Toward a Philosophy of Race in Education

Posted in Dissertations, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2011-07-20 21:04Z by Steven

Toward a Philosophy of Race in Education

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
May 2011
221 pages

Corey V. Kittrell

A Dissertation Presented for the Doctorate of Philosophy Degree The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

There is a tendency in education theory to place the focus on the consequences of racial hegemony (racism, Eurocentric education, low performance by racial minorities) and ignore that race is antecedent to these consequences. This dissertation explores the treatment of race within critical theory in education. I conduct a metaphysical analysis to examine the race concept as it emerges from the works of various critical theorists in education. This examination shows how some scholars affirm the scientifically discredited race concept by offering racial essentialist approaches for emancipatory education. I argue that one of consequences of these approaches is the further tightening of racial constraints on the student’s personal autonomy. This mandates that critical theorists gain a deeper understanding of race as a problem, conceptually, epistemically, ideologically, and existentially. I argue that critical theorists of education draw from work conducted in the philosophy of race by theorists such as K. Anthony Appiah, Jorge Gracia, Charles Mills, and Naomi Zack to gain insights on the metaphysics of race to better inform theory and praxis. I further recommend the creation of a critical philosophy of race in education to address and combat race as a problem and its consequences. I contend that the groundwork for philosophy of race in education must entail strategies that encourage and assist theorists and teachers to move toward the elimination of the race in society, while utilizing race only as heuristic tool to address its consequences. Additionally, I argue that a philosophy of race in education must advocate for an education for autonomy as a means to racial liberation for students.

Table of Contents

    • Introduction
      • Theoretical Perspective
      • Objects of Investigation
      • Descriptive Analysis of Critical Theory in Education
      • Normative Analysis
      • The Philosophy of Race
      • Toward A Philosophy of Race in Education
    • The Problem of Reification in Critical Theory in Education
      • The Process of Reification
      • The Problem of Reification
      • The Problem of Reification in Critical Theory in Education
        • Critical Race Theory: Race and Culturally Relevant Teaching
        • Afrocentricity In Education: Constructing Diasporas
        • Critical Multiculturalism: Race and Affirmation
        • Politicizing The Racial Binary
      • Conclusion
    • Historical Underpinnings of the Problem of Reification in Critical Theory in Education
      • The Hampton Approach
      • Liberal Education
      • New Black Intelligentsia
      • Black Power and Black Studies
      • The History of Black Education and Critical Theory: A Synthesis
      • Conclusion
    • Critical Theory in Education and the Problem of Race
      • Race as an Axiomatic System.
      • Autonomy and the Black Individual
      • Autonomy and the Black Social Self
      • Engaging the Problem of Race in Critical Theory in Education
      • Conclusion
    • The Philosophy of Race
      • Theoretical Positions within the Philosophy of Race
      • The Problem of Race
        • Charles S. Mills
        • Kwame Anthony Appiah
        • Naomi Zack
      • Race and Identity
        • Mills on Racial Identity
        • Zack on Mixed Race Identity
        • Appiah on Racial Identity
        • Jorge Gracia on Race, Ethnicity, and Identity
      • Racialism, Racism, and White Supremacy.
      • Philosophy of Race and Education
      • Conclusion
    • Toward a Philosophy of Race in Education
      • Introduction: A Critical Philosophy of Race in Education
      • Eliminativist and Anti-Eliminativist Arguments
        • Arguments for Racial Eliminativism
        • Anti-Eliminativist Arguments
      • Education for Autonomy as Liberatory
        • A Liberatory Role for Reason in a Philosophy of Race in Education
        • A Liberatory Role for Knowledge in a Philosophy of Race in Education
      • Toward a Philosophy of Race of Education
      • Conclusion: Toward A Philosophy of Race For Education
    • Conclusion
  • Vita

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Appiah’s Uncompleted Argument: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Reality of Race

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2011-07-08 05:49Z by Steven

Appiah’s Uncompleted Argument: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Reality of Race

Social Theory and Practice
Volume 26, Number 1 (Spring 2000)
pages 103-128

Paul C. Taylor, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Pennsylvania State University

For people concerned by philosophy’s reputation for ivory-tower isolation, K. Anthony Appiah’s work on race is one of the more encouraging developments to come along in some time. Appiah has contributed greatly to making one of the messier and more contentious public issues of our time into an acceptable subject of English-language philosophical inquiry. And having launched his project by taking W.E.B. Du Bois as one of his principal interlocutors, he has also helped rescue an important American social theorist from the shadows of philosophical neglect.

