THE greatest academic gig is that of the black philosopher. Spout hackneyed and malicious political slogans and you will be treated as a paragon of wisdom.
George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Emory University. In addition to being a rising star in the field of “body politics, ” he specializes in Critical Whiteness Studies. That means: “white subject formation, white racist ambush, white opacity and embeddedness, white complicity, white anti-racist praxis.” In other words, he specializes in anti-philosophical racial grievance and intellectual junk.
Yancy’s insights are featured for the second time in the pages of The New York Times today with his latest piece, “Perils of Being a Black Philosopher.” The peril of being a black philosopher is that while the New York Times will treat you as a god when you spew racial hatred, ordinary people will not. They will bombard you with the unkindness you deserve. On Christmas Eve, the newspaper featured Yancy’s stirring essay “Dear White America,” in which he said that all whites are guilty of racism, regardless of their actions, beliefs or politics. Not a very novel insight. You don’t have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to Emory to know that. Every kindergartner knows that. White racial guilt is the sin that can never be atoned for, no matter what one does.
Yancy said in his letter that he would provoke nasty reactions. He now writes with outrage about the nasty reactions he provoked. I guess it was worse than he expected. In “Perils,” he says:
The alarming reality is that the response to “Dear White America” revealed just how much racism continues to exist in our so-called post-racial America. The comments were not about pointing out fallacies in my position, but were designed to violate, to leave me psychologically broken and physically distraught.
Most bullies are psychologically broken.
There were some very nasty remarks that were designed to question my status as a philosopher because I’m black. The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction, because “niggers” can’t be philosophers. So, I agree; the discourse was far more pernicious. But to understand this is to come to terms with the history of white violence in this country used to control and silence black people.
Mr. Yancy unfortunately has not been silenced. If philosophy is the love of wisdom, he is not evidence that a black man can be a philosopher.