Journal of Applied Philosophy - Early View Articles

Resolving the Tensions Between White People's Active Investment in Racial Inequality and White Ignorance: A Response to Marzia Milazzo

Published online on Mar 07, 2018


This article responds to Marzia Milazzo's article ‘On white ignorance, white shame, and other pitfalls in critical philosophy of race’ (2017), in which Milazzo argues that the concepts white shame, white guilt, white privilege, white habits, white invisibility and white ignorance are pitfalls in the process of decolonisation. Milazzo contends that the way these concepts are theorised in much critical philosophy of race minimises white people's active interest in reproducing the racial status quo. While I agree with Milazzo's critique of white shame and white guilt, I argue that these affective responses are fundamentally different to the remaining concepts. Drawing on critical whiteness studies and agnotology, I argue that white privilege, white invisibility and white ignorance are valuable conceptual tools for revealing (as opposed to minimising) white people's active investment in maintaining racial inequality. Whereas Milazzo sees a contradiction between white people's active interest in maintaining racial inequality and concepts like white invisibility and white ignorance, I argue that, correctly theorised, these concepts resolve this apparent contradiction. I contest Milazzo's call to reject white privilege, white invisibility and white ignorance, arguing that these concepts are useful tools in the project of decolonisation.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

10.1111/japp.12306 About DOI

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