Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University): "Tragic Division or Fruitful Diversity: How to Evaluate Race with the Help of Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk"

Thu, Nov 12, 2020, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Open to Princeton University ID Holders

Program in Ethics and Public Affairs

ABSTRACT:   What should those who recognize race as a social construction - that is, as something real but dependent on our social practices - envision as an ideal future? Should they hope for a world without racial difference? Or a world in which racial identities exist but are no longer associated with inequality and oppression? Du Bois can help us think about this given the ways he points at times in both directions in his classic 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk. There are few reflections on the evils of racial division more poignant than his eulogy for his one-year-old son, in which premature death is depicted as an escape to freedom. Yet Du Bois' famous discussion of double consciousness and twoness arguably implies that it would also be tragic for racial identities to be transcended and left behind rather than coexist in a mutually beneficial world of diversity. I will argue that the lesson we should take from Du Bois is that racial difference is a kind of evil in inception, a mixture of good and bad at present, and something potentially valuable in the future.

BIO:  Chike Jeffers is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia). He specializes in Africana philosophy and philosophy of race, with broad interests in social and political philosophy. He is one of the authors of What is Race? Four Philosophical Views (Oxford University Press, 2019), along with Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, and Quayshawn Spencer. He is currently working on an introduction to the philosophical thought of W.E.B. Du Bois.

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