Race and Racism: When Racial Passing Becomes Racial Fraud

Posted in Canada, Forthcoming Media, Live Events, Passing, Philosophy, Social Justice, United States on 2021-10-14 15:20Z by Steven

Race and Racism: When Racial Passing Becomes Racial Fraud

Virtual event on Zoom
Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University
London, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, 2021-10-14, 19:00-20:30 EDT (2021-10-14, 23:00-00:30Z)

Meena Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

In the past year and a half, race and racism have been at the forefront of many people’s minds because of widespread Black Lives Matter protests and the disproportionately negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on certain racialized communities. But the underlying phenomenon is not only recent. For centuries, racialized communities across North America have faced social and environmental injustices. This series of public lectures examines the topics of race, racism, and environmental justice. It will include philosophical discussions about what race is, of how to and how not to respond to racism (e.g., through practices of “racial fraud” or racial passing), of racism as a source of vaccine hesitancy, and of environmental injustices that afflict Indigenous communities in Canada.

The 2021 philosophy lecture series, Race and Racism, is prepared in partnership with the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, the Department of Philosophy at Western University, and the London Public Library. Additional support for the talk by Deborah McGregor has been generously provided by the Faculty of Law at Western University.

Each talk will begin with a presentation by the speaker, lasting approximately 60 minutes. Rotman Institute Associate Director, Eric Desjardins, will act as host and ask the speaker a number of follow-up discussion questions. Registered attendees will have the option to ask additional questions live via Zoom, or to submit questions in advance via email. We look forward to having an engaging discussion with everyone in attendance in this online setting!

  • I. Scenes of Racial Passing
    1. Brit Bennett’s Vanishing Half – Stella
    2. HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” – Ruby
    3. Rev. Jesse Routte
    4. Walter White
    5. Ellen Craft
    6. John Redd/Korla Pandit
  • II. Ethics of Racial Passing
    1. Fooling as a skill
    2. = politically virtuous
      • a. Why? Challenges racial oppression
  • III. Ethics of Racial Fraud
    1. Jessica Krug
      • a. Not skilled
      • b. Not for a just cause
      • c. Politically vicious
      • d. Why? Entrenches racial oppression
    2. Counter examples?
      • a. John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me
      • b. Grace Halsell, Soul Sista
  • IV. Murky Waters
    1. Stella revisited

For more information, click here.

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The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2021-09-22 02:07Z by Steven

The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis

The Guardian
2021-08-05

Yohann Koshy, Assistant Opinion Editor


Prof Paul Gilroy near his home in north London. Photograph: Eddie Otchere/The Guardian

One of Britain’s most influential scholars has spent a lifetime trying to convince people to take race and racism seriously. Are we finally ready to listen?

In 2000, the race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust published a report about the “future of multi-ethnic Britain”. Launched by the Labour home secretary Jack Straw, it proposed ways to counter racial discrimination and rethink British identity. The report was nuanced and scholarly, the result of two years’ deliberation. It was honest about Britain’s racial inequalities and the legacy of empire, but also offered hope. It made the case for formally declaring the UK a multicultural society.

The newspapers tore it to pieces. The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page article: “Straw wants to rewrite our history: ‘British’ is a racist word, says report.” The Sun and the Daily Mail joined in. The line was clear – a clique of leftwing academics, in cahoots with the government, wanted to make ordinary people feel ashamed of their country. In the Telegraph, Boris Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, wrote that the report represented “a war over culture, which our side could lose”. Spooked by the intensity of the reaction, Straw distanced himself from any further debate about Britishness, recommending in his speech at the report’s launch that the left swallow some patriotic tonic.

The Parekh report, as it was known – its chair was the political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh – was not a radical document. It was studiously considerate. Contrary to the Telegraph front page, it didn’t claim “British” was a racist word. It said that “Britishness, as much as Englishness, has … largely unspoken, racial connotations”. This was the sentence that launched a thousand tirades, but where did this idea come from? Follow the footnote in the offending paragraph and you arrive at the work of an academic called Paul Gilroy

Read the entire article here.

