White Moral Blindness and the Importance of Experiencing Racial Oppression
Martin Luther King Jr. was confident in his conviction that white moderates would not act to end racial oppression. He held that moral blindness was the reason. The white moderates didn’t know the needs of the racially oppressed. They also didn’t know what it was like to be racially oppressed. On his view, knowledge of what it is like to be racially oppressed is both essential to knowing that immediate action to end racial oppression is necessary and to being motivated by this knowledge. In this paper, I examine these claims and consider to what extent one must be racially oppressed in order to know what it is like. Drawing from King, I suggest that white moderates can come to know what it is like to be racially oppressed, even without being racially oppressed themselves. Indeed, this is the very function of oration and narrative, on King’s view. They cause experiences of being racially oppressed, even in those who are not racially oppressed. Through this experience, white moderates come to know what it is like to be racially oppressed and to be appropriately motivated. Art, literature, film, poetry, drama, and music can do something similar for white moderates. More radically, I close by suggesting that King also held that social movements, when violent, can serve a similar function in the cause for racial justice.
ABOUT OUR SPEAKER
Dr. Meena Krishnamurthy is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan
At the most general level, Prof. Krishnamurthy’s work addresses three questions: What are just political institutions? Why are current political institutions unjust? And, how ought we progress from unjust to just political institutions? Most of her research has focused on these questions as they relate to the practice of democracy both at the national and international level. Her early work argues that, because of the values of self-respect, autonomy, and ownership, just political institutions are those that are democratic. She also argues that current political institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, are unjust because they are undemocratic and also because they do not satisfy the basic demands of distributive justice. Her current work focuses on the question of what sorts of attitudes are necessary among citizens for the promotion of democracy. Building on the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and other radical political thinkers, she defends the non-standard view that distrust promotes (rather than undermines) democracy and, for this reason, is a morally valuable attitude.
For more information, and for links to Prof. Krishnamurthy's published works, please visit her website: meenakrishnamurthy.net/
This event is part of the 2016-2017 Philosophy Speaker Series, and is sponsored by EMU's Department of History & Philosophy. For more information about our Department and programs, check us out online at: emich.edu/historyphilosophy/index.php