This is the latest in a series of interviews about philosophy of race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with David Haekwon Kim, an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Global Humanities initiative at the University of San Francisco and the author of several essays on Asian-American identity. — George Yancy
George Yancy and David Haekwon Kim in the New York Times:
George Yancy: A great deal of philosophical work on race begins with the white/black binary. As a Korean-American, in what ways does race mediate or impact your philosophical identity?
David Haekwon Kim: In doing philosophy, I often approach normative issues with concerns about lived experience, cultural difference, political subordination, and social movements changing conditions of agency. I think these sensibilities are due in large part to my experience of growing up bicultural, raced, and gendered in the U.S., a country that has never really faced up to its exclusionary and often violent anti-Asian practices. In fact, I am sometimes amazed that I have left so many tense racialized encounters with both my life and all my teeth. In other contexts, life and limb were not at issue, but I did not emerge with my self-respect intact.
These sensibilities have also been formed by learning a history of Asian-Americans that is more complex than the conventional watered-down immigrant narrative. This more discerning, haunting, and occasionally beautiful history includes reference to institutional anti-Asian racism, a cultural legacy of sexualized racism, a colonial U.S. presence in East Asia and the Pacific Islands, and some truly inspiring social struggles by Asians, Asian-Americans, and other communities of color.