I taught for several years as a lecturer in a department composed entirely of white, straight men– except for one white straight woman. I am a white femme. While there I proposed a course to be called Philosophy of Race in which a number of students had indicated an interest in other courses. The chair of the department approved this and was quietly supportive. At this very multicultural university but among our (not surprisingly) largely white majors, the course attracted only 6-7 students. But these 6-7 students were the ones to sign up in the spring before the class had been approved as a core curriculum course, which enables and encourages far more students to take a course. Heading into fall the course was approved and ready to go as a core curriculum course. BUT before the fall registration had a chance to open– a time of year I’m told many students make their choices about courses– a different faculty member happened to be serving as chair of the department. And he canceled the course claiming that ten students are required for the course to “make.” I was a lecturer at the institution, and so really had no avenue for response. I figured I’d continue to work Philosophy of Race into other courses as I’d been doing.
It was only several weeks later in a discussion with a colleague that I realized that members of the department might have been actively upset to see Philosophy of Race on offer. I realized this while standing in a colleagues’ office listening to him explain to me patiently and in detail why Philosophy of Race isn’t philosophy. The same old, sadly bored white guy thinks Feminist Philosophy isn’t philosophy, but I did teach a course under this title while employed in this department.