Diversity and Inclusiveness The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor in America

The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor in America

Editor’s Note: Some of the language used in this article is racially sensitive. The Blog of the APA is publishing it because we believe the importance of knowing how minority populations in our discipline are treated outweighs any discomfort it causes. We encourage readers to go through the article with care.

This article was originally published by the Chronicle of Higher Education and is adapted from George Yancy’s recently published book Backlash: How Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America. According to reviewer Stephen Brookfield, “There is simply no contemporary book on race by a professional philosopher written with this level of directness and candor.”

“Dear Nigger Professor.” That was the beginning of a message that was sent to me. There is nothing to be cherished here, despite the salutation. Years ago, Malcolm X asked, “What does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.?” He answered: “A nigger with a Ph.D.”

The message came in response to an op-ed I published in The New York Times in December 2015. I’d spent much of that year conducting a series of interviews with philosophers about race. I wanted to hold a disagreeable mirror up to white readers and ask that they take a long, hard look without fleeing. My article, “Dear White America,” took the form of a letter asking readers to accept the truth of what it means to be white in a society created for white people. I asked them to tarry with the ways in which they perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which they are racist. In return, I asked for understanding and even love — love in the sense that James Baldwin used the term: “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

Instead, I received hundreds of emails, phone messages, and letters, an overwhelming number of which were filled with racist vitriol. My university did its important and necessary part — top administrators assured me that my academic freedom was protected. Yet my predicament was not easy. Campus police had to monitor my office. Departmental instructions were clear: No one was to provide any strangers with my office hours. I needed police presence at my invited talks at other universities. It all felt surreal — and dangerous.

This is what it’s like to be the target of racist hatred:

Another uppity Nigger. Calling a Nigger a professor is like calling White Black and Wet Dry.

Even the most sophisticated nigger will revert back to their jungle bunny behavior when excited.

You can dress a Nigger up in a suit and tie and they’ll still be Niggers.

This belief that niggers even reason is blatant pseudo-intellectualism.

For these writers, “nigger professor” is an oxymoron. A nigger is a nigger, incapable of reason. Kant, Hegel, and Jefferson each made similar claims about black people being bereft of rationality. Perhaps I’m just parroting (as Hume said of black people) what I’ve already heard. I’m just a nigger who dared to reason, only to discover that reason is white.

The concept of there being an intellectual Negro is a joke.

Perhaps this person had spoken to the woman who left the following on my university answering machine:

Dear professor, I am a white American citizen. You are the one who is the racist against white people, evidently. A professor — I bet you got it [your PhD] through a mail order.

On a white racist website, one writer has apparently seen through my game:

This coon is a philosopher in the same way Martin King was a PHD and the same way that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are ‘Reverends’: Just another jive assed nigger with a new way to pimp.

Some of my students of color have asked me, “Why talk about race with white people when at the end of the day everything remains the same — that is, their racism continues?” “Why teach courses on race and whiteness?” “Do you really think that such courses will make a difference?” I find these questions haunting; they nag at my conscience.

Indeed, there are times when I ask myself, “Why do I do this?” After all, I don’t write about whiteness because it is a new fad in philosophy. And I’m certainly not a masochist. There is no pleasure to be had in being the object of hatred. I’m sure that a few of my black colleagues and colleagues of color think that I’ve lost my sanity. Perhaps they think that I’ve asked for all of this and that had I remained silent I would have been fine. The reality, of course, is that they too are seen as niggers. Silence will not help.

In 2015, I was invited to be a plenary speaker at a well-established philosophy conference. I was excited. After all, I was there to deliver my talk within the company of kindred philosophical spirits, those who knew something about feminism, disability, aesthetics, and race. There was one other black philosopher in attendance, though he was older, taller, heavier, and very gray. All the other attendees were white.

The day after I gave my talk, the other black philosopher told me that several attendees had, with no apparent hesitation, complimented him on my talk: “That was a very important talk that you gave yesterday.” “Wow, great talk!” “Inspiring.” No less than seven congratulatory gestures were made.

