 22. Lucius Outlaw, ‘Conserve Races? In Defense of W. E. B. Du Bois’, Critical Social Theory in the Interests of Black Folks (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 139–62.
      • 23. Ron Mallon, ‘Passing, Traveling, and Reality: Social Construction and the Metaphysics of Race’, Nous, 2004, 38, 644–73.
      • 24. Robin O. Andreasen, ‘A New Perspective on the Race Debate’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 1998, XLIX, 2, 199–225.
      • 25. Philip Kitcher, ‘Does “Race” have a Future?’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2007, 35, 4, 293–317.
      • 26. David Theo Goldberg, Racist Culture (Blackwell, 1993), pp. 80–9.
      • 27. S. Haslanger, ‘Language, Politics and “the Folk”: Looking for “the Meaning” of “Race”’, The Monist, 2010, 93, 2, 169–87.
      • 28. Joshua Glasgow, Julie L. Shulman, and Enrique G. Covarrubias, ‘The Ordinary Conception of Race in the United States and its Relation to Racial Attitudes: A New Approach’, Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2009, 9, 1–2, 15–38.
    • Part 6: What Racial Identities Are
      • 29. Linda MartĂ­n-Alcoff, ‘Philosophy and Racial Identity’, Philosophy Today, 1997, 41, 1, 67–76.
      • 30. K. Anthony Appiah, ‘Synthesis: For Racial Identities’, Color Conscious (Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 75–105.
      • 31. Judith Butler, ‘Passing, Queering: Nella Larsen’s Psychoanalytic Challenge’, Bodies That Matter (Routledge, 1993), pp. 167–86.
      • 32. Paul C. Taylor, Race: A Philosophical Introduction (Polity, 2004), pp. 84–7, 112–15.
    • Part 7: Power, Knowledge, Self-Knowledge, and Experience
      • 33. Charles Mills, ‘White Ignorance’, in Shannon Sullivan and Nancy Tuana (eds.), Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance (SUNY Press, 2007), pp. 11–38.
      • 34. Anika Maaza Mann, ‘Race and Feminist Standpoint Theory’, in Kathryn Gines, Donna Dale-Marcano, and Maria del Guadelupe Davidson, Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy (SUNY Press, 2010), pp. 105–20.
      • 35. Shannon Sullivan, ‘Ignorance and Habit’, Revealing Whiteness (University of Indiana Press, 2006), pp. 17–44.
      • 36. Ned Block, ‘How Heritability Misleads About Race’, Boston Review, 1996, 20, 6, 30–35.
      • 37. Michael Root, ‘The Problem of Race in Medicine’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 2001, 31, 1, 20–39.
      • 38. Ronald Sundstrom, ‘Race and Place: Social Space in the Production of Human Kinds’, Philosophy and Geography, 2003, 6, 1, 83–95.
  • Volume III: Race-ing Beauty, Goodness, and Right
    • Part 8: Racism
      • 39. Kwame Anthony Appiah, ‘Racisms’, in D. T. Goldberg (ed.), Anatomy of Racism (University of Minnesota Press, 1990), pp. 3–17.
      • 40. Lewis R. Gordon, ‘Racialism, Racism, Racialists, Racists’, Bad Faith and Anti-Black Racism (Humanity Books, 1999), pp. 67–77.
      • 41. J. L. A. Garcia, ‘The Heart of Racism’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 1996, 2, 5–45.
      • 42. Tommie Shelby, ‘Is Racism in the Heart?’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 2002, 33, 411–20.
      • 43. L. Faucher and E. Machery, ‘Racism: Against Jorge Garcia’s Moral and Psychological Monism’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 2009, 39, 1, 41–62.
      • 44. Robert Bernasconi, ‘The Policing of Race Mixing: The Place of Biopower within the History of Racisms’, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 2010, 7, 2, 205–16.
    • Part 9: Race, the Right, and the Good
      • 45. Charles W. Mills, The Racial Contract (Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 1–19.
      • 46. Anna Stubblefield, ‘Races as Families’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 2001, 32, 1, 99–112.
      • 47. L. Blum, ‘Three Kinds of Race-Related Solidarity’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 2007, 38, 53–72.
      • 48. Linda MartĂ­n Alcoff, ‘Latino/as, Asian Americans, and the Black-White Binary’, Journal of Ethics, 2003, 7, 1, 5–27.
      • 49. Howard McGary, ‘Psychological Violence, Physical Violence, and Racial Oppression’, in Lewis R. Gordon (ed.), Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy (Routledge, 1996), pp. 263–72.
