Michael Monahan on Race

Race, Colorblindness, and Continental Philosophy

The “colorblind” society is often offered as a worthy ideal for individual interaction as well as public policy. The ethos of liberal democracy would seem indeed to demand that we comport ourselves in a manner completely indifferent to race (and class, and gender, and so on). But is this ideal of colorblindness capable of fulfillment? And whether it is or not, is it truly a worthy political goal? In order to address these questions, one must first explore the nature of “race” itself. Is it ultimately real, or merely an illusion? What kind of reality, if any, does it have, and what are the practical (moral and political) consequences of its ontological status? This paper will explore the issue of colorblindness, focusing particularly on recent developments dealing with this topic in Continental philosophy. Beginning with the question of racial ontology, I will argue that race has a social reality that makes the practice of colorblindness, at least for the time being, politically untenable, and it may remain suspect even as a long-term goal.

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