Author note: Naomi Zack is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Albany. She herself is of mixed race: Jewish, African American, and Native American.
We are morally obligated to plan for disaster because it affects human life and well-being. Because contemporary disasters affect the public, such planning should be public in democracies and it should not violate the basic ethical principles of normal times. Current Avian Flu pandemic planning is restricted to a response model based on scarce resources, or inadequate preparation, which gives priority to some lives over others. Rather than this model of ‘Save the Greatest Number,’ the public would be more ethically (...) served by a model of ‘Save All Who Can Be Saved,’ which is based on adequate preparation. And where events exceed adequate preparation, scarce resources should be allocated fairly. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Race provides up-to-date explanation and analyses by leading scholars of contemporary issues in African American philosophy and philosophy of race. These original essays encompass the major topics and approaches in this emerging philosophical subfield that supports demographic inclusion and diversity while at the same time strengthening the conceptual arsenal of social and political philosophy. Over the course of the volume's ten topic-based sections, ideas about race held by Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche are (...) supplemented by suppressed thought from the African diaspora, early twentieth-century African American perspectives and Native-, Asian-, and Latin-, American views. The contributors bring philosophical analysis to bear on the status of racial divisions as categories of humanity in the biological sciences, as well as within contemporary criticism and conceptual analysis. Essays present the special applications of American philosophy and continental philosophy to ideas of race as methodological alternatives to more analytic approaches. As a collection of analyses and assessments of 'race' in the real world, the volume pays trenchant and relevant attention to historical and contemporary racism and what it means to say that 'race' and racial identities are socially constructed. The essays analyze contemporary social issues including the importance of racial difference and identity in education, public health, medicine, IQ and other standardized tests, and sports. Additionally, the essays consider the societal limitations and structures provided by public policy and law. As a critical theory, the volume compares the study of race to feminism. Historical and contemporary, academic and popular, racisms pertaining to male and female gender receive special consideration throughout the volume. While this comprehensive collection may have the effect of a textbook, each of the original essays is a fresh and authentic development of important present thought. (shrink)
____Race/Sex__ is the first forum for combined discussion of racial theory and gender theory. In sixteen articles, avant-garde scholars of African American philosophy and liberatory criticism explore and explode the categories of race, sex and gender into new trajectories that include sexuality, black masculinity and mixed-race identity.
Examining racial profiling in American policing, Naomi Zack argues against white privilege discourse while introducing a new theory of applicative justice. Deepening understanding without abandoning hope, Zack shows why it is more important to consider black rights than white privilege as we move forward through today's culture of inequality.
Positive law and problems with identifying beneficiaries confine reparations for U.S. slavery to the level of discourse. Within the discourse, the broader topic of rectification can be addressed. The rectification of slavery includes restoring full humanity to our ideas of the slaves and their descendants and it requires disabuse of the false biological idea of race. This is not racial eliminativism, because biological race never existed, but more importantly because African American racial identities and redress of present racism are based (...) on lifeworlds of race in contrast with which the biological idea has been an external imposition. (shrink)
Naomi Zack begins this extraordinary book with the premise that if one is to understand Western conceptions of racialized and gendered identity, one needs to go back to a period when such categories were not salient and examine how notions ...
Disaster has a triple violence: the literal event; inequality in rescue efforts; deprivation and coercion prior to physical disaster. Globally, the poor are the most vulnerable in disaster, but there are different degrees of poverty. Although Chile suffered a far more severe earthquake than Haiti, in 2010, the developed infrastructure of Chile allowed for greater resilience. The extreme poverty of Haiti impeded the implementation of humanitarian assistance pledged in the billions. In New Orleans, the exiled poor left behind usable real (...) estate that represented an opportunity for disaster capitalists. The exploitation of the poor in this case is less classic exploitation than depredation. The prevention of depredation will require study, laws prohibiting disaster capitalism, and further emphasis on disaster preparation. (shrink)
Philosophers have little to lose in making practical proposals. If the proposals are enacted, the power of ideas to change the world is affirmed. If the proposals are rejected, there is new material for theoretical reflection. During the 1990s, I believed that broad public recognition of mixed race, particularly black and white mixed race, would contribute to an undoing of rigid and racist, socially constructed racial categories. I argued for such recognition in my first book, Race and Mixed Race (Zack (...) 1993), a follow-through anthology, American Mixed Race (Zack 1995), and numerous articles, especially the essay, ''Mixed Black and White Race and Public Policy," which appeared first in Hypatia in 1995. I aho delivered scores of public and academic lectures and presentations on this subject, all of which expressed the following in varied forms and formats: Race is an idea that lacks the biological foundation it is commonly assumed to have. There is need for broad education about this absence of foundation; mixed-race identities should be recognized, especially black-white identities. (shrink)
Many are already familiar with the idea of intersectionality. Intersection Theory can be conceived as encompassing other progressive theories, such as Philosophy of Race and Feminism. In Philosophy of Race, the ultimate explanatory concept is race; in Feminism, the ultimate explanatory term is gender. This discrepancy has given rise to Black Feminism. Intersection Theory can also be contextualized and expanded to include more detailed intersections when there is inequality within intersected groups. But, intersectionality does yet address unpredictable violence, either against (...) blacks or normally advantaged groups, such as United States Jews. For such cases, it is useful to posit a new intersectional factor of regressive violence, to account for counter-revolutionary response to decades of progress for minorities. Overall, the flexibility of Intersection Theory allows for creative analysis. However, not all intersections yield politically viable identities and those that would might require governmental recognition of group rights. (shrink)
Is racism an act of the will? A disease? A bad habit? A result of lost virtues or of historical economic forces? Can we reliably claim that racism is an affront to justice? How does our scientific understanding of "race" affect our ethical considerations ? How can we ever know if we are acting from racist assumptions? With Leonard Harris, Naomi Zack, and Hugh Taft-Morales.
