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LET US NOT PRAISE FAMOUS MEN

Malcolm Bailey, Untitled, 1969, acrylic on composition board, 48 × 72". © Malcolm Bailey.

EITHER BECAUSE OF or in spite of the fact that I am a biracial Black lesbian academic, enlightenment is always “the Enlightenment” for me, specifically signifying the historical era and ideology that is my most frequent point of orientation. One could argue that it was the Enlightenment that made me: After all, this is when European and US white heterosexual males hit their intellectual stride, creating themselves as a holistic entity while the other 95 percent of the planet became what are now called “gender,” “racial,” and “sexual” “minorities.”

Thomas Jefferson, Immanuel Kant, David Hume—all impressive thinkers and yet all equally impressively blind. One is allowed, I think, to feel a certain amount of pique in reading them and noticing the extensive labor they put into defining a concept like perception while tossing off casually vicious, fearful, and disdainful perceptions

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