Had there been only one or two, perhaps it could have been brushed off. But seven times? This was the manifestation of an all-too-familiar mode of being white — a habit of perception that sees black people as all the same, through a fixed imago. This was white racism. My colleague, the black philosopher who had not given the talk, somehow “became” me, and I him.

In that sophisticated and philosophically progressive white space, I could hear a strange and profoundly irritating echo of the little white child whom Frantz Fanon encountered on a train: “Look, a Negro!” There was a familiar sense of being fixed, static. The two of us became one black man; any black man; every black man. We were flattened, rendered one-dimensional, indistinct and repeatable.

Hey Georgie boy. You’re the fucking racist, asshole. You wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for affirmative action. Somebody needs to put a boot up your ass and knock your fucking head off your shoulders you stupid fucking goddamn racist son of a bitch. You fucking race baiting son of bitches. Man, you’re just asking to get your fucking asses kicked. You need your fucking asses kicked. You stupid motherfucker. Quit fucking race baiting, asshole.

It is probably true that I would not have my job were it not for affirmative action. Many white women wouldn’t have jobs either! And of course, white men have benefited from white supremacy for years. But affirmative action is not white supremacy in reverse; it is not antiwhite, but pro-justice. It was created so that with my Ph.D., which I earned with distinction, I would actually be able to teach at a university. Affirmative action, in the case of black people, is a response to systemic racist disadvantages. It’s important to get that history right — not twisted.

I felt particularly sickened by the letters — there were quite a few — sent to me through regular postal mail, handwritten and signed. These are even more disturbing than emails, given the level of industry expended (writing, printing, stamping, mailing). The opening of one such letter read, “I’m a racist? How dare you call me that! You are a racist and, hey, since blacks call each other ‘nigga’ I’m taking the liberty of doing the same. Either the word is offensive and taboo or it isn’t.”

I’m not buying it. I once had two white male students attempt to argue that they should be allowed to use the word (with the “-er”) whenever they wanted, and that it is discriminatory to say that they can’t. Any response at all felt too generous. I have often heard white people express the feeling of being somehow left out from black spaces, which are necessary for black sanity precisely because of white racism.

It is as if white people are driven by a colonial desire to possess everything. Du Bois asked, “But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?” He answered, “Whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!” These two white students spoke with arrogance and the desire for total white ownership. It was not so much that they were deprived of historical knowledge, as that rather, this knowledge meant nothing when it came to their sense of loss of power.

To read white racist vitriol can be traumatic. To hear white racist vitriol intensifies the impact. One listens to the inflection of the voice, its volume, its nervousness and hatred, its terror. I registered the wounds physiologically. Mood swings. Irritability. Trepidation. Disgust. Anger. Nausea. Words do things. They carry the vestiges of the bloody and brutal contexts which gave them birth. One might think that being called a nigger so many times might decrease its impact. It doesn’t.

“All black people in the United States, irrespective of their class status or politics,” according to bell hooks, “live with the possibility that they will be terrorized by whiteness.” The many responses of white people to “Dear White America” were just that — 21st-century white terror. That terror can come in many forms. Perhaps a black man screams “I can’t breathe!” 11 times, but no one cares (Eric Garner). Or perhaps, after he has been shot by “accident,” he musters enough strength to say aloud that he’s losing his breath (Eric Harris), only to hear a white police officer respond, “Fuck your breath!” Perhaps his spine gets severed (Freddie Gray). Perhaps he is a teenager and is shot 16 times (Laquan McDonald). Pulling out a wallet can lead to getting shot at 41 times and hit with 19 bullets (Amadou Diallo). Perhaps an innocent 7-year-old black child (Aiyana Stanley-Jones) is killed by police during a raid. Just as was true for Emmett Till 63 years ago, there is no place that one can call safe in America for black bodies.

The two of us became one black man; any black man; every black man. We were flattened, rendered one-dimensional, indistinct and repeatable.

