"Explaining Oppression: An Argument Against Individualism"
"Internalized Social Structure"
"Obliviousness: Racial, Gendered, and Other"
May 2020 Carleton College Colloquium
My research is at the intersections of social philosophy, epistemology, and philosophy of race and gender. My dissertation develops a pluralistic conception of social structure that encompasses both institutions and ideology, and applies this notion to oppressive ignorance, or ignorance that is both promoted by and helps sustain oppression. Currently, I am working on developing an account of a particular form of oppressive ignorance that I call obliviousness.
What is White Ignorance?
Rick has never witnessed excessive policing; Rebecca has never heard of redlining; Dr. Kritz lacks information about whether the drug tamoxifen will harm her Afro-Latina patient. Each of these characters lacks knowledge about some important matter relating to race or racial inequality. They are each, we might say, white ignorant. But what is white ignorance?
In this paper, I present three alternative accounts of white ignorance— the Willful Ignorance View, on which white ignorance is a matter of white individuals’ willful ignorance about race and racial injustice; the Cognitivist View, on which white ignorance refers to ignorance that results from social practices that distribute faulty cognitive resources (e.g. bad concepts, false premises, and defective “norms”); and the Structuralist View, on which white ignorance refers to ignorance that (1) results as part of a social process that systematically gives rise to racial injustice and ignorance of this kind, and (2) is an active, systematic player in the process. I argue that the Structuralist View is to be preferred because, by virtue of appealing to general social-structural processes, the view is more powerful and flexible than the alternatives. This, in turn, makes it better able to fulfill the explanatory role of white ignorance— namely, to elucidate the ways in which our social practices give rise to robust patterns of ignorance that play an important role in racial injustice.