Philosophizing Born of African American Struggles in the USA and Apartheid

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On January 24, in Williams Hall, I attended a lecture by Lucius Outlaw titled “Philosophizing Born of African American Struggles in the United States of America”. The presentation highlighted what it was like to be a black intellectual in America. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his journey to become an intellectual despite facing resistance because of the color of his skin. He began his speech by briefly explaining his background. Raised under racial apartheid, Outlaw experienced daily struggles of being a black man in southern Mississippi.

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He was part of the Emmett Till generation that was known for its involvement in the civil rights movement. It was thought-provoking to consider how this racial movement might have affected his outlook on life. He likely fostered a proactive mindset focused on battling criminal injustice. I am keen to learn more about what caused a shift in his life’s perspective after witnessing the incidents that he did.

In his presentation, Outlaw emphasized that the black power movement was both shocking and unexpected. He was astonished by the newfound positive connotation of the term “black”, which had historically been used negatively. This realization was a profound and transformative moment for him. He explained that this movement challenged him to redefine his identity and principles. The black power movement amplified racial pride and fostered an atmosphere of collective interest among blacks in the civil rights movement. I find these facts intriguing because expressing such racial pride was a risky venture, given the widespread prejudice against black people. The black power movement brought a complementary perspective to my understanding of the civil rights movement, particularly referencing what I had learned from Martin Luther King’s speech in Berlin.

Martin Luther King’s speech emphasized the unity of East and West Germans, marking his global efforts for civil rights. I see parallels between the civil rights movements in Germany and the United States. In my view, the black power movement played a substantial role in transforming the self-perception of African Americans, leading to a heightened sense of empowerment.

What I found especially interesting was Outlaw’s discussion of racial motivations underlying the very perception of philosophizing. He mentioned how the foundational principles of philosophy have suggested that African Americans are not human and, as a result, incapable to philosophize. This statement surprised me as it revealed the deeply rooted racial segregation within the field of philosophy. The claim was that black people didn’t belong in the philosophical sphere because they were not considered fully human. This disturbing ideology was domineering during a time when blacks were treated as less than human, justifying their enslavement. Outlaw continued to discuss how the basis of racial apartheid was dictated by the concept of racial superiority. A black intellect in the philosophical realm was a distinctly novel concept during his time. It was enlightening to discover the extent of racial motivation in the educational field in America during this historical era.

The lecture was overall very informative. I walked away with more information about the struggles that African Americans face on a daily basis. I found the speech to be relatable on some level because as an African American woman, I face similar struggles. I found it surprising that the field of philosophy was so racially segregated. I hope that as the world progresses, we all become a little more aware of the great contributions that people of different races can make to a field of study. Overall, I believe that Outlaw did a great job of philosophizing about what it means to be a black intellectual in America and the different obstacles that come with being one.

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Philosophizing Born of African American Struggles in the USA and Apartheid. (2023, Mar 09). Retrieved from