By recounting, in explicit language, the white backlash that I encountered after writing “Dear White America,” those violent and dehumanizing racist modes of address, I risk becoming retraumatized. The retelling is imperative, though. For too long, I have had black students say to me that they feel unsafe at PWIs (predominantly white institutions). I must believe them. And while they may not have been called a nigger to their faces, such white spaces position them as inconsequential, deny their blackness through superficial concerns for “diversity,” and take their complaints as instances of individual problems of institutional adjustment. I insist on bearing witness to black pain and suffering at PWIs because the deniers are out there. We are told that what we know in our very bodies to be true isn’t credible. This is a different kind of violence, the epistemic kind.

On November 11, 2017, I received a letter in my university mailbox. It was handwritten on both sides in black ink on a sheet of paper torn from a yellow legal pad. There was no return address. Every time I’ve touched it, as I must do now for purposes of transcribing it word-for-word, I wash my hands afterward.

Dear Mr. Yancy, I am writing to you to voice my displeasure with what you said about WHITE PEOPLE. You claim that all White people are Racists! Really now? You, sir are one to talk!! You sound just like the following Racists. Here is a list of who I mean. They’re Al Sharpton, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Cosby, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, Movie Director John Singleton, Shannon Sharpe, Scottie Pippen (former NBA player), Rappers Ice Cube, Chuck D., Flavor Flav, DMX, and Snoop Dogg; former MLB players Carl Everett, Ray Durham and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron! When I read what you said about White people, I was like this guy is a total lowlife Racist piece of shit! It’s so true! You are an asshole! You deserve to be punished with several fists to your face! You’re nothing but a troublemaker! You need to really “Get a life!” I’ve had enough of your Racist talk! You’d better watch what you say and to whom you say it! You may just end up in the hospital with several injuries or maybe on a cold slab in the local morgue! I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve gotten several Death Threats! You’re inviting trouble when you accuse the entire White Race of being Racists! You’ve got a big mouth that needs to be slammed shut permanently! I’m not going to give you the opportunity to find out who I am. Good luck with that! By the way, this letter I’m sending you is certainly not a Death Threat! I could’ve done that, but that’s not me! I’m tired of your Racist kind!

Please tarry with these words. My life has just been threatened. The writer belies their intention by denying that the letter is a death threat.

The writer does communicate something quite revealing, though. They imply that they could be someone I see every day, someone I walk by, greet, or even teach. All the smiles, the eye contact, and the social spaces of interaction — and yet there I am, just a “nigger” to you.

After receiving the letter, I decided to share it with my graduate philosophy seminar. We had been discussing race and embodiment. I think that I wanted my students to help carry some of what I was feeling. I read it aloud. I had not anticipated my emotional response. As I finished, my eyes watered, my body became stilted, I felt a rush of unspeakable anger. “I can’t take this shit anymore,” I said. “I need a few minutes outside of class.” Silence pervaded the classroom. Looking back, I wish that I had said, “Fuck it all! It is not worth it. White people will never value my humanity. So, let’s end this class session on that.”

Instead, I came back into the room, where everyone was still silent. My students’ faces, for the most part, were turned down. I know what they had felt, black students, students of color, and white students alike. They bore witness to my vulnerability, my suffering. And they saw the impact that racism could have within an otherwise safe academic space. A few moments passed, I apologized, and resumed teaching. But the classroom was not the same. We had witnessed something together. That space will never be the same.

 

George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Emory University. He is the author of the new book Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly About Racism in America (Rowman & Littlefield), from which this essay is adapted.

17 COMMENTS

  1. You ask, “Why talk about race with white people when at the end of the day everything remains the same….”

    Everything remains the same because all of us, black and white, want to express our feelings all day long the year round, but we never get around to focusing on specific solutions to specific problems which could improve race relations in a substantial way.

    This unfortunate pattern is routine in this article series, and pretty much culture wide in all forms of media. It’s especially regrettable when the best and brightest among us can not escape the pattern.

    Specific solutions aimed at specific problems. Martin Luther King fought for the Voting Rights Act, which fundamentally transformed the political landscape of the south, and thus the nation. Like that.

