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History of Black Thought: Chris Lebron

"The greatest tragedy of America is how petty the cause for our failure."

Chris Lebron is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. His latest book is The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of An Idea. We discuss the nature of racial disadvantage, the opportunity for love to deliver equality and fairness, and the risks of racial marginalization to the future of American democracy.

Chris Lebron is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. His latest book is The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of An Idea. We discuss the nature of racial disadvantage, the opportunity for love to deliver equality and fairness, and the risks of racial marginalization to the future of American democracy.

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Understanding Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter stands as a movement to demand and secure Black humanity. Being a leader-full movement makes it less susceptible to disruption and has de-centered Black patriarchy. Its broad and deep inclusivity has also widened our consciousness beyond historical notions of Blackness. However, the lack of a clear leader also poses challenges in national messaging about the movement.

Love, Equality, and Fairness 

Looking back at the history of Black thought in America, we see the shortcomings in our understanding of racism. Simply knowing that racism is wrong is not enough to break away from the everyday segregation our society faces. This moral immaturity continues to exist today, especially in the form of performative activism and fickle support of social movements. Combatting this kind of immaturity requires building a stronger sense of filial love across different communities.

Moral and Affective Ideas

Ideas can be powerful, but it’s the affective nature of an idea that determines its power. It’s clear that racial inequality results in an uneven distribution of wealth. Some would say that it is unfair. However, describing this reality as unfair removes the emotional punch that racial inequality actually results in the devastation of families, leading to anguish and despair. These two ideas are not interchangeable.

FIND OUT MORE:

Chris Lebron is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in political philosophy, social theory, the philosophy of race, and democratic ethics. His first book, The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice In Our Time (OUP 2013) won the American Political Science Association Foundations of Political Theory First Book Prize. His second book The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of An Idea (OUP 2017) offers a brief intellectual history of the black lives matter social movement. 

Lebron is the winner of the 2018 Hiett Prize In The Humanities, which recognizes a “career devoted to the humanities and whose work shows extraordinary promise to have a significant impact on contemporary culture.” In addition to his scholarly publications, he has been an active public intellectual, writing numerous times for The New York Times’s philosophy column, The Stone, Boston Review, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Billboard Magazine.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @lebron_chris

Chris Lebron Transcript

Credits:

Host: Mila Atmos 

Guest: Chris Lebron

Executive Producer: Mila Atmos

Produced By: Zack Travis and Sara Burningham

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