My research aims to dismantle structures of oppression and domination – especially racist structures. As I see it, restricted opportunities for self-development and meaningful social contribution (oppression), and restricted opportunities to participate in decision-making processes that affect one’s life (domination), are the primary obstacles to human flourishing. A consistent pitfall that I see in both academic and non-academic efforts to address oppression and domination, however, is the general tendency to resort to moralistic solutions. What I mean is: social change becomes wholly reducible to inwardly directed action aimed at “fixing” oneself and doing what is “right,” rather than outwardly directed action aimed at addressing social conditions that normalize – and often reward – problematic patterns of action or inaction.
My approach to addressing oppression and domination prioritizes democratization – i.e., creating and sustaining healthy balances of power – across all spheres of social life. This commitment to democratization necessitates that we take responsibility for how society and its institutions enable and/or restrict individual and collective action toward goals, and the formulation of those goals. Such responsibility demands that we combat coercive forms of power that function to impose constrained conditions (material and psychological) for action on certain individuals and groups, and prevent them from codetermining the political, ethical, economic, aesthetic, and epistemic norms by which we are bound. The hope is that this ongoing struggle for empowerment will secure conditions that enable people to meaningfully exercise their agency and cultivate a healthy sense of self-worth.
I draw inspiration from a plurality of sources, and my thought is particularly indebted to Africana Philosophy, Critical Philosophy of Race, Phenomenology and Existential philosophy, Decolonial Theory, and Feminist philosophy. By engaging marginalized traditions and theorists, I aspire to diversify and expand the philosophical canon, while offering innovative ways to address persistent philosophical problems and contemporary real-world issues.
“Decolonization as Existential Paradox: Lewis Gordon’s Political Commitment to Thinking Otherwise and Setting Afoot a New Humanity,” Sartre Studies International 27:2 (2021) https://doi.org/10.3167/ssi.2021.270212
AbstractThis paper examines the work of Lewis Gordon in order to decolonize “Euromodernity” and its intersecting structures (racism, patriarchy, capitalism, and liberalism). I argue that Euromodern colonization has resulted in the global imposition of a corrupted conception of the human being, as well as structures intended to prop up and sustain it, ultimately producing a dehumanizing world-system that works toward the privatization of freedom and power. Following Gordon, I suggest that we must begin “thinking otherwise” to remove the yoke that is asphyxiating our imaginative and normative resources, and to revitalize politics to challenge a form of power that aims to dominate reality at the expense of human (and non-human) life and flourishing. Inevitably, though, we must also act, despite having no guarantees of what the future will bring, revealing the existential paradox of decolonization.
Contemporary “Structures” of Racism: A Sartrean Contribution to Resisting Racial Injustice,” Sartre Studies International 25:2 (2019) https://doi.org/10.3167/ssi.2019.250205
AbstractThis paper develops an account of racism as rooted in social structural processes. Using Sartre, I attempt to give a general analysis of what I refer to as the “structures” of our social world, namely the practico-inert, serial collectives, and social groups. I then apply this analysis to expose and elucidate “racist structures,” specifically those that are oftentimes assumed to be ‘race neutral’. By highlighting structures of racial oppression and domination, I aim to justify: 1) the imperative of creating conditions free from oppression and domination, over the adherence to ‘ideal’ principles which perpetuate racial injustice; 2) the shared responsibility we have collectively to resist and transform social structural processes that continue to produce racial injustice.
“Responsibility for Violence: Scarcity and the Imperative of Democratic Equality,” Radical Philosophy Review 22:2 (2019) https://doi.org/10.5840/radphilrev20197996
AbstractThis paper critically examines violence, and our shared responsibility for it. Drawing on insights from Jean-Paul Sartre, I develop the correlation between scarcity and violence, emphasizing scarcity as agential lack that results from conditions of oppression and domination. In order to develop this correlation between scarcity and violence, I examine the racial dimension of violence in the U.S. Following this analysis, I claim that we all share responsibility for the social structural processes in which we participate that produce scarcity. On these grounds, I argue for the imperative of democratic equality, i.e., conditions for the self-development and self-determination of all.
Resisting the myth of ‘post-racial’ America and sharing responsibility for injustice (March 2018) WHYY.org
Works in Progress
“The Ideology of Racism: Unveiling 'Race Neutrality'”
AbstractThis paper offers an “ideology-critique” in order to expose norms – namely, impartiality, merit, natural rights, and autonomy – which function to perpetuate racial injustice. Borrowing concept tools from Raymond Geuss, I highlight the ideological properties of each of these norms in order to expose their feigned ‘race neutrality’. For example, I claim that the ideal of impartiality is ideological because it leads to conclusions that affirm ‘particular’ interests under the guise of ‘universal’ interests, making it an explicit method by which cultural imperialism is exercised. Additionally, I argue that the merit principle is ideological because it serves as a method for naturalizing and legitimizing inequality. Next, I assert that the notion of ‘natural rights’ is ideological because said rights are assumed to be ‘natural’, and in light of this assumption, we uncritically consent to them, making it difficult to challenge them even if they exacerbate injustice. Lastly, I argue our positive valuation of autonomy as non-interference fosters oppression and domination because this type of autonomy is impossible for all people coextensively.
