Theory is Stranger than Fiction: Black Literature as Social Truth

45 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2013

See all articles by Chris Lebron

Chris Lebron

Yale University - Faculty of Arts & Sciences

Date Written: August 26, 2013


The texture of black life under conditions of racial inequality has become increasingly harder to describe in our time. Though empirically undeniable, categorical racial inequality has become so diffuse that the experience of living under unequal terms of democratic association can be difficult to grasp. This matters for moral and political philosophy because the experience of racial inequality as captured in both mundane and tragic ways is fundamental to equality. This chapter attempts to give some content to a human point of view of equality, a view culled from Bernard Williams's injunction that we understand equality as a property between humans, with all the complexity and richness that term brings with it. I do so by engaging a range of black novelists and satirists (Ann Petry, Percival Everett, Paul Beatty, Mat Johnson, and Colson Whitehead) whose own projects are geared to engaging readers' ethical sense by describing both dramatically and satirically the various effects and outcomes racial inequality imposes on black lives. My own aim is to present a work of political philosophy that mirrors their attempt to imaginatively engage readers for the express purposes of working towards a robust and re-imagined conception of egalitarianism appropriate for race in our time.

Suggested Citation

Lebron, Chris, Theory is Stranger than Fiction: Black Literature as Social Truth (August 26, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Chris Lebron (Contact Author)

Yale University - Faculty of Arts & Sciences ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

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