As it happens, Appiah ushers Du Bois into the light mainly to make visible what appear to him to be blemishes. We can see this, and we can see why, from the title of one of the essays that mark Appiah’s inception of the project: “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race.”(1) Du Bois was a racialist: he believed that races are real entities, that racial identities are real and valuable properties of human individuals, and that racial solidarity can help realize such human goods as equality and self-actualization. He accepted, of course, the testimony of the physical sciences, building even in his day toward the conclusion that races are not useful posits for the physical sciences; but he nevertheless insisted that race exists, as a phenomenon that is “clearly defined to the eye of the Historian and Sociologist.”(2) Appiah, by contrast, is what we might call a racial eliminativist. He believes that races do not exist, that acting as if they do is metaphysically indefensible and morally dangerous, and, as a result, that eliminating “race” from our metaphysical vocabularies is an important step toward the right, or a better–that is to say, a rational and just–world-view.

A number of commentators have taken issue with Appiah’s treatment of Du Bois’s, or of Du Boisian, sociohistorical racialism.(3) Unfortunately, neither Appiah nor his critics seem to have noticed a fairly straightforward way of reading Du Bois’s argument, a way that leads to a similarly straightforward refutation of the metaphysical underpinnings for Appiah’s eliminativism–a way that it is one of the burdens of this essay to make clear. I’m interested in the metaphysics of Appiah’s eliminativism because he says often enough that we should stop talking about race on pain of various sorts of moral error, but he argues mainly that we should stop talking about race because there’s no such thing. He makes his way to his eliminativist conclusion as Peirce suggests: by weaving different strands of argument into, as it were, “a cable whose fibres … are … numerous and intimately connected,” rather than by producing a single chain of reasoning “which is no stronger than its weakest link.”(4) But the metaphysical “strand” does most of the work, does it badly, and gets away with it because of its entanglement with broadly plausible ethical claims that are too poorly developed to stand on their own.

In this essay I will construct the alternative readings of Du Bois and Appiah that I have in mind. I am concerned to do so not, or not principally, because of some abstract interest in clearing the ontological ground. My concern derives from the concrete worry that Appiah’s metaphysical sleight-of-hand obscures the need for a real debate about the merits of racialized and race-based practices and institutions. My sense is that once we quit kicking up the dust with arguments about the alleged non-existence of race, we’ll be able to see how much work remains to be done on the ethics of racial identification. That is: Once we recognize that there are eminently sensible routes to the claim that races do exist, perhaps we’ll recognize also that worries about the prudence and permissibility of appealing to race ought to be explicated and addressed in those terms. It is not enough simply to gesture at moral concerns while using metaphysics to avoid moral argument.

I will begin in sections 2 and 3 by examining the argument that Appiah develops in the second chapter of his important book, In My Father’s House.(5) His claim there is that Du Bois’s allegedly sociohistorical racialism ultimately relies on a more or less garden-variety biological notion of race. My counterclaim on Du Bois’s behalf is that Appiah manages this reading only by seizing upon perhaps the least plausible ways of rendering a few rather crucial details and by manufacturing perplexity in the face of a patently non-vicious circularity.

In section 4, I take a moment to sketch the kind of account that I take Du Bois to have been groping for. Then in sections 5 and 6, I consider the argument that Appiah develops in his contribution to the prize-winning book, Color-Conscious.(6) In “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections,” he uses conceptual analysis to argue that race-talk necessarily involves an untoward commitment to biological racialism. Unfortunately for the eliminativist cause, this argument pre-supposes the success of the earlier attempt to unmask Du Bois as a biological racialist, and eventually gets mired in metaphysical vacillation. Appiah does go on to gesture at the ethical concerns that motivate his inquiry, but, as we’ll see, without their metaphysical accompaniment these gestures don’t get him very far…

Read the entire article here.