“Sharing Responsibility for Racial Injustice”
AbstractBuilding on Iris Marion Young’s “Social Connection Model,” this paper argues for the importance of prioritizing what I refer to as a “shared model of responsibility” when dealing with harms that result from social structural processes. The goal of the “shared responsibility model” is primarily forward-looking, hoping to motivate action to undo structural injustices – specifically racial injustice. I argue that even though responsibility is shared, it isn’t shared equally, outlining differing responsibilities that we have as a result of our social relation to the injustice produced. I also insist that we have a responsibility ‘not to evade responsibility’, highlighting specific methods of evasion commonly employed in the case of racial injustice. I conclude by suggesting that we need to enable people to be more “personally responsible” by creating more just background conditions for self-development and self-determination, or what I refer to as conditions of democratic equality.
“Behind the ‘Hubris of the Zero Point’: Methods for Resisting Epistemic Oppression”
AbstractThis paper scrutinizes the epistemological dimension of racist ideology, specifically how epistemic oppression is maintained through what is taken to be ‘race-neutral’ knowledge that undermines our ability to critique our norms and practices. I argue that we are under the influence of a longstanding racially oppressive and dominant epistemological system – which, following Walter Mignolo, I refer to as “zero point epistemology.” I proceed by highlighting its feigned ‘race-neutrality’ and its oppressive structures, namely what I refer to as the “five faces of epistemic oppression,” borrowing from Iris Marion Young’s formulation of oppression. I conclude by offering measures for combatting such structures, along with alternative norms for epistemic justice – namely the need for a universally inclusive, democratic epistemic community, premised upon active deliberation.
“More than the Material Matters: Du Bois and Rousseau on the Psychic Motivations of White Supremacy”
AbstractThis paper uses Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s conception of amour-propre as a lens to analyze the psychic motivations of white supremacy. Building on Rousseau’s claim that our desire to be esteemed (i.e., a psychic motivation rooted in amour-propre) can feed our tendency to create and preserve inequality, and pairing it with W.E.B. Du Bois’s reading of whiteness as a “public and psychological wage,” I argue that white supremacy has nonmaterial motives that reveal an important dimension of its “staying power.” I then examine how this has been exacerbated by neoliberalism and a commitment to meritocracy that provides psychological justification for our ever-deepening inequality. I conclude by claiming that combatting white supremacy necessitates building a social world that alleviates, rather than exacerbates, the “psychology of inequality.”
“Concrete Morality and Corrective Justice: The Primacy of Non-ideal Theory for Combatting Racial Injustice”
AbstractThis paper defends a notion of “concrete morality” that prioritizes political action in the fight against oppression and domination, over a notion of “abstract morality” which adheres to “ideally just” principles regardless of the injustice that results from doing so. For example, in abstraction, treating everyone the same regardless of their race might appear to be an intuitive method for respecting the dignity of all persons, but in the real world, mutual respect for persons is not so easily attained. It entails a willingness to listen and attend to the concrete particularities of other individuals, especially their appeals for justice. As such, I assert we need to do what is necessary to improve conditions of oppression and domination, even if it entails violating certain “regulative ideals” which we espouse. I conclude by offering particular methods of corrective justice as a means for ameliorating conditions of racial injustice in the United States, specifically addressing state sanctioned violence and educational inequality.
Past and Upcoming Presentations
Race and Media Representation Roundtable Panelist, Core Futures 2021: “Diverse Pasts, Inclusive Futures,” Temple University, March 2021
Reclaimed Legacies Roundtable Panelist (W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King), Tracing Racism and Xenophobia in the Era of COVID-19: The Year in Historical Perspective, Temple University, October 2020
“Thinking through Du Bois’s “Sociology Hesitant”: On the Human Sciences and the Social Construction of Race,” Core Futures 2020: "Race in Core Conference," Temple University, March 2020
“Resisting Willful Ignorance in the Age of Social Media: The “Power” of Democratic Knowing,” Guest Speaker, Arcadia University, April 2018
“Civil Discourse: Examining ‘Post-Racial’ America,” Panel Discussion MercyTalk and NewCORE’s MLK Legacy Conversations, Gwynedd Mercy University, March 2018
“Behind the ‘Hubris of the Zero Point’: Methods for Resisting Epistemic Oppression,” Works in Progress Series, Temple University, November 2017
Commentator, Nkiru Nzegwu’s “Conceptualizing Transformatory Power,” MAP-UPenn Non-western Philosophy Conference: “Global Feminisms,” March 2017
“‘Shade-Tree Theology’: Jean-Marc Ela’s Grassroots Liberation Theology,” Caribbean Philosophical Association “Theorizing from Small Places Conference,” June 2016
“Radical Responsibility: A Sartrean Contribution to an ‘Ethics of Liberation’,” North American Sartre Society Annual Meeting, November 2015
“Sartre and Postcolonial Humanism,” Caribbean Philosophical Association “Diverse Lineages of Existentialism Conference,” June 2014
“Understanding African Identity: Revealing Human Identity,” Boston College Graduate Scholarship Symposium, April 2010