Dr. Tommy Curry Drops Science: Why The Concepts Of Color Blindness And Intersectionality Are Dangerous

Dr. Tommy Curry Drops Science: Why The Concepts Of Color Blindness And Intersectionality Are Dangerous


Photo of Dr. Tommy J. Curry. Courtesy of https://philpeople.org/profiles/tommy-j-curry-curry

Philosopher Tommy Curry says it’s a mistake to follow the philosophies of color blindness and intersectionality and it may be dangerous.

The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”

Meanwhile, color blindness is “rooted in the belief that racial group membership and race-based differences should not be taken into account when decisions are made, impressions are formed,
and behaviors are enacted,” according to a paper published in 2012 by the Association for Psychological Science entitled “Racial Color Blindness: Emergence, Practice, and Implications“.

Those who follow the philosophy of racial colorblindness believe that “color blindness can prevent prejudice and discrimination is straightforward: If people or institutions do not even notice
race, then they cannot act in a racially biased manner,” according to the paper, written by Evan P. Apfelbaum, Michael I. Norton, and Samuel R. Sommers.

Others believe that race should always be acknowledged and that not doing so can be dangerous.

When the two philosophies meet under the guise of colorblind intersectionality, it “refers to instances in which whiteness helps to produce and is part of a cognizable social category but is invisible or unarticulated as an intersectional subject position,” wrote Devon W. Carbado, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Law, in a 2013 research paper entitled “Colorblind Intersectionality.” The paper was published by the Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

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Colorblind intersectionality allows people to disregard racism and its historical affects and purposes, noted Curry during an interview at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival 2022, a philosophy and music festival hosted by the Institute of Art and Ideas.

Dr. Curry is considered one of the most prolific U.S.-born race philosophers. Raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, he is a professor of Africana philosophy and Black male studies at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. In 2018, Dr. Curry won an American Book Award for his book, “The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood.”

“People have thought that racism is an illusion, something that can be admitted or not admitted, spoken about or something that’s not be spoken about and somehow that decreases its power,” said
Curry, explaining why the cultural predilection toward color-blindness is dangerous. During his discussion, he also explored why the Intersectionality approach to race is problematic. It can lead to anachronistic readings of different identities, such as Black males, throughout history.

He explained that intersectionality assumes Black people only think of racism and not other social issues or the social issues connected to racism.

He added that color blindness “is a very dangerous habit…rather than seeing how economic barriers and how people’s lives are affected, liberals theorize such that racism is an individual bias.” In other words, if you deal with individual bias, then racism is solved. According to Curry, color blindness fails to look at systemic racism.

Injecting sex via intersectionality dilutes the civil rights that “Black people died fighting for, marched for,” Curry said. “And you ten have white women, because of the injection of gender, benefiting from things like affirmative action” instead of the people it was intended to aid.

Also, by injecting gender, intersectionality separates out the Black woman as having achieved more than the Black man, and then Black man is then dehumanized or looked at as lesser, Curry pointed out.

“For a long time, Black people were understood not to have the gender; they weren’t seen as men and women,” he explained. “You saw Black men protesting (in the 1960s) with signs that said, ‘I am a man.’ Black men were still referred to as boys…So when you have intersectionality it is applying the same general identities throughout history, when you say what applies today also applied in the 1960s when Black people were thought to be animals, I have a problem with that.”

Curry stressed that one can not ignore the ways people are dominated, colonized, and exterminated, and that this was done to “eliminate and target the men of a race or ethnicity.”

Intersectionality, he said, “would lead you to believe that Black women suffer double — from race and gender — but that is not the case when you look at, for example, police killings. It is Black men who have suffered the most.”

Color blindness and intersectionality, Curry said, misunderstand racism.

“Racism is primarily a form of discrimination and violence that aims to eliminate males of a certain group,” he said. The true motives or racism, he emphasized, must be recognized.

Photo of Dr. Tommy J. Curry. Courtesy of https://philpeople.org/profiles/tommy-j-curry-curry