Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Nonviolence, Ideal Theory, and Epistemic Injustice April 29, 2015

Filed under: epistemology,police,political protests,politics,race,violence — philodaria @ 4:44 am

Jacob Levy has a great post up at Bleeding Heart Libertarians – Folk ideal theory in action (with thanks to Daily Nous for bringing it to my attention) – which made me want to say something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Earlier, we posted Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece on nonviolence as compliance; as human beings, and many of us, American citizens, the issues Coates raises are of general interest, but there are important philosophical questions, I think, we should be asking ourselves now too. I know some philosophers bristle at the thought that our academic work should be constrained by such things as goals of social justice —  but set that aside. Shouldn’t the modes of thinking we encourage at least not make things worse?

It seems to me, following Charles Mills, that ideal-theory approaches entrench substantial epistemic hindrances for theorizing justice. While we can attempt to engage in thought experiment, e.g., regarding what we might agree to behind a veil of ignorance if we knew nothing about our own social identity, we cannot engage in that thought experiment without thereby deploying a conceptual framework which is, itself, deeply shaped by our existing, non-ideal, social circumstances.  Taking Rawls’ for example, by choosing to set the non-ideal to the side until an account of the ideal can be developed, Rawls cut himself off from the means by which we might check the profound impact of inequality and injustice on our very form of thought. An ideal-theory approach to justice is not problematic merely because it is structured in such a way as to fail to offer sufficient guidance in a non-ideal world, but also because it obscures, and consequently risks transmitting the consequences of, that some of our very concepts have been shaped in ways that implicate matters of justice in the first place. There is a distinctive form of conceptual epistemic injustice which ideal theory is disposed to inherit, and engagement with the non-ideal is requisite for correction.

When I say that there is a distinctive form of conceptual epistemic injustice, I do not mean just hermeneutical injustice, as Miranda Fricker discusses (though, that’s relevant too), where we may lack some concept because the social group which could develop it lacks the social power or organization to do so. I mean instead that we have concepts which we take to have normative force – like nonviolence as an ideal (or ‘genius‘, or ‘atonement‘) – and these concepts may be perfectly worthy in some sense (that is, the sense in which mean for that concept to aim at), but in actuality they can be perverse, both ethically and epistemically. Note: It is not that I think nonviolence is in anyway perverse itself, and I do not mean that I advocate in any way for violence. What I do mean, though, is that our concept of nonviolence is confused. When embedded in our broader social-conceptual framework, nonviolence becomes something that is expected of those who are subjected to oppression, and violence against them as enacted by certain dominant social groups, or certain forms of the state, fails to be recognized as violence at all. It’s that moment when someone tells you in the span of just a few breaths that yet another death of a black man at the hands of police is an unfortunate event, but that they are saddened, or even heartbroken, by the destructive protests which followed. Violence against persons of color is conceptualized as unfortunate, whereas the destruction of property is conceptualized as violent. The concept of nonviolence is socially limited so as to be unequal in its application.

As Angela Davis said once in an interview:

If you’re a Black person and you live in the Black community, all your life, you walk out on the street every day, seeing white policeman surrounding you. When I was living in Los Angeles, for instance…I was constantly stopped. The police didn’t know who I was, but I was a Black woman, and I had a natural, and I suppose they thought that I might be a “militant”…

You live under that situation constantly, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Whether I approve of guns? I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very, very good friends of mine were killed by bombs–bombs that were planted by racists…From the time I was very, very small, I remember the sounds of bombs exploding across the street, our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times because of the fact that at any moment, we might expect to be attacked . . .

In fact, when [one] bombing occurred, one of the mothers of one of the young girls called my mother and said, “Can you take me down to the church? I have to pick up Carole, we heard about the bombing, and I don’t have my car.”

And they went down there, and what did they find? They found limbs and heads strewn all over the place. And then after that, in my neighborhood, all of the men organized themselves into an armed patrol. They had to take their guns and control our community every night because they did not want that to happen again.

I mean, that’s why when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what Black people have gone through–what Black people have experienced in this country since the time the first Black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Riots in Baltimore April 28, 2015

Filed under: police,political protests,politics,race,violence — philodaria @ 3:55 am
Tags: ,

In the Atlantic:

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead? . . . When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.,

America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

 

On ‘Model Minorities’ April 18, 2015

Filed under: discrimination,police,politics,race — noetika @ 5:22 am

David Shih, a professor in the English department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has written an excellent post on the idea of a ‘model minority’. I quote from it extensively below, but I encourage you to read the original post — among other things, he connects this issue to the seeming double standard at play in the indictment of NYPD officer Peter Liang, versus failures to indict white officers in other cases.  The full post, You’re The Model Minority until You’re Not, is here.

