Tuesday, May 3, 2011


This class, more than anything else, has helped me learn how to argue about race in an academic situation.  I have long battled my family's super-Southern opinions on race but have never come out successful against their ingrained ignorance.  Now, knowing that race is totally constructed by society, I am equipped with an arsenal of comebacks. I have learned to use whatever white privilege I may have to make a point about race. I entered this class ignorant of just how many Band-Aids are intended for my flesh color, but now know that it is unacceptable.  I now understand that citing white privilege is the best argument I have against the foundation of racism.

The constant fear that oppressors hold of losing their power is ungrounded when learning about the similarities, not differences, between people of opposite races. As my favorite author Jonathan Safran Foer puts it,  "Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are." All in all, I think we should focus on becoming more human and embracing these similarities rather than segregating ourselves by race. I think being at Rhodes allows us a privilege, regardless of race, to use our education to win arguments about these things. The best way to change something is to refuse to be silenced about the topic, while at the same time, ignoring it only allows it to grow.

When Will Black Womens' Health Matter?


Unfortunately the class has wound down and most people will not read this, but I figured I would put it out there just in case anyone wanted to read it and/or ponder the multitude of issues it brings about. This article is from the Huffington Post and which serves like a blog outlet for scholars and theorists alike. In the article Eleanor Hinton Hoytt responds to a predominately white and male Georgia Republican Party and Georgia Right to Life Group that used race as a way to trick people into not supporting health care reform and/or right to choice with abortion.

What the group did is they labeled abortion as "black genocide" citing that black women have the highest percentage of abortions in the United States. Hinton Hoytt responds by critiquing this spin of the facts by pointing out that many factors go into these high rates such as lack of access to contraceptives and/or education because of a system that continues to oppress blacks. What shes points out is that despite the Georgia group trying to put on the guise that they are helping blacks, their policy will actually continue to hurt blacks by denying health care to people who need it the most, including the highest percentage of uninsured individuals in America, which is black women.

If you read through the comments to this article you may find yourself really angry. There are some pretty ignorant people who blame this situation on black women, but we all know that it is structural and institutional forces that have continued this oppression.

Basically I am making this post just to show some more info on the subject, I wish we had time to discuss this though because I see potential for a wide range of analysis.

Well, That Was Fun.

Hey all, I wanted to do one of these recap posts to thank everyone for allowing me to hear their own experiences, thoughts, and for challenging my own opinions and beliefs. I am also doing this post for my own benefit, just so I can reflect on this experience and hopefully learn a little more about myself and my conception of this world. So I guess thank you for allowing me to use this space to do that. This semester we have used this blog to make posts and tease out ideas we have had in our heads. One of the toughest concepts I struggled with was seen reflected in my post about "the n-word" and I thank all of you who read and commented on this. I still have no real conclusion on the subject, I do however, have a better understanding of my own positioning and my limitation for judgment because of my role in this world as a white dude. This foregrounding extends beyond just my race, but it has been enlightening to focus on this and become aware of how my own race and how society views me because of my race has shaped how I think about and view the world. It has been a privilege to hear each of your experiences on this campus and how societies view of you makes your experience different or similar to my own.

When I think about this semester, I know that we have learned and experienced a lot, but what's crazy is that through this experience I have been exposed to more, and I realized that we have only skimmed the surface despite the extensive progress we have made. This speaks to the complexity of this issue. It's exciting to make a little headway, but its is also daunting to know what still lies ahead for us in terms of changing this whole thing (assuming that we can). I guess the best thing I can say is that I hope we all can remain optimistic and hopefully that we can continue to correct this error in the conception of race. We can see all the different areas of life that have been affected by this error, and we can work to make changes to each of these areas, and eventually hopefully rid our world of the negative aspects of this error.

Anyway, keep of trucking. To you graduating folk: good luck with your future endeavors. To you non-graduating folk: see you around, hope finals are going well. To all: hopefully 2012 doesn't bring a zombie apocalypse, but if it does, hopefully we can transcend race and hatred (at least towards living humans) during that time.

Later y'all.

"Obama Killed Osama"


Since the announcement of Osama's death, I have been interested in the how this will play out racially in the United States. Will there be a heightened sense of fear and racism amongst Arabs and the article I just posted just shows that everything that we have talked about in this class needs to be discussed on a larger level. Our society needs to be educated about race and racism. I am astonished by this article and its continuation of the black and white divide. Osama's death is not a win for black america. When will our society learn. And how can we progress when everything goes back to something that is not really real, race? Just a thought.

