PHIL 4450: Special Topics: Philosophy of Race

What is race?  Do races even exist? And what precisely is racism?  Most people agree that it is wrong to be racist, but what are they referring to?  Individual beliefs?  Or perhaps sociopolitical structures?  There is, it seems, no consensus regarding these basic questions - questions that are undeniably important given the history of the modern world, to say nothing of the reality of race and racism today.  This advanced course is an exploration of these questions, and it is premised on the observation that we are definitely not living in a post-racial world, and that we need to consider these fundamental questions critically and soberly.

In the first part of this course, we will consider some of the challenges to 
"race-thinking, one of which is the desire among many whites to dismiss the testimonies of people of color and to speak for them.

In the second part of this course, we will explore the complex question of race, not only in terms of its existence or non-existence, but also in terms of mixed race and Latino/a identities.

In the third part of this course, we will look at the problem of racism, not only as an individual phenomenon, but also - and more importantly as a sociopolitical and historical one.

In the fourth part of this course, we will address the long-term "formation
of institutionalized racism (or white supremacy), which will give us a much broader understanding of the contemporary world.

In the fifth part of this course, we will debate the meaning of "whiteness as a racial category, taking into account some of the key insights from the field of Critical Race Theory.

Finally, in the sixth part of this course, we will discuss two important recent books: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

These are the materials that we will cover:


"The Problem of Speaking for Others by Linda Martín Alcoff; PDF


"Illusions of Race by Kwame Anthony Appiah; PDF

"Mixed Black and White Race and Public Policy by Naomi Zack; PDF


Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon;


The Racial Contract by Charles W. Mills,


"White Man's Guilt by James Baldwin; PDF


The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander;

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates;

© Douglas Ficek