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06/01/2020

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M

It's a small thing, but marking when we're talking about white and other non-black philosophers rather than all philosophers (which includes black philosophers) is a step. This sentence in your post doesn't make as much as sense if we recognize that the referent of "philosophy faculty and students" includes black faculty and students:

"[We] are in the process of putting together a new series of guest-posts on how how philosophy faculty and students can help support our black colleagues, students, communities, and the cause of racial justice."

The simple act of recognizing that our language often presupposes whiteness as a default can be powerful.

Let me add that I noticed this earlier, and hesitated to post because I didn't want to come across as "language policing," since I think that's not the most important thing to do. We could analyze whether that sentence strictly needs a modifier or not, and which--my point is just that this is a case where drawing attention to who is doing the support (white and non-black philosophers) is important. Paying attention to our language can often bring awareness to our ways of thinking and acting.

P

Purely anecdotal: I am struck by the diversity in opinions on the following issues:

1. The (video of the) killing of George Floyd
2. The legitimacy of the protests and demonstrations
3. The legitimacy of the supposed ideologies and goals of protesters
4. The legitimacy of looting
5. The legitimacy of police response to 1-4

Lots of us (hopefully MOST of us) have a very strong opinion that 1. is horrific. But that doesn't mean that most of us have the same opinions about 2-5, or even have very strong opinions at all on 2-5.

I know some well-meaning people who have very strong opinions on 1-5, and they take their opinions on 2-5 to be entailed by their opinion of 1. So, they assume that when they encounter agreement with someone on 1, they must basically fall in line with them on their opinions of 2-5.

What has also struck me is that a lot of these are well-meaning WHITE people who are surprised when they encounter black and other non-white people who agree with them on 1, but don't have suitably "left" opinions on 2-5. (Fwiw, I consider myself a leftist.) This betrays an underlying paternalism and lack of awareness that is both well-meaning and unintentionally disrespectful. Diversity in social and political opinions is not unique to any racial group. Just as it would be preposterous to assume that all white people think X about the protests, it is preposterous to assume that all black people think X as well.

So, I guess my point is that part of the work of supporting your black colleagues and students is giving them the space to be people with their own views, regardless of what you think those views should be. Rather than putting words in mouths and thoughts in heads, let people tell you what they think (if they are so inclined.) This advice, of course, doesn't rule out reasonable engagement with the views expressed, and it is not exclusive to white people.


Anonymous Postdoc

M,

I don't get that implication from the sentence, because black people can also help black people. Note that someone being uncharitable towards your post might think that you're suggesting that they don't.

Nick Byrd

I am working my way through "75 Things White People Can Do..." (https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234).

It seems fairly US-centric so far, but I'm finding that much of it seems like the kind of stuff that philosophers can do.

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