    Or perhaps something like this. A $100,000 education voucher for every black person in America paid for by the rich until the wealth gap between blacks and whites is erased.

    Nothing is going to change until we stop talking and start doing.

  2. Magnificent work and needed, maybe more for black people than white. Our stories need to be heard without toning down the narrative. Keep it up. Will read your book definitely.

    • I agree the stories should be told. I agree the narrative should not be sanitized. But not stories as a replacement for the real work, providing specific solutions to specific problems.

      Stories AND the real work, ok, good.

      Stories INSTEAD of the real work, not so great.

  3. Erasing the wealth gap between blacks and whites in America is an example of a specific, tangible, measurable goal which could give intelligent, well educated intellectual elites such as APA members a constructive project to focus their considerable talents on. When it comes to matters of race that’s what this blog should be focused on, the application of disciplined reason to an analysis of how we can most effectively reach specifically defined goals.

    Erasing the wealth gap between blacks and whites would not solve all our problems. And yes, racist morons will always be with us no matter what we do. So it’s not that a project like erasing the wealth gap is a miracle cure. However, erasing the wealth gap and similar specific projects are doable actions which can harness and focus the energy and talents of the APA community.

    Intellectual elites should be focused on fixing our real world problems. Who else is going to do that? Plumbers? Cocktail waitresses? Bus drivers? Bank managers? Let’s leave describing the problem (over and over and over again) to lesser minds.

  4. Certainly, to consider all whites as racist is not right and cannot be proved. If they were racist, why would some white Americans or Europeans study yoga and meditation with Indian gurus who are not white? Or why would some American or European companies employ non-white specialists in finance or IT to their top positions? The way people generally look at others is their ability and contribution rather than race.

    This is very unfortunate that philosophy today often enters narrow and politically controversial fields. This way it loses its character as a universal knowledge and love of wisdom. To revive itself philosophy should return to its roots. It should be again be measured by its ability to contribute a universal knowledge that could serve all human beings no matter what is their cultural background or their race. It should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth.

  5. Korab-Karpowicz writes…

    “To revive itself philosophy should return to its roots. It should be again be measured by its ability to contribute a universal knowledge that could serve all human beings no matter what is their cultural background or their race.”

    Yes, for instance, philosophers should be focusing less on the content of thought, and more on the nature of thought. The nature of thought shapes the content of thought, and profoundly influences the human experience, for we don’t just look through the lens of thought, we literally are thought.

    As example, it is the inherently divisive nature of thought which is the source of racism. Thought functions by dividing reality in to conceptual parts, and so it observes humanity and immediately begins breaking it down in to categories, and skin color is the easiest way to create those categories.

    The creation of categories in itself would not necessarily create racism. But what happens is that the inherently divisive nature of thought creates a human experience of reality as being divided between “me” (very very small) and “everything else” (very very big). This perspective gives rise to fear, which creates the desire to attach oneself to something larger than oneself, such as a group. Thought creates categories of humans, and the need for us to feel part of some category, and it is there the trouble begins.

    “It (philosophy) should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth.”

    This wise sentiment can be improved by adding the phrase “expressed in action” to the end of it. Like this…

    Philosophy should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth, expressed in action.

    It is in action that we find out what our true relationship with ideas are. As example, it is fine to declare that racism is a curse upon humanity. But if we don’t then take some specific action which attempts to address racism, then what we’re really saying is that racism is not so bad after all.

    That’s what the articles on race on this site are actually saying about race. Racism is important enough to talk about, but not important enough to do anything about.

    Is that true?

  6. Korab-Karpowicz writes…

    “To revive itself philosophy should return to its roots. It should be again be measured by its ability to contribute a universal knowledge that could serve all human beings no matter what is their cultural background or their race.”

    Yes, for instance, philosophers should be focusing less on the content of thought, and more on the nature of thought. The nature of thought shapes the content of thought, and profoundly influences the human experience, for we don’t just look through the lens of thought, we literally are thought.