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Charting a course beyond racism | Carlos Hoyt | TEDxWaltham

Posted in Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Justice, United States, Videos on 2021-08-29 01:05Z by Steven

Charting a course beyond racism | Carlos Hoyt | TEDxWaltham

TEDx Talks
2021-08-12

Carlos Hoyt, Ph.D., LICSW

In this talk, Carlos Hoyt, Ph.D., LICSW, points out how our misunderstandings about race and our well-meaning but misguided efforts to achieve “racial equality” only end up keeping us trapped in a vicious cycle of trying to get beyond racism while reproducing and re-enforcing its false basis, race. Carlos provides directions that can finally and truly enable us to get past racism. References and notes related to this talk can be found here. Carlos Hoyt, Ph.D., LICSW, is the Director of Equity and Inclusion, Belmont Day School, a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consultant, and a Psychotherapist. Through his research, writing, teaching, Carlos interrogates master narratives and the dominant discourse on race with the goal of illuminating and virtuously disrupting the racial worldview and reductive identity constructs in general.

His approach consists of preparing participants to interact fully, empathically, courageously, and candidly; grounding all content in facts and critical thinking; and, facilitating experiential opportunities for participants to be active synthesizers who can translate cognitive growth into positive personal action.

Watch the video here.

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The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice on 2021-03-11 00:15Z by Steven

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

Bold Type Books (an imprint of the Hachette Book Group)
2021-03-09
336 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781541724709
eBook ISBN-13: 9781541724693
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781549133961

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy; Core faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies
University of New Hampshire

From a star theoretical physicist, a journey into the world of particle physics and the cosmos — and a call for a more just practice of science.

In The Disordered Cosmos, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter — all with a new spin informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek.

One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly non-traditional, and grounded in Black feminist traditions.

Prescod-Weinstein urges us to recognize how science, like most fields, is rife with racism, sexism, and other dehumanizing systems. She lays out a bold new approach to science and society that begins with the belief that we all have a fundamental right to know and love the night sky. The Disordered Cosmos dreams into existence a world that allows everyone to experience and understand the wonders of the universe.

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Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2020-11-20 02:25Z by Steven

Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity

Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum
2020-11-18

Robin Dembroff, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Yale University

Dee Payton, Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

From left: Jessica Krug, Nkechi Amare Diallo (née Rachel Dolezal), Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox

Editors’ Note: This essay is the first installment in a new series, Racial Identity & Racial Fraud.

Unlike gender inequality, racial inequality primarily accumulates across generations. Transracial identification undermines collective reckoning with that injustice.

“Call me Caitlyn.” With this phrase, emblazoned on Vanity Fair’s June 2015 cover, Caitlyn Jenner revealed her transgender identity to the world. But these words were not only a revelation; they also were a demand. Most obviously, they demanded that others call Jenner by a new name. But even more importantly, they demanded that others recognize Jenner as having a certain identity: woman.

Reactions to this demand were predictable. Jenner was warmly embraced and lauded by many for her decision to—as Jenner put it—live as her “authentic self.” Transgender activist and writer Laverne Cox wrote that Jenner’s “courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly . . . [is] beyond beautiful to me.” President Barack Obama, retweeting Jenner’s announcement, praised her “courage to share [her] story.” Hundreds of thousands of others left encouraging comments on Jenner’s social media. Within these reactions, an idea repeatedly surfaced: Jenner’s demand for recognition as a woman is legitimate because Jenner is a woman…

Read the entire article here.

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Part of a Larger Battle: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2020-07-17 14:44Z by Steven

Part of a Larger Battle: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams

Los Angeles Review of Books
2020-07-16

Otis Houston
Portland, Oregon


Thomas Chatterton Williams

I FIRST INTERVIEWED Thomas Chatterton Williams for the Los Angeles Review of Books in the spring of 2019. We discussed his then-forthcoming book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, as well as the state of the discussion about race in in the United States, including the popular movements for social justice born of the increased visibility of the killings of black Americans by police.

