On W.E.B. DuBois’s “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” (1903), Cornel West’s “A Genealogy of Modern Racism” (1982), and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (1963) and “The Black Power Defined” (1967), plus Malcolm X’s “The Black Revolution” (1963).
What kind of philosophical lessons come out of the history of black oppression in America? Historian and intellectual DuBois describes the “double consciousness” involved living as a black man in the white world (he was the first black man to graduate from Harvard); he sees the oppression experience as providing some spiritual insight that the rest of us could use. West analyzes the codification of racist aesthetic standards in western philosophical history, leaving us with traces (a white “normative gaze”) that require more than a tolerant attitude to root out. The American civil rights writers discuss the practical ways to combat this legacy, the upshot being that whites will not in themselves become enlightened and fix everything, but that blacks simply needed more economic, political, and cultural power. So where does this leave us some decades later? Read more about the topic and get the texts.
The full foursome is joined by Lawrence Ware of Oklahoma State University, who serves as the token professional in our amateur melting pot. Contemplate our liberal bias! Snicker at my awkward white guilt!
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