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Charles W Mills: A philosopher who used his work to challenge white supremacy

Charles W. Mills, a social and political philosopher who sought to rethink Western liberalism, arguing that white supremacy supported the modern world and that philosophy ignored the fundamental issues of race and justice. He died at the age of 70.

Raised in Jamaica, studied philosophy in Canada, and taught in the United States for decades, Mills from London sharply criticized Western political theory and told philosophers not the way they wanted or imagined. I urged him to be involved in the world as it is. To do. In particular, his overwhelmingly white field said he seemed to say almost nothing about the conquest and brutality of colored races.

“I like to think of Mills as our black Socrates,” wrote fellow philosopher Christopher Lebron in a 2018 article. Nation“Why a society like us, walking down the philosophical streets and dyed in a history of racial horror, is not ashamed of itself, and why its leadership spirit motivates it to fight that shame. A fairer society that asks people if they don’t want to help. “

Mills was best known in his first book, Race contract (1997), a simple but extended essay on incendiary bombs. He said that the social contract is a political concept that emerged during enlightenment to explain how people agree to give up some of their freedom in exchange for the protection of other rights, and in fact Was created when white rule and Europeans were enslaving colored races.

“White supremacy is an unnamed political system that made the modern world as it is today. This term is not in the introductory or advanced texts of political theory,” he wrote in the opening line of the book. increase. Certainly, undergraduates could learn about aristocrats, socialism, liberalism, etc. while reading thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Rawls and Nozick, but “about the basic political system that shaped the world of the past. It won’t be mentioned, “he added. Hundreds of years. “

Mills used this term to refer not only to clan rallies and black slavery, but to the transfer of wealth and opportunity from a wider range of people of color. He was less concerned with the issue of personal prejudice than the way race shaped politics, society, and the academy itself, where his treatise shocked many of his colleagues.

“It was so provocative and deviated from traditional mainstream philosophical wisdom that it is still unacceptable, almost a quarter of a century later,” he said. Nation In January. He added that “white supremacy” is a “taboo phrase” and explains “a reality that is no longer recognized.”

Mills friend and philosopher Fargni Chess discourages learning race from a professor who said “not a real topic of philosophy” as a graduate student in New School for Social Research in the 1990s. He said.

Reading Mills “changed my world completely,” she said. “I suddenly felt that there was a way to talk about what we were forbidden to talk about. We were able to talk about race in a serious and philosophical way, but we were all fine. It was also a way to give insight into this liberal myth that it was equal and that race was a thing of the past. “

Oxford University philosopher Amia Srinivasan pays homage to Mills, whose work features “a rare combination of rigor and boldness” used by philosophers to address racial, gender and class issues. He said he provided an open new toolset that could be done. His writing made people “in other words, Mills’ first intellectual hero Marx, not just portraying the world, but freely philosophizing it in a way that attempts to transform it,” she added. ..

Charles Wade Mills was born on January 3, 1951 in London, and his Jamaican parents were graduate students. The family soon moved to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, where Mills was introduced to politics at an early age.

His father, a government professor at the University of the West Indies, chaired a nonpartisan committee in the 1970s to revolutionize Jamaica’s electoral system. His mother, trained as a nurse, became the head of the country’s YWCA. My uncle also served as the United Nations Ambassador to Jamaica.

Mills turned to philosophy in the 1970s, when political violence was rising in Jamaica, only after he earned a doctoral degree in physics. “Charles joked that physics needed real experiments that could be tested, but philosophy only considered experiments without rigorous testing,” said a colleague at the CUNY Graduate Center. Said his friend Linda Martin Alkov.

After graduating from West Indies University in 1971, he taught physics at the University of Arts and Sciences in Kingston, enrolled at the University of Toronto, earning a master’s degree in 1976 and a doctoral degree in 1985.

He taught at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Northwestern, and was a faculty member for 10 years before coming to the CUNY Graduate Center.By that time he had published a book that included: Contract and control In (2007), he partnered with feminist scholar Carole Pateman to explore the crossroads of race, gender, and power.

His marriage to El Olivier ended with a divorce. Survivors include siblings.

As a writer, Mills used interracial marriage as a way to explore the problem, with a nimble touch that appeared in articles such as “Do black men have a moral obligation to marry a black woman?” It has become known for its simple and witty pros style. Loyalty and community, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy has a coded hierarchy of Europeans, not claiming that the Scandinavian (elf) is on top and the Southern European (orc) is on the bottom. In the announcement article.

“I was very happy to read this treatise,” recalls his former colleague Robert Paul Wolf in a blog post. He said he was worried that if it appeared in his name, it would hurt his career. “

In his last book Black Lights / White Long (2017) Mills investigates how some whites refused to admit the reality of racial exploitation, and the possibility of a new “hinin” liberalism that acknowledged the history of white supremacism Anticipated sex.

He argued that liberalism could be recreated rather than completely abandoned, and he encouraged students to read contemporary critics as well as political theorists such as Hobbes, Rock, Rousseau, and Kant. Assigned.

Not all his colleagues appreciated his efforts.

“They say,’Why are you trying to keep this tradition alive? We should abandon this whole way of political philosophy and basically start anew,” he said. Atlantic ocean Earlier this year. But Mills disagreed, arguing that liberal and democratic societies could change and absorb new ideas over time. “There is dynamism in liberalism that they are missing,” he said.

The philosopher Charles W Mills, born January 3, 1951, died on September 20, 2021.

© Washington Post

Charles W Mills: A philosopher who used his work to challenge white supremacy

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