Do You Have to Say that You Are Black?

Third World Approaches to International Law Review, June 15, 2022

U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-08

14 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2022

See all articles by Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf

Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; University of Maryland School of Medicine

Date Written: June 17, 2022

Abstract

Whiteness, as the unspoken baseline, never needs to be stated. Rather, it is assumed and backgrounded as the norm. This template then functions to other those that do not conform. The role of whiteness is rendered invisible in academia. Indeed, whiteness is presumed as neutral. It dominates and governs. It dictates what it means to be an academic and to have one’s work considered sufficiently scholarly. Against this background, Black and other scholars of color are deemed almost inherently too close to their chosen subject matter, especially when writing about issues that implicate race.

In this reflection, I connect the importance of rendering whiteness visible in scholarship, to the aggressions of whitesplaining and whitewashing, and how both function to stymie Black intellectualism in international law and beyond. I conclude this reflection by ruminating on the metaphor of racism as a distraction and querying what it would mean to take positionality seriously.

Keywords: global health, international law, critical race theory, academia, racism, Whiteness, anti-Blackness

Suggested Citation

Sirleaf, Matiangai V. S., Do You Have to Say that You Are Black? (June 17, 2022). Third World Approaches to International Law Review, June 15, 2022, U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-08, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4139711

Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

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University of Maryland School of Medicine ( email )

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Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

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