Georgetown professor Rebecca–“suck my giant queer cock”–Kukla recently encouraged “scholars of color” to contribute to a special issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal on Trump and the 2016 election. Of course, in her editorial, Kukla makes no secret of what her own take is on this event. For example, she warns of the harmful impact Trump’s policies will have on the environment, and on “socially vulnerable and stigmatized Americans”. In any case, it turns out that all scholars of color declined her invitation, but at least one of them, professor Sean A. Valles, was kind enough to explain why he declined. Since his explanation was published on the blog supplement to the special issue, we can easily quote from it (note that, in what follows, “Philosopher of Color” does not mean “philosopher of color”, but, rather, “colored philosopher”):
Academics of color tend to get assigned to more committees and miscellaneous departmental service tasks, particularly being asked to “diversify” committees with our presence (…) Whether we like it or not, our days get filled with work other than the research output that is valued above all else by Academia. Perhaps most importantly, we disproportionately occupy untenured positions.
Our profession perpetuates many of the same explicit and implicit racist structures/biases that I and others critique in the Trump era (adulation of White men of dubious merit, dog whistle invocations of Western culture, blindness to structural racism/sexism/heterosexism, etc.). That makes it feel…different…to critique the Trump era from the position of a Philosopher of Color.
I don’t pretend to know how many of my fellow Philosophers of Color have been effectively dissuaded from submitting to this issue by such considerations, but contributing to this special issue would be a pretty quick way of transforming oneself from a hate crime target into a hate crime prime target.
This is what I take to be the core of an explanation that has been described as “powerful”, “emotionally difficult”, “brave”, “insightful”, and “challenging” by the editor (Kukla) herself. But does the explanation make much sense? Let us look at each of Valles’s reasons in turn.
First reason: we’re too busy, because we’re being asked to “diversify committees with our presence”.
This may be the only reason I can sympathize with, but it’s hardly decisive, as Valles admits. Note, for example, that women are also overrepresented in committees, but women still found time to contribute to, and edit, the special issue. In fact, Valles himself found time to write a rather lengthy explanation. Moreover, the complaint raises a question: why is there significant “underrepresentation of Philosophers of Color” (and women) in the profession while philosophers of color (and women) are overrepresented in university committees? Do these committees have no influence at all on how universities are run?
Second reason: we are not tenured.
But as Valles indicates in the beginning of his commentary, he himself is a tenured Associate Professor. So this cannot be among his personal reasons for declining to contribute.
Third reason: as philosophers of color, we feel “different” about criticizing Trump.
Fourth reason: if we contribute, we’ll quickly become “prime” targets of hate crimes.
Valles mentions the fear of having swastikas painted on his “car/office/home door” three times in the commentary, but without reference to a particular case. How often have philosophers of color had swastikas painted on their office door because of an article in The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal or a similar academic journal? The news doesn’t seem to have reached the pop philosophy blogs, let alone the mainstream media, and yet both can be expected to pay attention to such incidents. (Note, too, that there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the alleged rise of hate crimes in the wake of Trump’s election and… Obama’s election.)
In short, of the four reasons mentioned in the commentary, only one–the first reason–seems to make sense, but this reason, by itself, does not explain why Valles declined, even by his own lights. As he himself writes: “[n]one of the above factors was individually sufficient to dissuade me from submitting an article to this special issue”.
What we have here, then, is not a “powerful” and “insightful” explanation. Rather, it seems to be another case of someone trapped in victim mentality in spite of all the opportunities he has been offered.
- How Our Profession Rewards Ignorance - August 18, 2017
- The Google Gulag - August 10, 2017
- Why a “Philosopher of Color” Declines to Contribute - July 26, 2017
- The American Philosophical Association’s Explicit Bias about Implicit Bias - July 20, 2017
- The Central European University Saga - May 31, 2017
- Live and Let Live, or Let the Left Live? - March 31, 2017
- Philosophy’s Culture of Silence - March 1, 2017
- Against Open Borders - February 8, 2017
- Implicit Bias: From Early Death to Failed Resurrection - January 17, 2017
- On What Doesn’t Seem to Matter - December 28, 2016