Philosophy is in its fourth millennium but this collection is the first of its kind. Twelve contemporary women of color who are American academic philosophers consider the methods and subjects of the discipline from perspectives partly informed by their experiences as African American, Asian American, Latina, Mixed Race and Native American.
Written in an engaging narrative style these philosophical investigations undermine racist hierarchies along with false natualistic conceptions of the meanings of race and universalistic understandings of gender, by considering whiteness as it shapes and is infused by gender, class, sexuality, and culture. Central to this project are questions about how it is that culture and the state create such a wide range of different people who understand themselves as white. The essays collected here discuss how one learns to be a (...) good white Southern woman, what it means to pass as white, and whether there really is a dilemma that accompanies white privilege. (shrink)
The role of motherhood was attenuated over the second half of the twentieth century, by literal and metaphorical factors: Privileged women gained control over their reproduction and developed non-mothering life priorities; government and society became less nurturing in public ideals; projects of spontaneous speciation began in biology; the environment became unsustaining. In addition, feminist criticism resulted in greater individuation between the persons of mothers and their children. With these changes, the role of motherhood lacks a positive identity, culturally and psychically. (...) Extending a literary character, I suggest that mothers consider an attenuated internal identity, based on their unique biological relationships to their children. This would afford a more positive self-identity, as well as a pragmatic solution to demands made by present “middleman” roles for mothers to procure expert child enculturation care, in addition to their “second shifts.”. (shrink)
Ethics for Disaster addresses the moral aspects of the aftermath of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. The book explores how these catastrophes illuminate the existing inequalities in society, combining a unique philosophical approach with new moral thinking. Zack stresses the obligation of both individuals and government in preparing for and responding to dangerous times, forcefully arguing for the preservation of normal moral principles even in times of crisis and national emergency.
Political philosophers have traditionally focused on justice and regarded equality as an ideal despite its lack of factual support; normative universal human equality is a new, twentieth-century regulative moral construct. The theoretical focus on justice overlooks what most people care about in reality—injustice. In modern democratic society, formal or legal equality now co-exists with real inequality. One reason is that justice is not applied to all groups in society and applicative justice––applying justice to those who don’t now receive it––is a (...) remedy. But injustice theory also includes other forms of injustice such as legal, humanitarian, and injustice without blame or responsibility. (shrink)
Racial essentialism or the idea of unchanging racial substances that support human social hierarchy, was introduced into philosophy by David Hume and expanded upon by Immanuel Kant. These strong influences continued into W. E. B. Du Bois’ moral and spiritual idea of a black race, as a destiny to be fulfilled past a world of racism and inequality. In the twenty-first century, »the race debates« between »eliminativists« and »retentionists« swirl around the lack of independent biological scientific foundation for physical human (...) races and the ongoing importance of race as a social ordering principle and source of identity. Analyses of the idea of race are of philosophical concern for historical and conceptual reasons, as well as ongoing issues of contemporary identity and social injustice. (shrink)
The American folk concept of race assumes the factual existence of races. However, biological science does not furnish empirical support for this assumption. Public policy derived from nineteenth century slave-owning patriarchy is the only foundation of the "one-drop rule" for black and white racial inheritance. In principle, Americans who are both black and white have a right to identify themselves racially. In fact, recent demographic changes and multiracial academic scholarship support this right.
I use Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to consider the requirements of existentialism to be relevant to racialized experience. Black existentialism is distinguished from white existentialism by its focus on anti-black racism. However, black existentialism is similar to white existentialism in its moral requirement that agents take responsibility so as to be in good faith. Ralph Ellison's invisible man displays good faith at the end of the novel by assuming responsibility for his particular situation. The idiosyncratic development of the novel can (...) be interpreted as an example of the ways in which existentialist values ought to be instantiated through unique individual experience. However, blackness, or any racial identity, is not itself an existential structure because it is not universal. Rather, existentialist requirements for good faith can be applied to racialized situations by both whites and blacks. (shrink)
Injustice theory better serves the oppressed than theories of justice or ideal theory. Humanitarian injustice, political injustice, and legal injustice are distinguished by the rules they violate. Not all who claim political injustice have valid historical grounds, which include past oppression and its legacy. Social class, including culture as well as money, helps explain competing claims of political injustice better than racial identities. Claims of political injustice by the White Mass Recently Politicized are not valid given the history of race (...) relations in the United States. The WMRP’s substitution of white racial identity for class identity may obstruct their opportunities for upward socioeconomic mobility. Their current billionaire leaders are not organic leaders and they stoke racism because it is emotionally useful for getting votes. But too much emphasis on racist history by nonwhites can result in a collective Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that also obstructs progress. The problems of the WMRP may be their own responsibility, in ways still unexplored. (shrink)
I relate how my life has intersected with my work in philosophy, both before and after a twenty-year absence from academia. Motivations for engaging in Philosophy of Race may be different from other projects because the subject itself is urgent and the philosopher may be a person of color. I describe the development of my own writing in this subfield, from ontological issues in the philosophy of science to moral issues in political philosophy and cultural criticism. The first addressed the (...) biological reality of human racial taxonomy and the second has been about the inadequacy of treatments of race in the history of philosophy and injustice in contemporary social constructions of race. (shrink)