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Research

Unpublished drafts available upon request

My research draws on resources from philosophy, the Black radical tradition, and the social sciences to develop a philosophical reconstruction of the concept of racism according to an influential strain of anti-racist theory and practice. I identify two key features in this tradition: racism is understood primarily as a system of race-based oppression, and the term “racism” is used primarily as an explanatory concept. I develop this basic idea in three interrelated projects. In the first project, I develop an original theory of racism as a systemic and explanatory concept. I also defend my view from key objections. The second project builds on my theory of racism to address broader debates in social philosophy. The third project explores the ethical implications of my theory of racism. In a fourth project, I expand the scope of my analysis of racism to Latin America and the Latinx diaspora. I am particularly interested in clarifying and assessing criticisms of latinidad and mestizaje as racist and colonial political projects.

Is Conceptual Inflation a Problem for a Theory of Institutional Racism?

Published in Ethics

Pre-print available here

I address the objection that the concept of racism has become overly inflated. The charge of conceptual inflation is often leveled against conceptions of racism that go beyond the traditional understanding of racism as race-based ill-will or disregard. Theories of institutional racism are a common target of conceptual inflation critics, especially when they ascribe racism to institutions partly in virtue of their impact. Conceptual inflation critics argue that theories of institutional racism engage in untoward conceptual inflation insofar as they undermine our moral understanding of racial phenomena, hinder our ability to explain the causes of racial inequality, and even undercut struggles for racial justice. I develop an original account of institutional racism that is immune to all three versions of the conceptual inflation challenge.

Is Affirmative Action Racist? Reflections Toward a Theory of Institutional Racism

I defend impact-based accounts of institutional racism against the criticism that they are over-inclusive. If having a negative impact on non-whites suffices to make an institution racist, too many institutions (including institutions whose affirmative action policies inadvertently harm their intended beneficiaries) would count as racist. To address this challenge, I consider a further necessary condition for these institutions to count as racist—they must stand in a particular relation to racist ideology. I argue that, on the impact-based model, institutions are racist if they have a negative racial impact AND this impact is legitimized by racist ideology. Racist ideologies limit social criticism of and collective action against institutions that have a negative racial impact, and in so doing, lend stability to systems of racial domination. 

Racism: A Moral or Explanatory Concept?

 

Published in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

Pre-print available here

I argue that racism should not only be conceived as a moral concept whose main aim is to condemn severe wrongs in the domain of race. The paper advances a complementary interpretation of racism as an explanatory concept—one that plays a key role in explaining race-based social problems afflicting members of subordinate racialized groups. As an explanatory concept, the term “racism” is used to diagnose and highlight the causes of race-related social problems. The project of diagnosing race-based social problems contributes to the pragmatic anti-racist end of developing better political and policy strategies for solving these social problems. This social-philosophical project builds on and contributes to social-scientific approaches to the study of racism. It includes clarifying methodological (e.g. the debate between methodological individualism and holism) and ontological issues (e.g. the nature of “race”, “white supremacy”, “implicit bias”, “institutional racism”) that feature in social-scientific explanations of race-related social problems.

Paper on Mariátegui and Mestizaje

Under review

Mestizaje occupies a privileged position in Latin American and Latinx philosophy. However, mestizaje has also been rightly criticized for its role in perpetuating racial and colonial oppression in Latin America and the Latinx diaspora. I identify three strategies adopted by Latinx philosophers who acknowledge these criticisms as valid. First, disentangling our preferred conception of mestizaje from the ideological conception of mestizaje that has been historically dominant (Gracia, Alcoff, Ortega, Pitts). Second, letting go of mestizaje altogether (Covarrubias-Cabeza). Third, identifying a conception of mestizaje that has not been historically dominant and can open the possibility of a mestizaje otherwise—one whose starting point is the denunciation of racial and colonial oppression (Nuccetelli). In this paper, I focus on the third strategy. After discarding Nuccetelli's proposal of Simon Bolivar's mestizaje model as a good candidate for a mestizaje otherwise, I examine whether José Carlos Mariátegui’s anti-colonial and indigenous-centric mestizaje model is a better alternative. Ultimately, I argue that Mariátegui’s mestizaje model is also unable to offer us a solid foundation to salvage mestizaje.

Paper on the Moralism Critique of Anti-Racism

Complete draft available upon request

According to the charge of moralism, anti-racists are overly focused on condemning others of the “sin of racism”. Moralism critics accuse anti-racists of adopting a stance of moral superiority on matters of race and of being quick to label those who do not meet their exacting moral standards as “racists” who deserve to be shamed, shunned, or even “canceled”. My first goal is to show that many criticisms of contemporary anti-racism in public discourse (e.g. wokeness, cancel culture, moral grandstanding, conceptual inflation) can be helpfully understood through the lens of a more general critique of anti-racism as moralistic. My second goal is to show that the moralism critique fails—at least with respect to an influential strain of contemporary anti-racism, i.e. radical black feminist pragmatism. I highlight two features of the political philosophy of RBFP that are incompatible with moralism—the focus on diagnosing and solving social problems produced by racial oppression, and the commitment to transformative justice.

Work in Progress

Positional Interests and Structural Explanations of Oppression (first draft in progress)

Mariátegui's Indo-American Socialism and the Problem of Racialized Solidarity (first draft in progress)

How is Racism Systemic?

Analyzing Systems of Racial Oppression: Micro, Meso, and Macro Levels

Racism as an Explanatory Concept

Structural Explanations in Social Philosophy

Racial Apathy, Moral Ignorance, and Willful IgnoranceWhat (If Anything) Is Worth Saving from Latinidad?

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