[eDebate] Race and Debate

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Mon Apr 14 02:05:36 CDT 2008

since no one responded to my 'white devil's advocacy' (bottom of this post, http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2008-April/074719.html), and whit whitmore forwarded an article by suzanna sherry that offers a similar rebuttal (http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2008-April/074722.html), and an eloquent someone came along to tease out some of the logic inferences for this activity specifically (hereafter the xydebate query, http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2008-April/074787.html), i thought i'd post a helpful quote about the set of arguments mentioned briefly by kevin kuswa which outline one possible response - that is, standpoint epistemology.


theories claim to represent the world from a particular socially
situated perspective that can lay a claim to epistemic privilege or
authority. A complete standpoint theory must specify (i) the social
location of the privileged perspective, (ii) the scope of
its privilege: what questions or subject matters it can claim a
privilege over, (iii) the aspect of the social location that
generates superior knowledge: for example, social role, or subjective
identity; (iv) the ground of its privilege: what it is about
that aspect that justifies a claim to privilege; (v) the type
of epistemic superiority it claims: for example, greater accuracy, or
greater ability to represent fundamental truths; (vi) the other
perspectives relative to which it claims epistemic superiority and
(vii) modes of access to that perspective: is occupying the social
location necessary or sufficient for getting access to the perspective?
Many claims to epistemic privilege on behalf of particular perspectives
with respect to certain questions are commonplace and uncontroversial.
Auto mechanics are generally in a better position than auto consumers
to know what is wrong with their cars. Practical experience in
fulfilling the social role of the mechanic grounds the mechanic's
epistemic privilege, which lays a claim to greater reliability than the
judgments of auto consumers. 

Standpoint theories become controversial when they claim epistemic
privilege over socially and politically contested topics on behalf of
the perspectives of systematically disadvantaged social groups,
relative to the perspectives of the groups that dominate them. The
scope of the claimed privilege includes the character, causes, and
consequences of the social inequalities that define the groups in
question. This type of standpoint theory classically claims
three types of epistemic privilege over the standpoint of dominant
groups: First, it claims to offer deep over surface knowledge of
society: the standpoint of the disadvantaged reveals the fundamental
regularities that drive the phenomena in question, whereas the
standpoint of the privileged captures only surface regularities.
Second, in virtue of this, it claims to offer superior knowledge of the
modality of surface regularities, and thus superior knowledge of human
potentialities. Where the standpoint of the privileged tends to
represent existing social inequalities as natural and necessary, the
standpoint of the disadvantaged correctly represents them as socially
contingent, and shows how they could be overcome. Third, it claims to
offer a representation of the social world in relation to universal
human interests. By contrast, the standpoint of the privileged
represents social phenomena only in relation to the interests of the
privileged class, but ideologically misrepresents these interests as
coinciding with universal human interests._this provides us with a framework to answer many of the questions in the xydebate query: anti-racists in debate are, it's true, laying claim to an epistemic privilege, one grounded in the standpoint of the racially disadvantaged. for me, by the way, laying claim to this privilege doesn't necessitate actually being black. after all, clarence thomas (to over-use an example) has black skin, and whites can present black perspectives as ably as anyone. so there goes the tedious line of questioning (so-called "burning questions") regarding 'reverse discrimination' (not-so-called). also note that one can oppose 'the fundamental regularities that drive certain phenomena' without accusing individuals of wrong-doing or making things too personal. the xydebate query mentions forgiveness, and a famous jew who was quite big on that was once quoted to say, "forgive them, father; they know not what they do". xydebate's model of social phenomena over-relies on the conscious choices of individuals; institutions may be inter-subjective, but they're also discursive, and it's often near-impossible to tell who is in charge - us or our traditions. as racism has gone from overt to covert to (now, primarily) unconscious, attacks against select individuals lose much of their relevance... unless they're just being jerks, of course. that's why i wrote that it can both be true that 'the race card' is being unfairly played and that the racism of those who oppose change is really pervasive: 'we know not what we do' - or in pomo-jargon, we're not always consciously aware of the discursive practices we pass on.

some great posts of late, and i feel better for having read them... 
even though e-debate is clearly beneath someone of my superior intellect.

...i mean, i am half-white after all.    ;)
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