      • 50. Samantha Vice, ‘How Do I Live in This Strange Place?’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 2010, 41, 3, 323–42.
    • Part 10: Selected Issues in Racial Politics
      • 51. Richard Wasserstrom, ‘Preferential Treatment, Color-Blindness, and the Evils of Racism and Racial Discrimination’, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 1987, 61, 1, 27–42.
      • 52. Howard McGary, ‘Achieving Democratic Equality: Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Reparations’, Journal of Ethics, 2003, 7, 1, 93–113.
      • 53. Angela Y. Davis, ‘Racialized Punishment and Prison Abolition’, in Tommy L. Lott (ed.), A Companion to African-American Philosophy (Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp. 360–9.
      • 54. Glen Coulthard, ‘Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the “Politics of Recognition”’, Contemporary Political Theory, 2007, 6, 4, 437–60.
    • Part 11: Aesthetics
      • 55. Monique Roelofs, ‘Racialization as an Aesthetic Production: What Does the Aesthetic Do for Whiteness and Blackness and Vice Versa?’, in George Yancy (ed.), White on White/Black on Black (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 83–124.
      • 56. Dan Flory, ‘Spike Lee and the Sympathetic Racist’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 2006, 64, 1, 67–79.
      • 57. Mariana Ortega, ‘Othering the Other: The Spectacle of Katrina for our Racial Entertainment Pleasure’, Contemporary Aesthetics, 2009, 2.
      • 58. Robert Gooding-Williams, ‘Aesthetics and Receptivity: Kant, Nietzsche, Cavell, Astaire’, Look, a Negro! Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture and Politics (Routledge, 2006), pp. 43–68.
      • 59. Falguni A. Sheth, ‘The Hijab and the Sari: The Strange and the Sexy Between Colonialism and Global Capitalism’, Contemporary Aesthetics, 2009, 2.
  • Volume IV: Intersections and Positions
    • Part 12: Intersectionality
      • 60. Nira Yuval-Davis, ‘Intersectionality, Citizenship and Contemporary Politics of Belonging’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 2007, 10, 4, 561–74.
      • 61. Patricia Hill Collins, ‘It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation’, Hypatia, 1998, 13, 3, 62–82.
      • 62. Jorge J. E. Gracia, ‘The Nature of Ethnicity with Special Reference to Hispanic/Latino Identity’, Public Affairs Quarterly, 1999, 13, 1, 25–42.
      • 63. Ladelle McWhorter, ‘Sex, Race, and Biopower: A Foucauldian Genealogy’, Hypatia, 2004, 19, 3, 38–62.
      • 64. Stuart Hall, ‘Race, Articulation and Societies Structured in Dominance’, Sociological Theories: Race and Colonialism (UNESCO, 1980), pp. 305–45.
      • 65. Étienne Balibar, ‘Uprisings in the Banlieues’, Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory, 2007, 14, 1, 47–71.
    • Part 13: Mapping Racial Imaginaries: Inventing the Other
      • 66. Edward Said, ‘Introduction to Orientalism’, in Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin (eds.), The Edward Said Reader (Vintage, 2000), pp. 67–74, 78–81, 90–3.
      • 67. David Haekwon Kim, ‘Orientalism and America Enlarged’, Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, 2003, 2, 2, 30–4.
      • 68. V. Y. Mudimbe, ‘Discourse of Power and Knowledge of Otherness’, The Invention of Africa (Indiana University Press, 1988), pp. 1–23.
      • 69. Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers (Princeton University Press, 2001), pp. 41, 56–9, 73–5, 80–90, 98–102.
      • 70. David Theo. Goldberg, ‘Racial Europeanization’, Ethnic & Racial Studies, 2006, 29, 2, 331–64.
      • 71. Nadia Abu El-Haj, ‘Racial Palestinianization and the Janus-Faced Nature of the Israeli State’, Patterns of Prejudice, 2010, 44, 1, 27–41.
    • Part 14: Positioning Critical Identities: Inventing Self and Community
      • 72. Sonia Sikka, ‘In What Sense are Dalits Black?’ (presentation to ‘Beyond the White–Black Binary’, conference held at Pennsylvania State University, 12 November 2010).
      • 73. Linda MartĂ­n Alcoff, ‘Mestizo Identity’, in Naomi Zack (ed.), American Mixed Race: The Culture of Microdiversity (Rowman and Littlefield, 1995), pp. 257–78.
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We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-07-04 22:04Z by Steven

