To hear the contemporary professoriate tell it, it isn’t just mathematics that promotes “whiteness.”
John Caputo and George Yancy are philosophers who agree that reason itself is “a function of whiteness.” In 2015, Yancy, a black man, interviewed Caputo, a white man, for a series appearing in the New York Times. In “Looking ‘White’ in the Face,” Yancy remarks that “the task of engaging race or whiteness in philosophy has been taken up almost exclusively by nonwhite philosophers.”
Whiteness, Yancy maintains, “is a site of privilege that makes it invisible to many white philosophers.” Moreover, “some white philosophers would rather avoid thinking about how their own whiteness raises deeper philosophical questions about identity, power, and hegemony, as this raises the question of personal responsibility.”
Professor Caputo agrees: “‘White,’” he says, “is of the utmost relevance to philosophy…and ‘we’ white philosophers cannot ignore it [.]” Elaborating, he states: “White is not ‘neutral.’ ‘Pure’ reason is lily white, as if white is not a color or is closest to the purity of the sun, and everything else is ‘colored.’”
What all of this implies is that whatever “is not white is not rational.” So, “white” is indeed “philosophically relevant and needs to be philosophically critiqued [.]”
Caputo thinks that “racism arises from a profound fear of the other” and that professional white philosophers tend not to write about “racism…in part because of a certain thoughtlessness [.]”
To be more thoughtful on this score, Caputo suggests that Yancy and other non-whites “interrupt” their white counterparts “and ask, ‘To what extent is everything you just said a function of being white?’”
In summary, these two professional philosophers, one black, the other white, agree that “reason,” at least as philosophers understood it, is a “function of whiteness.” As such, it promotes “racism.”
Being a professional philosopher myself, I find this exchange at once comical, exacerbating, and, ultimately, tragic. It is its comedic dimension, though, that I’d like to focus upon here.
First, although they clearly style themselves envelope-pushers, the reality is that on this topic of race and racism (as well as on many others) the overwhelming majority of contemporary academic philosophers are indistinguishable from Yancy and Caputo, who are in turn ideologically indistinguishable from one another.
That is to say, the overwhelming majority of contemporary academic philosophers, like Yancy and Caputo, are doctrinaire leftists.
Second, as was noted above in focusing on the esoteric-like vocabulary in which Yancy and Caputo trade, in listening to (or reading) their dialogue one could be forgiven for thinking that one is getting a glimpse into a secret society or cult. Both the terms peddled by contemporary academic philosophers as well as their obsessive preoccupation with the racialization of all things supply a window into the worldview of the Initiated.
Finally, and most importantly, this worldview shared by Yancy, Caputo, and, to repeat, the vast majority of academic philosophers (and Humanities faculty generally) is ultimately incoherent. Of course, its proponents can’t recognize this fact because they haven’t the courage to abandon their “thoughtlessness,” to borrow Yancy’s and Caputo’s term. They haven’t the courage to think through the implications of their position.
(1)While Caputo and Yancy are busy equating philosophy or “reason” with “whiteness” and sweating over a solution to what they obviously take to be a very big problem, they fail to realize that in proposing as the remedy a “critique” of “whiteness,” they in effect propose to…strengthen their problem! To critique is to rationally critique. If reason is a species of whiteness, then to exercise reason—even in a critique of reason—is to reinforce whiteness.
(2)If reason is whiteness, then so too is the English language, the language in which Caputo and Yancy speak and write and in which the paper—the New York Times—for which Yancy conducts his interviews of professional philosophers is printed.
So too is America the equivalent of whiteness, for it was named by those whites who settled it and in honor of the (white) Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci.
So too is the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence tantamount to whiteness, for they were written by white men—Southern, slave-holding, white men—and sanctioned by white men.
So too, then, is the free speech that Yancy and Caputo take for granted a product of whiteness.
So too is the idea of the University, where Yancy and Caputo are paid to write and lecture about whiteness, a species of whiteness, for it is part of the legacy of the European world.
So too, then, is the notion of Academic Freedom that Yancy and Caputo prize saturated in whiteness.
So too is the ideal of Equality that Yancy and Caputo cherish “a function of whiteness.”
So too is the ideal of Diversity that Yancy and Caputo value a matter of whiteness.
In his critique of whiteness, Caputo refers to “the Cartesian ego cogito and Kant’s transcendental consciousness” as “white male Euro-Christian construction(s).” He is referring to the theories of two of Western civilization’s greatest thinkers, Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant, respectively. Though their conceptions of personal identity are not explicitly Christian, they would have been inconceivable had it not been for the “Euro-Christian” tradition from which, as Caputo rightly notes, Descartes and Kant both hail.
This is to say that Descartes and Kant both affirmed the Individual. Kant in particular grounded his case for the inviolable dignity of all persons in his theory of “transcendental consciousness,” the capacity, unique to persons, for rational thought.
The point is this: The very idea that it is a problem that reason is a function of whiteness is itself a function of whiteness.
If whiteness promotes “Euro-Christian hegemony” over non-whites and non-Christians, and whiteness is, then, an evil to be eliminated, this could only be because the Individual has inviolable moral worth, an inherent dignity that transcends considerations of race, gender, ethnicity, and so forth. Yet the Individual is to Euro-Christian thought what apple pie is to America.
The Individual is “a function of whiteness.”
We’ve now come full circle. The Yancys and Caputos of the present academy are the proverbial dog chasing its tail: In order to critique “whiteness” they must affirm “whiteness.” To put it even more clearly, only those who affirm “whiteness” could have a problem with “whiteness,” and the solution to “whiteness” must itself be “a function of whiteness.”
But I suppose that in identifying the self-contradiction at the heart of their worldview and insisting upon rational consistency, the Yancys and Caputos would accuse me of advancing “whiteness.”