Discussions of the campaign for the APA Travel Fund for Philosophers of Color, at Daily Nous and various Facebook feeds, have been heated. For those who are unfamiliar with the fund, it was proposed by the APA’s Task Force on Inclusion and Diversity, the majority of whose members are philosophers of colour. If created, the fund would support “philosophers of color who would otherwise find it challenging to participate in APA divisional meetings and other APA-sponsored conferences. The fund is supported exclusively by donations.” To get the fund off the ground, the Marc Sanders Foundation, together with Janice Dowell, has issued a challenge. “Professor Dowell, the winner of the 2014 Sanders Prize in Metaethics, has pledged $1,000 of her prize money to the travel assistance fund, and the Marc Sanders Foundation has committed another $2,000 to it—but only if the APA raises $5,000 in additional donations for the travel assistance fund by April 10.”
I would like to thank the APA Task Force on Inclusion and Diversity, Janice Dowell, and the Marc Sanders Foundation for their work to initiate and support the campaign for “the Fund” (as I will call it).
In the comments at Daily Nous, there has been some discussion as to whether the Fund is offensive to people of colour. For some it may sound a bit like a handout (or as one commenter, Manyul Im, said, it may sound “like passing the hat for our poor colleagues of color”), which would only work to further stigmatize people of colour. This is a very important worry.
My own view – as a woman of colour – is that the Fund is not in and of itself offensive or necessarily stigmatizing. As Janice Dowell notes in explaining her own motivation for supporting the Fund, the Fund is meant as and, I would argue, ought to be viewed as a way of rectifying “the barriers philosophers of color face in getting to our meetings as a result of racist institutions.” In other words, the Fund is not a handout. It is a corrective mechanism, a mechanism of restorative justice. It is but a small step toward making up for the persistent and continued exclusion of philosophers of colour from philosophy. Presenting at the APA is hailed as an important professional milestone. Indeed, in some circles, presenting at a symposium at the APA carries almost as much weight as a decent publication. To the extent that philosophers of colour are, because of the racism that is still present in philosophy, more likely to have positions at universities or colleges that do not provide travel funds, philosophers of colour are more likely than others to be excluded from this professional milestone and the accolades attached to it. This is an injustice that ought to be remedied. I commend Janice, the Marc Sanders Foundation, and the APA Task Force for taking some small steps toward doing so.
If you are interested in contributing to the Fund, you can do so here.