What is the appropriate role of white philosophers who study race: Derrick Bell, racial capitalism, and why "I live to harass white folks."
Otto, Jessica M.
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This project seeks to interrogate what is the appropriate role of white philosophers who study race. Philosophy of Race has become an incredibly in-demand subdiscipline and area of philosophy. New journals dedicated to the exploration of “critical philosophies of race,” conferences on race and racism, and a plethora of academic job postings all indicate that philosophy has its eye on a new area of inquiry. Despite this rise in interest the discipline itself has remained woefully racially homogenous. What explanation can be produced to explain the coexistence of these two phenomena? A second question examined is whether the manner in which we currently do Philosophy of Race problematic in any way? It is my contention that the way in which white philosophers do Philosophy of Race is highly problematic not only because of the content of their doing Philosophy of Race, but also because of the methodology in which they do Philosophy of Race. The framework for this project is provided by the theoretical contributions of Derrick Bell. His theory of Racial Realism provides not only the lens by which this project ought to be viewed, but it also serves as a point of critique throughout this project. Furthermore, I argue that the concept of racial capitalism, which is the process by which white individuals and predominantly white institutions accrue social capital by appearing to be diverse and from their affiliation with non-white social identities, explains the coexistence of two seemingly disparate conditions within the discipline of philosophy. Finally, I propose a three-step “alternative” that ought to be viewed as providing necessary rather than sufficient conditions for how white philosophers who study race should do Philosophy of Race. The three steps are: adopting the paradigm of Racial Realism, consult their intentions for study Philosophy of Race in an attempt to avoid the trappings of Racial Capitalism, and finally, reject the use of white (European) authors as our entry point into discussions of race.