My students sometimes aren’t sure how to feel about “positive” stereotypes of Asian Americans. What’s wrong with being known as educated, hard-working, and law-abiding? The problem with positive stereotypes is the same problem with negative ones: the dominant group gets to decide what they are. It decides who gets to be a part of the favored racial group and why. What this means is that you’re the model minority until you’re not. The history of Chinese Americans is a crash course on the social construction of race in America. Stereotypes come and go. From the beginning of significant Chinese immigration during the California gold rush to the present, Chinese Americans have been racialized as undesirable or desirable depending on circumstances at home and abroad. The Exclusion era, the World War 2 era, and the Korean War era all racialized Chinese Americans differently according to the historical needs of white supremacy. It took the Civil Rights Movement to shift the social meanings of Chinese Americans once again. Like negative stereotypes, the model minority stereotype is also a tool of white supremacy.

The model minority stereotype has always been less about praising Asian people than it has been about shaming black people. From its lede, the unsigned “Success Story of One Minority Group in U.S.” is interested in more than the state of Chinese America; it aims to compare Chinese Americans to black Americans. The article lists off the admirable qualities of a monolithic Chinese American community: low crime rate (especially among juveniles), strong work ethic, traditional family structures, value on education, low public assistance usage, etc. However, comparisons with black communities quickly become conspicuous . . .

White supremacy spins the tale of the model minority because it is a story of American meritocracy. As late as 2014, the rags-to-riches model minority stereotype was the core talking point Bill O’Reilly used to rebut the argument that white privilege is real. O’Reilly cites Asian American rates of education and income that exceed those of all other groups, including white Americans. But the conflation of “Asian American” and “model minority” identities masks the poverty of many ethnic groups within Asian America. Coverage of the LA uprising tended to cast Korean American immigrants as successful entrepreneurs despite unique institutional barriers that produced wide economic disparity within the community. In 2010, Hmong Americans had the lowest per capita income of any racial/ethnic group, including Latinos. As the story of meritocracy, the model minority stereotype can disempower Asian Americans themselves by linking low social status to cultural deficiency. Positive stereotypes are a two-way street.

Today, model minorities can be too good to be true. Highly-skilled immigrants from India and China make possible the Asian demographic O’Reilly describes, and industry demand for them is so great that tech firms must enter a lottery for their H-1B visas. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) questions whether the perception of a perpetual shortage of tech workers is, in fact, accurate. The “Silicon Valley STEM Hoax,” he claims, is a ploy of American tech firms to hire lower-paid foreign labor instead of home-grown American labor. This fear of cheap foreign labor, mostly Asian, is not new. The economic “yellow peril” stereotype that defined 19th-century Chinese immigrants conjured the problem of an endless stream of labor against which the white workingman could not compete. The devastating solution to the problem was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, in effect until 1943. While Sessions’ concerns are, by all accounts, marginalized, they do illustrate how readily the assets of the model minority–hard work and frugality–can be reimagined as deficits. New yellow perils. You are the model minority until you are not.

 

When truths convey falsehoods March 21, 2015

Filed under: language,race — jennysaul @ 2:03 pm

The general idea should be pretty familiar to philosophers of language. But its political ramifications remain under-appreciated. This article does a great job. Those who have jumped on the generics bandwagon will have lots to say about the role of generics in conveying these falsehoods. I’m less convinced that the generics are doing crucial work, but the examples are all excellent.  A small sample:

There is an infinite number of facts about any one ethnic group; so the issue isn’t whether certain facts are correct or not; but which facts are chosen.

If the only time Romanians are spoken of is when they pick pockets, or when they’re seen as unwanted migrants, then the public will end up with a totally skewed view of them. We’ll learn nothing about their history or why they came to Britain, or even get a decent idea of what they do here.

When we hear about white criminality, such as football hooliganism, lager louts or paedophile rings, we already have enough other information about white people to be able to contextualise this, so we don’t leap to conclusions, and we don’t have high-level discussions about a “crisis within whiteness”. But in the absence of counterbalancing stories, it’s all too easy to begin to build stereotypes about minority communities.

(Thanks, R!)

 

 

University of Oklahoma Chapter of SAE Closed After Racist Incident March 9, 2015

Filed under: academia,race — noetika @ 6:34 am

Via HuffPo:

The national headquarters for Sigma Alpha Epsilon is closing its chapter at the University of Oklahoma after video surfaced Sunday of members on a bus singing racist lyrics about their fraternity. SAE’s national office called the video “inappropriate” and said it was “disgusted” by its members behavior.

“In addition, all of the members have been suspended, and those members who are responsible for the incident may have their membership privileges revoked permanently,” the national SAE office said in its statement.

