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Ben Peel

AP English Literature
An illuminating Blackness Research Paper
Mills, Charles W. An illuminating Blackness. The Black Scholar 43.4 (2013): 32-37
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.
"Charles W. Mills." -- Department of Philosophy, Northwestern University. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
Charles W. Mills is John Evans Professor of moral and intellectual philosophy at
Northwestern University. He works in the general area of social and political philosophy, with a
particular focus on the political implementations of race, class, and gender. He taught at the
University of Oklahoma and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was a UIC
Distinguished Professor.
In An illuminating Blackness Charles W. Mills argues that African-Americans, or simply
blacks, have suffered the most discrimination and have a weaker sense of identity than any other
race in America. He also argues that our modern philosophy is a monopoly of the views of White
people. He does this by providing information on a number of ethnic groups and races.
It is European expansionism in the modern period that internationalizes race, creating a
white supremacy that becomes global by the early twentieth century. So although gender and
class are, of course, also part of this matrix of interlocking oppressions generated by empire, race
is the element that is new and whose synthesizing effect shapes the transmutation of these
premodern categories into their distinctively modern forms (Mills 33-34).
In this quote Mills forms his argument by stating that race is a product of European
imperialism and that race is actually a modern context. He later expands on this by talking about

Ben Peel
AP English Literature
individual races and how they compare to people of African ethnicity. This is a very interesting
idea. While it is widely believed that Europeans created many our modern-day racial problems
and social classifications, the idea that race itself is a modern context would seem unrealistic to
most people. This makes me question Mills historical education and whether many historians
would agree with this idea. Also, the idea that it was the Europeans who internationalized race
seems exaggerated, prejudice against people of certain countries existed widely before the age of
European Imperialism.
The flawed abstractions typical of white social and political philosophy are of this form;
they whitewash, they white-out, crucial aspects of social reality, above all the fact of white racial
domination and its holistic impact over the past few hundred years.....In theorizing the
intersection of gender, class, and race, black philosophy thus holds the potential for a correction
of the deficiencies that white racial privilege introduces into other bodies of oppositional theory,
such as white feminism and white class theory. It is in this respect that black philosophy is
potentially better positioned to realize the genuine (as against bogus) universal (Mills 36).
This is a very significant statement. This pass argues that traditional philosophy (white
philosophy) is narrow-focused and does not reflect the views of society as a whole. The phrases
whitewash and white-out both mean to glass over and to cover up. This suggests that most of
our philosophy and philosophers have been ethnocentric in how they view the world and have
not considered how the world would look through the eyes of a person not of the western world.
It is also suggested that black philosophy reflects a more universal look of the world and may be
superior to that of western philosophy. This connects to The Poisonwood Bible, in The Judges,
when Leah and Anatole debate over the value of wealth and argue about self-indulgence from the

Ben Peel
AP English Literature
point of view of their different cultures. Over the course of the book, Leah starts to reject the
values and philosophy that she learned in her culture, such as the value of wealth and the weight
of suffering, and starts to understand the cultural views of Anatole.
White women and the white working class will generally find it harder to recognize and
theorize racial oppression, from which they benefit, whether through the land and resources from
indigenous expropriation, the racial exploitation of African slavery and the subsequent social
denial to blacks of equal opportunities, or their privileged European citizenship of the imperial
powers (Mills 34).
This article connects deeply to the Poisonwood Bible, specifically to the four female
characters. When they arrive in Africa, although they have different personalities and views, they
all share this view that their culture is superior and that they are above the Africans. Despite the
fact that their standard of living is barely higher than that of other women, they maintain their
sense of superiority. However, they eventually start to coerce more often with the African women
and eventually find a sense of connection to them. Rachel, however, is a specific case that
reflects the message of this passage. Although she ends up exposed to the same level of suffering
as the African women, she maintains her American attitude and shows very little sense of
empathy or connection with the African women. In fact, in exodus, when she leaves her family
and flees to South Africa, she befriends the Caucasian settlers there and even has an African
maid. This almost synonymously reflects the passage in the sense that she maintained her
privileged position instead of recognizing the imperialism occurring around here, unlike here
sisters, Leah and Adah.