I recently spoke with Thomas again about what has changed in the way we talk about race and identity. We also discussed the effects of the collision of social justice theories with art and institutions, and the best-selling books that are now influencing the national mood and tracing the borders of generational and ideological difference in the United States in 2020.

Thomas is a contributing editor at The New York Times and a columnist at Harper’s. He spoke to me by phone from his home in Paris, France. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

OTIS HOUSTON: At about this time last year we discussed Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race. One of your main arguments was that, in order to transcend racism and the social hierarchies it imposes, we have to commit to rejecting the very concept of race and its centrality in determining our identities.

One year later, in a time of mass protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, it seems to me like we’re seeing the media and some of the most prominent voices in the antiracism movement moving further away from the view of race and identity you’ve been advocating for. Increasingly, they argue that effective opposition to racism requires racial identity to always be foremost in our minds, both in the way we view politics and society and in our daily interactions with one another. This ideological movement is perhaps most visible in the books How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which have topped best-seller lists for weeks now. How would you describe this shift in thinking?

THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS: I see that as kind of a lamentable movement, actually. The two books that have dominated the conversation — and I mean dominated — are books that brook no middle ground and occlude any nuance. Robin DiAngelo’s central thesis, for instance, is that white people function not as individuals, but as a category, as a monolith that is inherently racist. According to her, to deny that you’re racist as a white person is proof of your racism, and to admit that you’re racist as a white person is proof of your racism, and the circular logic is airtight…

Read the entire interview here.

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How Should I Think About Race When Considering a Sperm Donor?

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2020-06-23 17:55Z by Steven

How Should I Think About Race When Considering a Sperm Donor?

The Ethicist
The New York Times Magazine
2020-06-16

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Law
New York University


Illustration by Tomi Um

I am an American woman, of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and I strive to live my life as an active agent against racism and white supremacy. I am beginning to consider having children and am open to bearing a child as a single mother. It is possible to sort through sperm donors by race, eye color, education level and so on. If I choose a donor of color, am I condemning my child to be born into a system designed not to serve them? Or can I use my white privilege to help them fight that system? Would my future child of color feel separated from their heritage with me as their mother? If I choose a white donor, am I succumbing to racist ideas of what traits are “desirable,” or taking the “easy road” in knowing my child will look more like me? What do you think? Name Withheld

Women have been making choices about their children’s possible appearance and identity from the beginning of human history. Long before genetics, people knew that parental characteristics show up in their offspring. With modern technologies, the prospects for trying to fix your child’s heritable characteristics are expanding, raising plenty of ethical issues. Race, however, is not a biological fact but a social fact — a social fact that, for example, Americans who are known to have African ancestry are regarded as African-American. What’s more, having an African-American donor doesn’t tell you what your child’s skin or hair will look like. You can be socially black without looking black, like Walter White, the longtime head of the N.A.A.C.P.

I’m spelling all this out because your question about having a child with a sperm donor of color presupposes that it will produce a child who won’t look “white,” and that’s not necessarily the case. Suppose you have a white-looking son with an African-American sperm donor. Then you and your child will have a choice to make about whether he or she should identify as African-American. Some people think that failing to do so — “passing for white” — is somehow dishonest. Yet to hold that you must identify as black in those circumstances would be to accede to a longstanding American notion (“the one-drop rule”) that one black ancestor makes you black. You could reasonably reject that notion, which is rooted in the history of slavery and the nonsensical racial theories that grew up with it…

Read the entire article here.

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Escaping Blackness

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2020-03-07 02:03Z by Steven

Escaping Blackness

New York Review of Books
2020-03-26

Darryl Pinckney


Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York City, 2019
Dominique Nabokov

Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race
by Thomas Chatterton Williams
Norton, 174 pp., $25.95

The black individual passing for white in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American fiction by white writers is usually a woman, and usually when the truth emerges, the purity of the white race is saved. However, in An Imperative Duty (1891) by William Dean Howells, a Boston girl is ashamed to find out that legally she is colored, but her white suitor marries her anyway and takes her off to a life in Italy. In the beginning of Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), a “high-bred” black man in North Carolina returns to his hometown to ask his sister to take his dead white wife’s place and bring up his son. A young aristocrat she meets in her new white life proposes marriage, but soon learns the truth of her origins. Literary convention, in the form of a fever, kills her. The white suitor realizes too late that love conquers all. He promises to keep the brother’s secret.

