Racial Norms: A Reinterpretation of Du Bois' “The Conservation of Races”

Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (4):465-487 (2013)

Abstract

I argue that standard explanations of Du Bois' theory of race inappropriately characterize his view as attempting to provide descriptive criteria for races. Such an interpretation makes it both susceptible to Appiah's circularity objection and alienates it from Du Bois' central project of solidarity—which is the central point of “Conservation.” I propose that we should understand his theory as providing a normative account of race: an attempt to characterize what some races should be in terms of what other races are. In providing such an account I will also show how my interpretation of Du Bois' criteria avoids the circularity objection by making the criteria central to the project of solidarity. Thus, this interpretation avoids what I take to be the two main problems with standard descriptive explanations of Du Bois' criteria

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