We're all racist in some aspect...What are we going to do about it?

I think this class has taught us that we are all racist in some aspect, but the real issue is to not accept this and move on and continue to live our lives and do nothing about it. We have learned different philosophical arguments about race and we have torn them apart and considered how they are true in our society. I want to thank the class for helping me to realize my racist tendencies and for being open enough to allow critical discussion to go on in our class without anyone taking offense to other thoughts about race that are solely based on individual experience.

I want to challenge everyone in the class to not just take everything that we have read, discussed, and blogged about since January and forget it. I challenge everyone to take a stand and make a promise to continue to fight the little racist that has been planted inside of us because of society, experience, or what ever the reason may be. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Now that I will be graduating, I think this class was the most appropriate class to take before I left Rhodes because it actually allowed me to participate in a rigorous thought process about myself and others. I wish everyone success in their future endeavors. Be Blessed.


In the end...

To think that we spent five months reversing the illogical assumptions that society forced us to believe in shows just how engrained the concept of race truly is. It was refreshing to learn that race is not truly "real." However, I'm confused why this is not better made known. You would think that those fighting for civil rights would advertise that race is not a scientifically backed idea; it is simply a group of assumptions made by elitist, white philosophers.

I think my favorite essay was part one of Charles Mills' book. I enjoyed his explanation of white vs. black philosophies. The thing I will never forget is the part where he explains that those who are less oppressed have the freedom to question their existence while those who are oppressed feel the weight of their existence every day. I always thought that questioning one's existence was a hard thing to do, but I now realize that it is a luxury to disconnect yourself from this world.

I hope that I can share the things I learned in this class with other people. I am still confused on some things, and I hope to clarify my questions in my years at Rhodes. I hope that I will be strong enough to personally combat racism.

I was really intimidated the first couple of weeks in the class, but everyone was really nice and I learned a lot from the other people in the class. I have never taken a class like this one, but I really enjoyed the honest atmosphere.

I wish everyone the best in whatever they choose to do. Thanks for a good class.


This class has greatly broadened my understanding of racial classifications. While we may deny any intrinsic value that a race has on the grounds that race is a constructed idea, I am still amazed at the diversity of racial identities that have developed and the dynamic ways in which they interact. On an individual level, in the classroom for example, it is easy to acknowledge one another’s humanity. It disgusts me to think about one person enslaving another, but the reality is that this way common practice not so long ago. Fanon made me realize that I can never understand what it is like for the colonized living under a colonizer. This class has taught me just how privileged I am. This semester I also took Dr Johnson’s Human Rights class, and there is a lot of overlap. We discussed how often times the people whose human rights are being violated often receive very little recognition from the government. Race is an underlying factor, and I think many people still harbor subliminal racist tendencies. On the surface racial relations seem to be greatly improving. We’ve made great strides since the civil rights movement.
Still, many African Americans remain in poverty, a situation very difficult to overcome no matter how hard one works. Instead of sympathy, these people often elicit negative racial stereotypes—welfare checks, laziness, and poor education. These traits do not characterize a race; they are signs of poverty and hopelessness. Though free in theory, these people are materially oppressed and are forced to work lousy jobs for low pay because these are the only openings available to them. As soon as I figure out how to upload it, I will post the documentary Ryley Erhardt and I shot. In it we interview a variety of characters, from street people, to restaurant personnel, to public safety officers. Talking to them made me realize that race still plays a large role in Memphis. I was also amazed to see how different people’s lives can be. In our documentary, a lawyer says that there is a difference between the real homeless and people who just panhandle. There may be some cases in which a panhandler could be doing something more productive with his life, but it is my opinion that if he knew an honest way to make a substantially greater amount of money, he would do it. For many of these people, they do not have the option to help themselves.

Its been a really great semester and I have learned a ton. Thanks everyone, and have a great summer and life!

Thank you!

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for contributing to such an open and ongoing discussion about race. Race is not an easy topic to discuss; although race is not biologically “real,” people still seem view both themselves and others as “raced.” The existing friction between these two mindsets can easily become the white elephant in the room. However, there was no white elephant in our classroom this semester. Rather, we tackled such difficult questions by sharing our personal beliefs and opinions. Even when disagreements arose, I never felt as though I, or someone else, was being personally attacked. As Kimberly noted, our ability to incorporate a sense of humor in our discussion was most inspiring. It was this sense of humor that made me look forward to class each day.

