"What is White Ignorance?"
Published online in The Philosophical Quarterly (https://doi.org/10.1093/pq/pqaa073)
"Explaining Oppression: An Argument Against Individualism"
"Explaining Oppression with Social Structures"
"Internalized Social Structure"
"Obliviousness: Racial, Gendered, and Other"
Feb 2021: Central APA Symposium
Explaining Oppression: An Argument Against Individualism
My work is at the intersections of social philosophy, epistemology, and the philosophy of race and gender, and focuses on theorizing oppression from a critical theoretical perspective. I argue that causal explanations of oppression must be fundamentally social structural, and develop a pluralistic conception of social structure that encompasses both institutions and ideology. An important part of this view is that insofar as individual beliefs, attitudes, or biases play a role in explaining oppression, it is only as constituents of social structure. I apply this social structural framework to the 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, while also pursuing meta-philosophical questions concerning how practical reasons can reasonably enter into the conceptual choices philosophers make when theorizing phenomena like oppression.
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.