We need to talk about race. (And sex, and ability, and class and gender, and …)

This post has been corrected. It initially (and mistakenly) stated that there are only 2 (racialised-as-) black philosophers employed in philosophy departments in the UK. It turns out that there are at least 4 who are employed as lecturers or research associates (Dr Mahlet Zimeta, Dr Patrice HaynesDr James Wilson, and Dr Nathaniel Coleman). Of course this doesn’t undermine the point that philosophy has far to go before it can really be considered an inclusive discipline – more stats to support this point here. Thanks to Jules Holroyd for pointing out this mistake, and my apologies to anyone who I inadvertently overlooked.

How many black philosophers were you taught by? How many have you read? Chances are, the answer to both of these questions is ‘none’. Clearly our profession has problems with the underrepresentation of groups other than women. The good news is that the issue of underrepresentation of all minorities – both in philosophy, and in academia more widely – is starting to gain traction in the UK.

Complete equality in philosophy won’t happen overnight, but the efforts of groups like SWIP UK and Feminist Philosophers have shown that a large impact can be made in just a few years. (Take the Gendered Conference Campaign, which has pushed the issue of gender representation to the top of the list of priorities of most conference organisers). Now is the time for all of us to to think about all minorities in philosophy. Think of any undergraduates you know who aren’t white, male, able-bodied, middle-class native speakers… If we start to make changes to redress the balance in our profession now, then by the time they are ready to go on the job market they could be assessed completely fairly, on the basis of their philosophical ability, rather than partially (and implicity, but unfairly) on whether they fit an outdated stereotype of what a philosopher looks like. That would make philosophy better for everyone.

With this in mind, we have two exciting pieces of news for you – one is about the EWPG, and one is about PPLS and the University more widely.

First up, we are very pleased to announce that the EWPG has had our application to become a MAP Chapter accepted. If you haven’t heard of MAP then check out mapforthegap.com – in short, they (we?!) are a group of students who aim to “examine and address issues of minority participation in academic philosophy”. The EWPG are now one of the very first MAP chapters in the UK (scroll down to the bottom of this page to see us alongside Glasgow and KCL). I have no doubt that there will be plenty more joining us, and the dozens of US Chapters, soon.

Historically (and for good reasons) the EWPG has focused mainly on women in philosophy, but as we’ve recently been making an effort to expand our focus to include all underrepresented groups, this partnership with MAP is a great thing.

The second piece of news is that the University of Edinburgh is one of the first universities to apply for the Equality Challenge Unit’s new Race Equality Charter Mark. To earn this award the University will need to identify the barriers to equality that it contains, and to create an action plan to address them. If, or when, an award is made, the University will be required to regularly review and update this action plan. This, too, is a great thing, and should eventually mean greater inclusivity and diversity throughout the University. But it can only make a difference if the University is properly informed about what barriers to equality exist. In order to understand this they need your help, so please do the following three things:

  • Fill out the Race Equality Survey. There are only a few days left to do this, and it just takes ten minutes. Do it now!
  • Keep an eye out for emails inviting you to the PPLS lunchtime workshops on Equality and Diversity. This series is open to all staff and students in PPLS (including faculty, support staff, UGs and PGs), and will address each of the nine Protected Characteristics identified by the Equality Act 2010. The first workshop addressed the characteristic Race, and participants had the opportunity to discuss different “Race Labels”. You can contact Billy Lee for further information.
  • Share this post with your colleagues and (fellow) students, and encourage as many people as possible to fill out the survey and attend the lunchtime workshops.

The EWPG still has a lot to learn, and we hope that by being involved with MAP, and with initiatives that the University run for the Race Equality Charter Mark, we can get better at representing all different groups within philosophy. We need your help to do this as well though. Please talk about what we’re doing with other students and staff, and, as always, if you would like to get involved with the EWPG or the blog in any way, or if you have any suggestions for us, then please feel free to get in touch. We would love to hear from you.


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