"Responsible Mixed Race Politics"

a presentation by

Ronald Robles Sundstrom

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of San Francisco

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Board Room, Stanford Humanities Center, 4:00-6:00 PM

Reading: Draft version of "Responsible Mixed Race Politics"

Abstract: The harshest critics of mixed-race have claimed that the identity is self-indulgent and irresponsible, because it evades or, worse, is complicit in racism. Such strident condemnations of mixed-race identity are dogmatic and uncharitable. In "Being & Being Mixed Race," I argued that mixed-race is a real social identity and that it need not be morally illegitimate. In this essay I return to the topic of the relationship between mixed-race identity and politics and the dynamics of racism. There are disturbing trends in mixed-race literature and organizations that precisely are irresponsible in the way critics of the mixed-race movement have asserted. I criticize these developments, and counter that mixed-race individuals and groups have a special obligation to resist racism and to refuse the "wages of whiteness" that accrue from their mixed-race status. Although all persons have a moral obligation to reject and resist racism, mixed-race individuals and groups have special obligations that are based on their own experience of race and racism, and their place in the history and experience of race and racism in America. Just as mixed-race persons argue that they are morally obligated to remember and affirm their complex family histories-to not forget their mothers-they have an equal obligation to remember the significance of their personal history in the history of race in America: we have an equal obligation to the memories of our grandmothers.

Ronald Robles Sundstrom is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco. Before joining the philosophy department at USF in 2003, Professor Sundstrom was a member of the graduate philosophy faculty at the University of Memphis from 1999 to 2003. He is a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status of Blacks in Philosophy, and is the co-organizer of the California Roundtable on Philosophy and Race. His areas of research include race theory, political and social philosophy, African and Asian American philosophy, and philosophy and geography. He has published several essays in these areas, including "Being & Being Mixed Race" (Social Theory and Practice 27, 2001), "Racial Nominalism" (Journal of Social Philosophy 33:2, 2002), "Race and Place: social space in the production of human kinds" (Philosophy and Geography (6:1, 2003), and "Douglass & Du Bois's der Schwarze Volksgeist" (Race And Racism In Continental Philosophy, Indiana, 2003). USF has recently awarded him a Davies Forum Award for his work on the topic or racism, violence, and the law. Additionally, he is completing a book on contemporary challenges in race theory: The Browning of America and The Evasion of Social Justice (SUNY).

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