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The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2011-07-08 05:34Z by Steven

The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race

Critical Inquiry
Volume 12, Number 1, “Race,” Writing, and Difference (Autumn, 1985)
pages 21-37

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy
Princeton University


Contemporary biologists are not agreed on the question of whether there are any human races, despite the widespread scientific consensus on the underlying genetics. For most purposes, however, we can reasonably treat this issue as terminological. What most people in most cultures ordinarily believe about the significance of “racial” difference is quite remote, I think, from what the biologists are agreed on. Every reputable biologist will agree that human genetic variability between the populations of Africa or Europe or Asia is not much greater than that within those populations; though how much greater depends, in part, on the measure of genetic variability the biologist chooses. If biologists want to make interracial difference seem relatively large, they can say that “the proportion of genic variation attributable to racial differences is … 9-11%.”‘ If they want to make it seem small, they can say that, for two people who are both Caucasoid, the chances of difference in genetic constitution at one site on a given chromosome are currently estimated at about 14.3 percent, while for any two people taken at random from the human population, they are estimated at about 14.8 percent. (I will discuss why this is considered a measure of genetic difference in section 2.) The statistical facts about the distribution of variant characteristics in human populations and subpopulations are the same, whichever way the matter is expressed. Apart from the visible morphological characteristics of skin, hair, and bone, by which we are inclined to assign people to the broadest racial categories—in the population of England that are not found in similar proportions in Zaire or in China; and few too (though more) which are found in Zaire but not in similar proportions in China or in England. All this, I repeat, is part of the consensus (see “GR,” pp. 1-59). A more familiar part of the consensus is that the differences between peoples in language, moral affections, aesthetic attitudes, or political ideology—those differences which most deeply affect us in our dealings with each other—are not biologically determined to any significant degree.

These claims will, no doubt, seem outrageous to those who confuse the question of whether biological difference accounts for our differences with the question of whether biological similarity accounts for our similarities. Some of our similarities as human beings in these broadly cultural respects—the capacity to acquire human languages, for example, or, more specifically, the ability to smile—are to a significant degree biologically determined. We can study the biological basis of these cultural capacities and give biological explanations of our exercise of them. But if biological difference between human beings is unimportant in these explanations – and it is-then racial difference, as a species of biological difference, will not matter either.

In this essay, I want to discuss the way in which W. E. B. Du Bois—who called his life story the “autobiography of a race concept”—came gradually, though never completely, to assimilate the unbiological nature of races. I have made these few prefatory remarks partly because it is my experience that the biological evidence about race is not sufficiently known and appreciated but also because they are important in discussing Du Bois. Throughout his life, Du Bois was concerned not just with the meaning of race but with the truth about it. We are more inclined at present, however, not to express our understanding of the intellectual development of people and cultures as a movement toward the truth; I shall sketch some of the reasons for this at the end of the essay. I will begin, therefore, by saying what I think the rough truth is about race, because, against the stream, I am disposed to argue that this struggle toward the truth is exactly what we find in the life of Du Bois, who can claim, in my view, to have thought longer, more engagedly, and more publicly about race than any other social theorist of our century…

Read the entire article here.

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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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“The New Kubla Khan: Mixed Race Multi-Nationalism”

Posted in Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2009-12-19 23:07Z by Steven

“The New Kubla Khan: Mixed Race Multi-Nationalism”

Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association

Michele Elam, Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor of English, Professor, Director of African & African American Studies
Stanford University

This paper examines how, and to what ends, people of the “mixed race experience” are being discursively contextualized as posterchildren of the “post-race,” “post-nation” era. As early as 1996, Stanley Crouch was proclaiming that “race is over;” since then, others also have rung race’s death knell: Holland Cotter in a 2001 New York Times piece, for example, has claimed that the time for “ethno-racial identity” is past, that we are now witnessing the coming of “postblack or postethnic art” that represents what Anthony Appiah recently called a “New Cosmopolitanism.” This presentation argues that “mixed race” has emerged in the context of these “post-race” cultural discourses, discourses which suggest, as Belize in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America puts it, that “race, taste and history” are “finally overcome.” Hybridity for many represents “life after race”(Naomi Zack), a step “beyond race” (Dinesh D’Sousa), a gesture “against race”(Paul Gilroy), the “new racial order” (G. Reginald Daniel), a “new frontier”(Maria Root) advanced by a “new people” (Jon Michael Spencer) who are ushering in a new world beyond race, identity, and nation. My presentation examines this problematic representation of mixed race people as post-nation vanguards in both mainstream media and in the field of pop-culture, and the send-up of the idea that “mixed race” people constitute a new nation-beyond-nationalism in Danzy Senna’s novel, Symptomatic (2005).

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