PHIL 274.001 – African American Political Philosophy
Instructor: John Lawless. This course meets MTWRF 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in CW 105.
In 1903, W. E. B. DuBois predicted that the problem of the twentieth century would be “the problem of the color-line” – that is, of the ways in which race affects Americans’ relations with one another. We can find evidence that DuBois was right in all sorts of places: in representations of black Americans on television and in film, in the war on drugs, in relations between black Americans and the police, and in segregated cities across the country. The “problem of the color-line” is not a single problem, but a collection of many diverse problems that the American institution of race regenerates through the decades.
African American philosophy addresses these problems through a variety of critical lenses. In this course, we will investigate the meaning of race, unearthing tensions between its origins in outdated biology and its social significance today. We will explore several varieties of racism, and the ways in which racism manifests, not only in individuals’ hearts and minds, but in our culture and institutions. And we will discuss the ways in which race complicates itself, both in its interactions with gender and class, and in the lives of people with mixed racial heritage. These questions will afford us a forum in which to confront the past and present of race in America, and to imagine its future.
Required texts include Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Charles Mill’s The Racial Contract, Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought, and Naomi Zack’s Race and Mixed Race.