Furthermore, and perhaps not surprisingly, this course was one of the most diverse classes that I have been a part of at Rhodes, in regards to both race and opinion. Although Rhodes prides itself on being an open-minded campus, it is difficult to provoke friendly debate when people are, more often than not, same-minded. Again, I’m grateful that we embraced, rather than ignored, such differences. This course will impact my perceptions and interactions with others well after graduation in a positive way, so, thank you!


I've certainly learned a lot from this class, and I want to thank all of you for the great discussions we've had. I apologize if I raised my hand too many times to babble on about genetics, but science is all I can really bring to the table in a class with many philosophy majors.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I learned and the most important thing to take away from this class were and I considered my stance of elimitivism (again). I don't see elminativism and conservatism as so diametric anymore. For the most part, I think conservationists agree with eliminativists on the fact that race does not exist scientifically, but what that entails is where they differ. One argues that the concept of race is still useful, and the other argues that since it has no basis in science, we should throw out the whole idea. Obviously these two ideological camps have implications for political change, but I think they agree on the most important problem facing the US. They both agree that it should be taught in schools that there is no scientific basis for race. This to me it the idea that has the most potential to change the racial situation in America.

If we begin to teach children at an early age that there is no scientific basis for race (obviously in terms best suited for young minds), then their prejudices they develop over their adolescence can be minimized and hopefully even eliminated. Certainly, there will be those who are indoctrinated by their surroundings to believe that race exists and therefore racism is okay, but at least those individuals will have the ability to choose between the two ideologies. I believe there exists in every human a compassion for other humans, and if this it true the net gain for educating our children on race will be a positive one.

Things Done Changed

I have thoroughly enjoyed this class, especially our class discussions. It was really eye opening to hear how differently we all think about race. While we might be quick to say that Rhodes is its own bubble etc. we still have different opinions and feelings about topics like race; we can’t all be grouped together as Rhodes students for any other reason than we go to the college. This relates back to the point that we reiterated throughout class that there is not a characteristic of a race that applies to every member of that race. Assuming that all Rhodes students feel the same about something is like assuming that all members of a race feel same, which we know is not true. Race is something that we don’t get the opportunity to talk about outside of close company and such so being able to hear perspectives from students we wouldn’t usually interact with.

At the beginning of this course I thought races were real things, but as the semester went on, I found myself straying more and more from that belief. I totally identify with Appiah in his assertion that nothing can do for us everything we ask the term race to do. Since race has been a force in our lives since we can remember we take it for granted that it is a real thing. My time in this course, however, showed me that race is something people have created and we don’t have to continue employing it. There is no “us” and “they” but rather we are all people together. We have our various similarities and differences but they are not the result of our supposed race. I don’t identify nor agree with every white person I meet; why wouldn’t it be the same for individuals from other races?

At this point I believe not only that race is not an objectively real thing, but we must eliminate it so as to save ourselves from the faults caused by that concept. I believe now the problem is not so much one of non-white disadvantage, but of white privilege. Whiteness has become the norm of society and anything else is a deviation. It is not enough to simply do away with race; instead we must restructure society so that race is no longer an essential component. While non-whites have struggled and put true effort into erasing racial injustice, whites have remained passive, denying racism yet not working towards its elimination. Its time for whites to become active in the effort to overcome racism so that we can all unite as humans to protect each other’s interests, thereby protecting our own.


As we come to a close of the class, I want to say that I appreciate being able to openly share and listen in on ideas concerning race with people outside of my race. Being immersed in racial discussions with students outside my own provided and even clearer view on how we view one another as opposed to the more biased and close-minded discussions that a group has amongst one another. Even though we needed to be immersed in he different philosophers who attempted to tackle race issues, I would have liked to read more on real life examples of racial issues, modern until present, because I think it the presents more vivid images concerning the dynamics of racial concepts. I didn't really begin to see that until the second half of the course while reading Mills. I was able to engage in discussions more than I had previously when simply going over different philosophers and their ideologies.