    As example, it is the inherently divisive nature of thought which is the source of racism. Thought functions by dividing reality in to conceptual parts, and so it observes humanity and immediately begins breaking it down in to categories, and skin color is the easiest way to create those categories.

    The creation of categories in itself would not necessarily create racism. But what happens is that the inherently divisive nature of thought creates a human experience of reality as being divided between “me” (very very small) and “everything else” (very very big). This perspective gives rise to fear, which creates the desire to attach oneself to something larger than oneself, such as a group. Thought creates categories of humans, and the need for us to feel part of some category, and it is there the trouble begins.

    “It (philosophy) should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth.”

    This wise sentiment can be improved by adding the phrase “expressed in action” to the end of it. Like this…

    Philosophy should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth, expressed in action.

    It is in action that we find out what our true relationship with ideas are. As example, it is fine to declare that racism is a curse upon humanity. But if we don’t then take some specific action which attempts to address racism, then what we’re really saying is that racism is not so bad after all.

    That’s what the articles on race on this site are actually saying about race. Racism is important enough to talk about, but not important enough to do anything about.

    We should be asking, is that true?

  7. Korab-Karpowicz writes…

    “To revive itself philosophy should return to its roots. It should be again be measured by its ability to contribute a universal knowledge that could serve all human beings no matter what is their cultural background or their race.”

    Yes, for instance, philosophers should be focusing less on the content of thought, and more on the nature of thought. The nature of thought shapes the content of thought and profoundly influences the human experience for we don’t just look through the lens of thought, we literally are thought.

    While the content of thought varies greatly between cultures and individuals the nature of thought, the way it operates, is universal. Thus, it would be a very appropriate topic for philosophers to examine. A better understanding of the nature of thought would serve all human beings.

    As example, it is the inherently divisive nature of thought which is the source of racism. Thought functions by dividing reality in to conceptual parts, and so it observes humanity and immediately begins breaking it down in to categories, and skin color is the easiest way to create those categories.

    The creation of categories in itself would not necessarily create racism. But the inherently divisive nature of thought creates a human experience of reality as being divided between “me” (very very small) and “everything else” (very very big). This perspective gives rise to fear, which creates the desire to attach oneself to something larger than oneself, such as a group. Thought creates categories of humans, and the need for us to feel part of some category, and it is there the trouble begins.

    “It (philosophy) should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth.”

    This wise sentiment can be improved by adding the phrase “expressed in action” to the end of it. Like this…

    Philosophy should be guided by fundamental universal values, such as goodness and truth, expressed in action.

    It is in action that we find out what our true relationship with ideas are. As example, it is fine to declare that racism is a curse upon humanity. But if we don’t then take some specific action which attempts to address racism, then what we’re really saying is that racism is not so bad after all.

    That’s what the articles on race on this site are actually saying about race. Racism is important enough to talk about, but not important enough to do anything about.

    It appears that APA members wish to display their politically correct credentials by discussing race relations in a manner approved by their group consensus, but so far we’ve seen little attempt to harness the power of these well educated minds to craft any specific form of action.

    And thus the universal values of goodness and truth which Korab-Karpowicz remain a mere theory.

  8. “7.42 The secret of the world transformation lies in our mind. We change the world, when we change our thinking.” Philosophy consists primarily in the action of the mind, and there is no greater action because the way we think, we also act. Thus, if we learn how to contemplate truth, goodness and beauty, this inner knowledge leads us to honest, good and beautiful deeds. There is an interplay between theory and practice.

  9. Hi again, thanks for engaging.

    There’s a lot for us to explore in your brief post, here’s a start.

    I’ll use Christianity as example here, only because it’s a well known phenomena to readers here. We can observe how Christianity is a philosophy of unity and love, but….

    Christianity has divided in to a thousand pieces which are often at each other’s throats. We see these divisions not just between denominations of Christianity, but within each denomination. As example from my own heritage, in recent years online ideological battles between liberal and conservative Catholics have taken on epic proportions.

    But let’s not pick on Christians and Catholics. To the best of my knowledge, this same process of internal division has occurred in every ideology ever invented. This process of division is thus seen to be not a product of a particular time and place, but rather a universal phenomena.

