Almost Blocked from Becoming a Philosopher

I am an African American male, and at my undergraduate university, every student who wished to major in philosophy had to interview with the undergraduate major adviser (a white male) before adding philosophy as a major.

During my interview, I made the mistake of saying that I wanted to study race from a philosophical viewpoint.  The adviser said that philosophy wasn’t for me because that’s not a topic that philosophy tackles.  Next, he recommended that I major in Africana studies, Asian studies, or the like instead.  I said that I had already taken courses in both Africana and Asian studies, and I did not like their methods for studying race.  I expressed that I preferred the method of analytic philosophy and I argued with him for at least 15 minutes about his claim that there was no such thing as philosophy of race.  My primary counterexample was the work of Anthony Appiah.  In response, he revised his earlier claim and instead said that the department just didn’t have any faculty who specialized in philosophy of race, and so philosophy still wasn’t for me.  He rejected my application for majoring in philosophy.

Afterwards, I went to the teacher who recommended that I major in philosophy (a white female).  I took a feminist philosophy course with her and I liked her inclusion of black feminism.  She was surprised by my rejection given my high grade in her course and my high grade in the other philosophy course I took (Ancient Philosophy).  She assured me that she would take care of the situation, and she did.  Together we filed a petition for me to major in philosophy, and the department, thankfully, accepted my petition.  I went on to graduate with honors in philosophy, earn an M.A. in philosophy, earn a Ph.D. in philosophy, and get a tenure-track job in philosophy, which I currently hold.

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