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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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Students in Corlett's class. Students in Corlett's class.

Off the Beaten Course: PHIL 577

Racism and Social Justice explores the complex nature of these issues.
By SDSU News Team

Off the Beaten Course is a series that delves into SDSU's course catalog to share unique and non-traditional classes.

Course title: Racism and Social Justice
Professor’s name: J. Angelo Corlett, professor of Philosophy and Ethics

1) What inspired you to create this course?

As a Latino, I have thought about issues of race, ethnicity, Latino/a identity, racism and justice since I was very young growing up in a barrio in East Los Angeles County. San Diego State University has an ethnically diverse student population, including several Latinos/as who hail from similar barrios in Southern California. And there are several black and some American Indian students at SDSU who are also deeply interested in such issues who come from similar socio-economic backgrounds as me.

I was inspired to create this course based on decades of my own published philosophical and ethical research on these topics. As faculty, our published research must serve not only other faculty, but our students as well. This course is designed to do precisely that. I want to demonstrate to students that these topics are legitimate topics of academic study; as well as being deeply relevant to our daily lives; and perhaps inspire some students to pursue a career in this field; or to enable them to learn about issues that will arise in their futures as law school students, lawyers, school teachers and more.

Any student, regardless of color, who is deeply interested in thinking more critically and deeply about race, ethnicity, racism and justice especially as these issues pertain to U.S. society both historically and today will benefit from this course. Students need not be philosophy majors to learn and do well in this course. They need to bring an open and sharp mind to the class as we discuss various crucial topics of our day.

2) What can students expect to learn from this course?

Students will be taught the basics of philosophical method and moral reasoning. Then they will be brought to the cutting edge of the philosophical discussions on the concepts of race and ethnicity, including Latino/a identity, racism (what it is and what it is not), including critical discussions of color profiling, U.S. immigration policy, racist language, and considerations of justice for racist harms both in the past and present. Also, students can expect to learn from the ideas of some of the leading American Indian, U.S. black and Latino minds on such issues.

3) What makes this course different from similar courses?

It looks at race, ethnicity, racism and justice from the standpoint of the analytic philosophical method, which was born out of the field of philosophy centuries ago. This course is based on that method and teaches the basics of it during the initial class meetings. Each student is on the same page so they and can follow the flow of discussion and engage in class discussion as active learners and participants.

4) Is there one day on the syllabus for this course you most look forward to? If yes, why?

This is one course that I teach where I look forward to each and every day of the syllabus. It all ties together coherently, and it is exciting and rewarding to teach and facilitate each session (lecture and discussion) with such passionate, dedicated and intelligent students.

I look forward to each session because I notice the learning that occurs and the appreciation for the critical evaluation of such important problems, no holds barred! Students are encouraged to think for themselves about such issues. No ideologies allowed — only what survives the test of critical reason! Our quest is for the truth about these matters.

5) What’s your favorite thing about teaching this course?

Facilitating and mentoring students to be actively and passionately engaged in critical philosophical discussion about the concepts of race, ethnicity, Latino/a identity, racism, and arguments concerning U.S. immigration policy, racial versus racist profiling, racist language, affirmative action, and reparations to American Indians and U.S. blacks. I also enjoy the challenge of teaching the course topics in a way that includes and does not alienate students. The course is designed for students of any color or ethnic background.

6)  Any other thoughts?

Some student comments on the course might be helpful to prospective students:

“I am very pleased with this course. Nothing is withheld and the philosophical analysis of racism that we’ve had graduated my mind to a new level of thinking about race and relations among people in our society. I would recommend this class for even the most learned person who considers themselves an expert on any subject because it really challenges one’s thinking-a characteristic that I believe is vital for a good class.”

~ Kevin Bradley, a senior SDSU Africana studies major.