    An explanation for this universal phenomena can be uncovered by switching the focus from the content of thought to the nature of thought. The content of thought varies a great deal, but the nature of thought is a universal condition.

    The point here is that the divisions which interrupt “truth, goodness and beauty” are built in the very fabric of our being psychologically, they arise not from bad thought content, but from the nature of thought itself.

    Thus, these divisions can not be healed simply by cooking up some new thought content. If we were to invent a new philosophy which is all about truth, goodness and beauty, it would only be a matter of time before adherents of this philosophy began to argue among themselves and create various sects which came in to conflict with each other.

    And so I propose that it is not WHAT we think that is the crucial deciding issue, but rather THAT we think.

  10. Divisions of opinions among human beings are results of their intellectual limitations and individual interests. If we take Christianity as an example, I believe that Jesus Christ had one original message for humanity. However, limitations of minds of those who interpreted him, as well as their mundane interests in their social positions as authorities, for example, have led to different interpretations of the original Christ message, resulting in divisions among Christians. Hence, an important task for a theologian or philosopher of religion is in fact to try to uncover the original message. In order to arrive at something new or WHAT, he/she must improve, purify and uplift THAT – his/her thought. Since this discussion departs from the subject of the book about race, I invite to the blog page of my book, Tractatus Politico-Philosophics. Perhaps, the next one should be Tractatus Theologico-Philosophicus.

  11. Korab-Karpowicz wrote…

    “Thus, if we learn how to contemplate truth, goodness and beauty, this inner knowledge leads us to honest, good and beautiful deeds. There is an interplay between theory and practice.”

    Ok, this is a reasonable theory. Let’s test it.

    In all the articles on race on this site I’ve been arguing that we should translate the theory in to practice, convert ideas in to deeds.

    In the article above the author proposes that racism is bad and he offers some concrete examples from his own experience of why this is so. As best I can tell, everyone on the site agrees that racism is bad. So….

    What are we going to do about it?

    Are philosophers capable of working together as a group to apply a rational analysis to specific problems so as to develop a menu of specific solutions? If we never get around to doing that aren’t we really saying that racism isn’t really that bad?

    Doesn’t philosophy demand of us clarity of thought? So which is it? Is racism really bad? Or is racism not a problem which requires a specific response?

    It is our deeds, or lack thereof, that will answer this question most credibly. We shouldn’t listen to what we say, but rather to what we do or don’t do. That is where the truth will be found.

    To me, this is an important property of philosophy, an attempt to uncover the fantasy stories we tell ourselves and expose those fantasy stories to the light of day. If we should choose to keep the fantasy stories, ok, fair enough, it’s our choice to make, but let us do so with our eyes wide open.

  12. Hi again Korab-Karpowicz, thanks for the ongoing exchange. I see interesting potential in our dialog and hope you do as well.

    You wrote…

    “Divisions of opinions among human beings are results of their intellectual limitations and individual interests.”

    That’s true of course, but that’s the surface level of what’s happening, the level of the content of thought, where there is of course great variation.

    Underneath the varied surface level of the content of thought is the fundamental level, the nature of thought, which is universal. The thoughts we have vary greatly, but the way thought operates is the same in all of us.

    I tried to illustrate this relationship between surface and fundamental above by pointing to the fact that (as far as I know) every ideology ever invented has inevitably sub-divided in to competing internal factions. What the universal nature of that sub-dividing phenomena tells us is that the ultimate source of the division is not the content of this or that philosophy, but rather the properties of that which all philosophies are made of, thought. Thought operates by a process of division, and all products of thought inherent that property, thus all ideologies undergo division.

    We’re not really getting off the subject of racism, but are instead going deeper in to it, examining the source of division between people with one color skin and those of another color. Again to the best of my understanding, racism takes place in all cultures, which suggests it’s roots lie in something we all share, the fact we’re all made of thought psychologically.

    If it’s true that the divisions we experience arise from the nature of though itself, then we aren’t likely to erase racism with anti-racist thoughts and philosophies, because we’d still be working in the same medium that is the source of the division.