Prior to SAE’s announcement, University of Oklahoma President David Boren said if they determine it is in fact their chapter of SAE, the fraternity would be removed from campus.

The story [trigger warning for racism] is here.

 

300 young girls in Oxfordshire groomed and raped March 4, 2015

Filed under: gender,human rights,politics,race,Uncategorized — annejjacobson @ 10:22 pm

The Guardian reports on yet another gang of men getting away with victimizing very young British women and girls. The number of girls is this relatively small compared to the 1400 estimated in other areas, but there is the same enabling circumstances: authorities are alerted and do nothing for years and years.

Serious case review slams police failure in serial abuse of Oxford girls
Some of the 300 victims were exploited for more than eight years despite repeated calls for help to authorities

Some of the report focuses on six young girls, so in fact it becomes difficult to tell sometimes whether they are talking about 6 or 300. I think all the passages below are about 6 young girls who were under the responsibility of the Oxfordshire social services.

Police and social services in Oxfordshire will be heavily criticised for not doing enough to stop years of violent abuse and enslavement of six young girls, aged 11-15, by a gang of men. Such was the nature of the abuse, suffered for more than eight years by the girls, it was likened to torture. All of the victims had a background in care.

A serious case review by the Oxfordshire safeguarding children’s board, to be published on Tuesday, will condemn Thames Valley police for not believing the young girls, for treating them as if they had chosen to adopt the lifestyle, and for failing to act on repeated calls for help.

Oxfordshire social services – which had responsibility for the girls’ safety – will be equally damned for knowing they were being groomed and for failing to protect them despite compelling evidence they were in danger. One social worker told a trial that nine out of 10 of those responsible for the girls was aware of what was going on.

All of the men were Asian, which seems to be the case in other abuse circles. In Rotherham, where 1,400 girls were abused, the reason why it seemed better and simple to the authorities to do nothing included concerns about race relations, according to earlier reports in the Guardian. Such concern does not, of course, go anywhere toward excusing the failure to protect.

 

Lynching as racial terrorism February 11, 2015

Filed under: achieving equality,discrimination,race — annejjacobson @ 5:52 pm

If you are glad we in the US are not like ISIS, and don’t do brutal, horrible killings, you might think again:

From the NY Times:

It is important to remember that the hangings, burnings and dismemberments of black American men, women and children that were relatively common in this country between the Civil War and World War II were often public events. They were sometimes advertised in newspapers and drew hundreds and even thousands of white spectators, including elected officials and leading citizens who were so swept up in the carnivals of death that they posed with their children for keepsake photographs within arm’s length of mutilated black corpses.

Kirvin, Tex., where three black men accused of killing a white woman were set on fire in 1922 before a crowd of hundreds.History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 NamesFEB. 10, 2015
These episodes of horrific, communitywide violence have been erased from civic memory in lynching-belt states like Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. But that will change if Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, succeeds in his mission to build markers and memorials at lynching sites throughout the South as a way of forcing communities and the country to confront an era of racial terror directly and recognize the role that it played in shaping the current racial landscape.

One of the important questions raised is whether the more recent treatment of African Americans by the police and the judicial system is really a substitute for lynching. Do read the article. Even the comments I have seen are better than usual. (I probably will regret saying that.)

 

MA in White Power January 19, 2015

Filed under: race,teaching — stoat @ 10:23 pm

Readers may be interested to see the proposal for MA studies in White Power (critical white studies), lead by Nathaniel Coleman, which is being considered as an addition to the UCL curriculum. Details of the proposal are available here, and feedback can be given. This feedback may make an important contribution in determinations of whether this MA program will be incorporated into the curriculum. Do take a look and leave a comment if you see fit!

 

‘Somewhere in America’ January 10, 2015

Filed under: beauty,body,class,education,gender,glbt,politics,race,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 5:46 am

Via Bustle, a spoken word performance:

“The trio of teenage girls start the poem ominously: ‘The greatest lessons you will ever teach us, you won’t even remember.’ From there, they jump into fairly controversial, dark topics like rape, race, gun control, socioeconomics, and censorship. Emotions rage so hard in the three-and-a-half-minute piece, occasionally you can spot a small vocal crack in the performance, but that just lends more validation to the truth they kept spouting. ‘Somewhere in America,’ ushers in the hard-to-hear stuff,  ‘Women are killed for rejecting dates, but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.’ Another: ‘The preppy kids go thrifting because they think it sounds fun. But we go ‘cause that’s all we’ve got money for.’ “

 

Examples of implicit racial bias at work January 4, 2015

An article in the NY Times contains important information on research into implicit bias. It also has a number of useful, though upsetting, examples. Here are some of them:

■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.

■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.

■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.

■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.

■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.

■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.

■ The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.

A number of these can also be used as examples of white privilege.

 

 
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