The secret was as radical as Chesnutt could get. From a North Carolina family of “free issue” blacks—meaning emancipated since colonial times—Chesnutt had blond hair and blue eyes. He wouldn’t pass for white, because if he became famous then he chanced someone appearing from his past. He preferred to pursue reputation as a black man. Chesnutt had cousins who crossed the color line and he never told on them, viewing passing as an act of “self-preservation,” a private solution to the race problem. The big escape from being black was an American tradition. Three of Sally Hemings’s six children ended up living as white people.

The nameless narrator of James Weldon Johnson’s novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), a widower and a father, says little about his life as a white man. He is interested instead in his past as a black person, his life with different classes of black people, his wanderings around Europe as a young musician. When he returned to the United States and went on a folk song–collecting tour of the South, he witnessed a lynching—a black man being burned alive. Terrified, he got himself across the color line. He didn’t want to belong to a racial group so utterly without power…

Thomas Chatterton Williams, who belongs to the hip-hop generation of multiculturalism and diversity, is willing to risk being a throwback in his memoir/essay Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race. To speculate on the racial future, he goes back to the days when the black individual who could do so took the side exit from segregated life to personal freedom. He deals with passing for white, class privilege, and his hopes for the possibilities of race transcendence, knowing perfectly well that because he is light-skinned he can contemplate racial identity as being provisional, voluntary, situational, and fluid…

Read the entire review here.

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“What Are You?”: Addressing Racial Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2020-02-18 18:17Z by Steven

“What Are You?”: Addressing Racial Ambiguity

Critical Philosophy of Race
Volume 8, Numbers 1-2, 2020
pages 202-307

Céline Leboeuf, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Florida International University, Miami, Florida

“What are you?” This question, whether explicitly raised by another or implied in his gaze, is one with which many persons perceived to be racially ambiguous struggle. This article centers on encounters with this question. Its aim is twofold: first, to describe the phenomenology of a particular type of racializing encounter, one in which one of the parties is perceived to be racially ambiguous; second, to investigate how these often alienating encounters can be better negotiated. In the course of this investigation, this article examines the addressee’s point of view and consider possible responses to the other’s question. In addition, it discusses the addresser’s perspective, both to probe the curiosity underlying the “What are you?” question and to explore alternatives to it. By describing the phenomenology of these encounters, this article hopes to show that racial ambiguity, as distinct from mixed-race, is a category of lived experience that calls for deeper philosophical scrutiny.

Read or purchase the article here.

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What if We Just Forgot about Race?

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Science on 2020-02-13 16:26Z by Steven

What if We Just Forgot about Race?

National Review
2020-02-11

Kyle Smith, Critic-at-Large


Opponents of a white nationalist-led rally hold a Black Lives Matter flag in downtown Washington, D.C., August 12, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Thomas Chatterton Williams, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race (New York: W. W. Norton, 2019)

In his beautifully written new book, Thomas Chatterton Williams disputes the notion that his blackness should be central to his identity.

Picture a graph of American racial preoccupation over time. Over the last 50 years, the downward trend is unmistakable. After the civil-rights era, anger and frustration and dismay diminished in the Seventies. It diminished more in the Eighties and the Nineties and the Aughts. Then, after the election of Barack Obama, which was presented as the final victory of post-racial thinking, what? A steady increase in focus on race. Today everything is racialized. Race is inescapable. There is no sociopolitical subject that can be discussed without a prominent voice insisting “Actually, this is about race.”

And it’s exhausting. It’s hard to see how we bend the curve of race anguish down again. But then again, it’s a mistake to think that present trends must carry on indefinitely. Attitudes do evolve, adapt, grow. What if we dropped our fascination with race?…

Read or listen to the entire review here.

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