    The article above seems evidence of this. The author is clearly expressing a powerfully strong distaste for racism, but in doing so he is generating the same kind of environment in which racism flourishes. This is not a moral failing of the author, but instead simply that the ultimate source of division and racism, human thought, is still the medium in which we are working. And thus, the inherently divisive properties of that medium work their divisive magic on whatever we touch.

    First our culture was violently racist, and now we are trying to be violently anti-racist. Note that we are still violent, psychologically. There is still the drive for an enemy to reject, to put down, to find someone to be superior too. This is what happens when we try to solve a problem on the surface level, the fundamental level keeps re-asserting itself, over and over again.

  13. The “important property of philosophy, an attempt to uncover the fantasy stories we tell ourselves and expose those fantasy stories to the light of day” is too limited property or rather role of philosophy. Such a role can be described as “critical”. But “critical” is also negative. Negativity is a false tract in which contemporary Western philosophy has led herself bringing our social and political reality to negativity as well (negativity of conflict, exploitation, domination).

    10.15 While cooperation is the basis of a constructive culture, domination is the basis of a destructive one, leading states to decline and humanity to ruin.

    10.151 Happiness in society does not come from any form of domination that serves some at the cost of the rest, but from the cooperation, common benefit and mutual respect of all.
    (Quoted from Tractatus Politico-Philosophicus)

    As philosophers in a classical (also Socratic or Platonic) sense, we must free ourselves from all negativity. This way we will also free from negativity our today’s world. Philosophy rightly understood is a universal knowledge of the true, the good and the beautiful; it consists in the positive action of the mind, and thus it is grounded in positivity.

  14. Hi again, and thanks for the ongoing exchange.

    If I understand it, you are basically arguing for Christian values in the general sense. Or if you prefer, a similar kind of philosophy based on “cooperation, common benefit and mutual respect.”

    As philosophers, we are called upon to examine evidence from the real world, which reveals that 2,000 years of Christianity in western culture has not delivered the “happiness in society” which you understandably seek. And let’s not pick on Christianity, because no philosophy ever invented has delivered a fully just and peaceful society.

    It’s imperative for any serious philosopher to squarely face the fact that no philosophy in history has delivered the world we want to reach. It’s the long standing universality of this failure which is critical because it teaches us that the problems of division, conflict and for example, racism, do not arise at the level of the content of thought. They don’t arise from bad philosophy, and thus can not be fixed by a better philosophy. If that were true, 2,000 years of Christianity would have long ago fixed everything.

    Racism and other such diseases arise from a deeper level, from the way that thought works. That’s why all these problem are so persistent, they arise directly out of the inherently divisive nature of what we’re all made of psychologically, the electro-chemical information medium called thought.

    All content of thought inherits the properties of the nature of thought. Thought operates by a process of division, and thus all philosophies are divisive, which is proven beyond all doubt by the murderous history of a love based philosophy such as Christianity. Jesus instructed us to “love our neighbors as ourselves”, and we turned that in to “kill the Protestants before they kill us”.

    This is not a Christian philosophy problem, it happens everywhere, all over the world. Somebody somewhere invents a well intended philosophy of peace, and within about 30 minutes we turn that in to a new opportunity for division and conflict.

    Division and conflict can not be solved by any philosophy because these phenomena have their origins in a deeper source, that which all philosophies are made of. Once a reader gets that, it will transform their relationship with philosophy forever.

  15. Returning to the article above for a moment, the author wrote…

    “My article, “Dear White America,” took the form of a letter asking readers to accept the truth of what it means to be white in a society created for white people. I asked them to tarry with the ways in which they perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which they are racist. ”

    So the author accused a couple hundred million people he’s never met and knows nothing about of being racists, and then was shocked when they responded in the same manner that he responded when being called a nigger by lots of people who’d never met him.

    I held off on making this obvious point due to the sensitivity of racial issues, but have since realized that to cut the author slack I would not give to a white writer was condescending, insulting, and indeed, racist.