We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity

Harvard University Press
2005
336 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780674025714

Tommie Shelby, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy
Harvard University

2005 New York Magazine Best Academic Book

African American history resounds with calls for black unity. From abolitionist times through the Black Power movement, it was widely seen as a means of securing a full share of America’s promised freedom and equality. Yet today, many believe that black solidarity is unnecessary, irrational, rooted in the illusion of “racial” difference, at odds with the goal of integration, and incompatible with liberal ideals and American democracy. A response to such critics, We Who Are Dark provides the first extended philosophical defense of black political solidarity.

Tommie Shelby argues that we can reject a biological idea of race and agree with many criticisms of identity politics yet still view black political solidarity as a needed emancipatory tool. In developing his defense of black solidarity, he draws on the history of black political thought, focusing on the canonical figures of Martin R. Delany and W. E. B. Du Bois, and he urges us to rethink many traditional conceptions of what black unity should entail. In this way, he contributes significantly to the larger effort to re-envision black politics and to modernize the objectives and strategies of black freedom struggles for the post-civil rights era. His book articulates a new African American political philosophy–one that rests firmly on anti-essentialist foundations and, at the same time, urges a commitment to defeating racism, to eliminating racial inequality, and to improving the opportunities of those racialized as “black.”

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction: Political Philosophy and the Black Experience
  • 1. Two Conceptions of Black Nationalism
  • 2. Class, Poverty, and Shame
  • 3. Black Power Nationalism
  • 4. Black Solidarity after Black Power
  • 5. Race, Culture, and Politics
  • 6. Social Identity and Group Solidarity
  • Conclusion: The Political Morality of Black Solidarity
  • Notes
  • Index
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Blackness, Hypodescent, and Essentialism: Commentary on McPherson and Shelby’s “Blackness and Blood”

Posted in Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2010-07-02 16:18Z by Steven

Blackness, Hypodescent, and Essentialism: Commentary on McPherson and Shelby’s “Blackness and Blood”

Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy
Volume 1, Number 1, May 2005

Gregory Velazco y Trianosky, Professor of Philosopy
California State University, Northridge

In their fascinating and thoughtful paper, McPherson and Shelby seek to defend everyday African American understandings of their own identity against the critique launched by Anthony Appiah in his Tanner lectures. I have no deep disagreements with their defense. Instead I will propose what I hope are useful clarifications of some of the key claims in that defense, and perhaps some further contribution to the discussion they have begun.

1. Roughly speaking, Appiah argues as follows: (1) African Americans typically adhere to the rule of hypodescent, understood as a criterion for membership in the group of black people. However, says Appiah, in conjunction with (2) the nationalist belief that black people owe special obligations of support or group solidarity to other black people, this adherence is problematic. For the truth is that (3) many phenotypically white people in the United States in fact have black ancestors and thus, by a strict application of the rule of hypodescent, are black rather than white, regardless of appearance. Given this fact, (4) adherence to the rule of hypodescent requires black people (insofar as they are nationalists) to extend to many phenotypically white people the same kind of support they believe they owe to all black people. But this means (5) that the actions of black nationalists will, insofar as they are based on the facts, undermine the very project of black nationalism. Appiah goes on to argue that in cases where a group’s beliefs about its identity undermine its own political and social projects, the liberal state should intervene to “soul-make,” that is, to reshape the understanding that group has of itself…

Read the entire commentary here.

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