Derrick Darby, "A Realistic Blacktopia: Why We Must Unite to Fight" (Oxford UP, 2022)


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In the United States, unjust disparities in things like income, opportunity, health, safety, and education tightly track racial categorizations of the US population. An intuitive approach to social justice calls us to look to the sites of the greatest disadvantage, and take measures aimed at relieving them. This approach favors “race specific” policies for pursuing justice. However, that kind of rationale is increasingly vulnerable in a country that’s largely convinced that it has achieved a “post-racial” condition. Hence the remaining disparities remain, but are explained away by appeals to alleged faults of those who suffer under them.

In A Realistic Blacktopia: Why We Must Unite to Fight (Oxford UP, 2023), Derrick Darby defends a different approach. According to Darby, the psychological and social realities of the United States suggest that we must adopt a non-race-specific social justice agenda, explicitly tying our efforts to mitigate unjust inequalities that track racial categorization to “big tent” initiatives to broaden and deepen democratic inclusion for citizens as such.

Robert Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

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