    So I will now respect the author as an equal and share with him that his article was full of racist BS and that’s why so many people got mad, and that hiding in a fantasy victim pose will not fix it. Dear sir, when we yell at people, they tend to yell back.

  16. An African-American professor writes a NYT op-ed asking white folks to examine their racist attitudes and learn to care about the suffering of black folks. In response, he receives a barrage of mostly white hate-mail, including racist obscenities and death-threats. So he turns to the APA blog to share his pain. Instead of listening to him, two white men, one a professor the other not, treat his blog as an excuse to spout self-righteous pieties and cheap hackneyed advice, one quoting from his published book, about how the black man is ‘generating the same kind of environment in which racism flourishes’ (blaming the victim for the racism he feels…) and the other telling the black man that he should stifle his negativity and practice ‘the positive action of the mind’ (as if racism was all in his mind…,) without apparently paying the slightest attention to what the black man said.

    Excuse me for repeating these obscene comments, but I find the crass self-importance and hypocrisy of these commentators an embarrassment to white people who are really working to overcome racism and an insult to the author of this piece. And I hope that other commentators, black brown red yellow or white, will not find themselves drowned out by these self-important commentators or shouted down by bigots and hate-mongers, and will take this opportunity to share their feelings about the racial psychosis of contemporary American society, which is, of course, real, and not all in my, or anybody else’s mind…

    For myself, Mister Yancy, I’d like to say thank you for your efforts at creating an opportunity for racial dialogue, and I’m sorry your efforts were met by the predicable response. But I’d also like to add that I have myself suffered discriminatory treatment from contemporary American society, including being the object of hatred from many people of my own color (female and male) and not of my own color (ditto) and being forced out of my job for saying so. I did not benefit from the white privilege you mention, I do not have security from police or other harassment simply because I am white, I have lived at sub-poverty level for most of my adult life, and I have seen the ugly side of this American system, including false accusations of sexism, police harassment, false justice in courts, and homelessness.

    You can say it was the result of the privileged dominant white male system that I experienced these things, and that would be partly true. But I am a white male, although I’ve sometimes been treated as if I was black (or brown or red or yellow or maybe just white trash…) and I’m not prepared to wage war on myself or hate myself for being white. I’m proud of who and what I am: a blond-haired, blue-eyed white male heterosexual (a blue-eyed devil?…), who has also had to struggle to be proud of my sexuality and my race. And I’m not prepared to accept the hate I’ve seen against myself as simply another version of white hate.
    I’d say the white hate I’ve felt is just as much a product of the American education system and the American criminal justice system as the white hatred you describe, which is a product of ignorance and bigotry.

    And I’m also not prepared to accept the current outburst of pseudo-feminist hate-mongering against men (currently black men, too…), in which accusations of sexual harassment (including simply looking at someone…) are taken as tantamount to proof, simply because some men (maybe many men…) engage in behavior that I also find embarrassing and insulting. I remind you of the days when white women in the South simply had to accuse a black man of looking cross-eyed at them, and the black man would be lynched, and I suggest that simply extending the same treatment to white (brown red yellow etc.) men is not solving the problem, only making it worse. I know quite well how it feels to be falsely accused of things you did not do but have no means of proving you didn’t, and being punished for them anyway. And I’d say we’re seeing some of that same atmosphere of lynch-mob mentality in contemporary America.

    And for that reason, despite my sympathy for the claims of all those suffering sexual harassment, women or men, I’m not prepared to submit to the current atmosphere of constant accusations of sexism by accusing myself of it, just as I’m not prepared to accept the white racism of the American educational system as my own. And I sincerely wish that as a black man you will be able to be proud of being black, proud of your sexuality, and, yes, proud of your maleness, just as you and I and all men who have enough respect for themselves to also treat women with respect have a right to be. Just as all people have a right to be proud of who and what they are, without being bullied harassed or brainwashed to be something they are not…

    EDM

    A final quote from the African American comedian Dick Gregory: I didn’t learn to hate at home. I had to go to school for that…

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