I also appreciate the fact that, as a class, we could discuss race with altercations considering that race is a very touchy subject for all in some aspect. It shows the level of maturity that the class has provided in shaping our ideas about race. Although one race may not relate or agree with another, that does not mean that there is no level of understanding. And that is what I think I have gained more from this class, is not necessarily sympathy, but a deeper level of understanding for different races and the skills needed to approach different race in real life experiences.

Now It Is Time to Bring Things to a Close...

Dear class,

The past semester with you all has been an interesting one. I enjoyed hearing your separate perspectives on the issues that we've encountered in class. The discussions were never dull. I found myself considering race from a variety of angles when it previously had never occurred to me to do so.

To elaborate on my response to Mae's post, I feel that students do take courses like this one that focus on social issues simply to talk about these issues. That was what I expected prior to taking this course. I did not expect that I would feel motivated past speaking on such issues, into doing something about them. I had previously never considered race past the idea of its being a social construct, as a construct that could be deconstructed. I still have a certain amount of skepticism as to the complete elimination of race. However, it does seem more possible somehow after taking this course and gaining a broader understanding of the topic as a whole. I believe that it was of much value to me to have taken this course because I have become more aware of the various facets of the racial issues that are embedded within our society. Some of the examples that were presented in class as white privilege never arose in my mind as injustices that should be combated. It is interesting how race has evolved and I appreciated being able to touch on such topics in class.

Overall I believe that I have been properly equipped to think about race critically and I was pleased with the results of this course. I am glad that I gained more out of this course than just an overview of the history of racial issues in America. I truly enjoyed the fact that we were able to think deeply about different concepts in class and to work together to develop solutions to problems in our society. It is commendable that no one felt the need to accept defeat when considering the nature and immensity of the problem at hand. I appreciated that there was always a willingness to come up with solutions and to share ideas. It was very refreshing. But thank you all for your contributions to this experience. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What is the next step?

This class has really made me think about how people interpret why we have race in America. I have taken Philosophy of Race with all of you, plus Athro: Race and Human Relations. This past Thursday on the last day of class we talked about what the next step is. Yes we have all established that Rhodes college screams privilege, and we have issues within out campus in terms of diversity. We talk about the issues that we have in terms of how deep the system of race is in America, but how do we start to cut this idea down? Broadly we have spoken about the issues outside our gates, but before we talk about those issues we should change the diversity issues within our campus. I have no clue where to start, but I have been thinking about this a lot. Sometimes I feel weird bringing up these issues because I am of the white race, and therefore I have this "privilege of whiteness" which we have been talking about these last couple of weeks. It's a difficult issue to speak about, and something that a majority of our population wouldn't doesn't even think is an issue because of their color blindness. A majority of our population in the US think that we are an "equal" society. I just feel like we take these classes to take them, and not really try to go out and change things about these issues. I for one am stuck on how we can even come close to the deconstruction of Race in America, but I think with the amount of help Rhodes gets on and off campus we can give it a try.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How Structural Discrimination Affects Mental Health

I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler, a clinical psychologist who researches how social structures affect the mental health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations. The body of his research reveals that a higher percentage of homosexuals have been diagnosed with mental health disorders compared to heterosexuals, especially in regions where same sex marriage is banned. Given these statistics, Hatzenbuehler suggests that structural discrimination motivates LGB people to adopt psychological mechanisms that combat the negative stigma attached to their sexual orientation. Such mechanisms are often the precursor to mental health disorders. Furthermore, Hatzenbuehler has found that suicide rates are higher for both heterosexuals and homosexuals in states where LGB populations are structurally discriminated against, determined by a host of criteria. Consequently, Hatzenbuehler is a proponent for community-based interventions that promote acceptance and tolerance for LGB populations.

I believe Hatzenbuehler's research could be extended to several minority populations. Although mental health disorders were not as widely studied before the civil rights movement, it would be interesting to see if structural discrimination, such as segregation, had similar effects on the mental health of racial minorities. Regardless of how far we have come, I do not doubt for a second that similar results would exist even today. As we have discussed in class, our society places normative value on being both white and heterosexual. If one does not identify with either of these groups, how does it impact their health and wellbeing? Evidently, discrimination influences people both externally and internally. Hatzenbuehler’s overwhelming evidence is frightening. I do not think people realize the dramatic consequences of such public prejudice and discrimination, such as banning same sex marriages or depicting black crime on news channels.

If you're interested in reading more about Hatzenbuehler’s research, here is a link to one of his articles: