The earlier item on the miniscule proportion of Blacks in academic philosophy (less than 1%) yielded a striking comment by philosopher Lionel McPherson at Tufts University, which he kindly gave me permission to repost here. Professor McPherson wrote:
With all due respect, the “pipeline” problem is largely a red herring. The notion that blacks are in demand in philosophy, if only they would come, is generally a fraud–especially at the hiring level. The philosophy profession–in composition, sensibilities, and content–is a racially hostile environment, even if that hostility typically manifests itself as benign neglect. No black person who takes himself or herself to have viable alternatives, and common sense, would go down this road. (But, of course, this is true for most people contemplating a career in philosophy these days, regardless of color.)
Yes, I could tell you stories that you wouldn’t really believe: I can hardly believe them myself. I could try to assure you that “well qualified” blacks are not in great demand–other than for submitting job applications and responding to pointless “diversity office” surveys. I could dismiss the need for more studies of a type which basically presuppose that the gross underrepresentation of blacks in philosophy is due almost entirely to external factors.
But why are we talking about this? The philosophy profession has clearly spoken: it has no shame regarding its extraordinary whiteness; and blacks have virtually no leverage in such an environment. I cannot in good conscience encourage any black student in the U.S. (or U.K.) to enter the philosophy profession. The extraordinarily few who are determined to go should at least be aware of what awaits them.
I would like to invite reader comments on this depressing assessment, and also concrete suggestions and proposals. Students may post anonymously, but I must insist that anonymous postings not name individuals or institutions. I hope that faculty would post with their names, though as long as they include a valid e-mail, and make a substantive contribution to the discussion, their comments will also be approved.
ADDENDUM (corrected): I'll just add one extra data point: by my quick count, only 9 of the top 20 PGR departments in 2009 have one Black faculty member in a tenured or tenure-stream position (Rutgers, Princeton, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Stanford, Arizona, Columbia, North Carolina, CUNY); two actually have two! That means Blacks are slightly better represented in top PhD programs compared to the profession at large, but still significantly under-represented compared to their share of the population at large.