I’ve really disappointed myself recently, and I think I may be in for a long learning session.
I’m pretty vigilant about spotting sexism and the exclusion of women in discourse, particularly my own. To some extent the same is true of gay issues, though less so. But since I’ve been having some great discussions with an African American philosopher, I’ve come to think there are deep assumptions in the way I look at things that amount to an exclusion of his perspective. For example, I assume that my child, or my white friends’ children, will have general access to the social stepping stones I did, and my partner did.
Of course, there are some suppositions behind this expectation. One is about, for example, mental health. In the US at least someone with a mental illness can disappear off the radar, a fact several families I know are very afraid of. Others have to do with interest, motivation, etc.
But, to move onto one telling example, the involvement of an African American philosophy professor’s children with sports may be due to something very different from what I’d expect of the children of a white professor. It may well come from very different but realistic expectations about opportunity in his children’s community.
So there’s a huge difference between knowing the facts about a kind of exclusionary set of practices and being able to occupy the perspective of people so excluded.
The same goes for sexism. And all the others.
PS: it isn’t that I can’t figure this out, but human social interaction is actually too rapid for a lot of calculated thought (cf John Allman, Caltech). It would be a strained conversation if it lacked spontaneity. More like a philosophical exchange than a casual chat.