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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Philosophy Professor Examines Race and Racism

Issues of race and racism have always been explosive topics in American history, politics, society, and the academy. Philosophy Professor Lawrence Blum examines the barriers that obstruct discussions of racial matters inside the classroom and out in his latest book, I’m not a Racist, But…The Moral Quandary of Race. The work, five years in the making for the moral philosopher, draws upon sociological, historical, and scientific perspectives to examine racism and race.

“Race is a morally destructive idea,” Blum argues. In the book, he provides a synthesis of research on race and racism, discussing the construction of racial categories and the role of social inequality in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. He also examines the phenomena of racial discrimination, color blindness, white privilege, institutional racism, and selective racism.

“I want to help people to talk about racial issues across racial and ethnic boundaries in classrooms,” Blum explains. “The category of race plays an important role in how people look at the world.”

He believes the epithet “racist” has been overused and believes that people can use a more varied and nuanced moral vocabulary, including such as racial insensitivity, racial ignorance, racial injustice, and racial anxiety, to communicate problematic moral responses to race.

Blum, also a distinguished professor of liberal arts and education, has worked at UMass Boston for 29 years as a faculty member in the Philosophy Department. In recognition of his work, which includes his two other books, Moral Perception and Particularity and Friendship, Altruism, and Morality, he was named the Kohlberg Lecturer in 1998 by the Association of Moral Education. His current book has been published by the Cornell University Press.

(This article appeared in The University Reporter. )