New book by philosophy professor Naomi Zack tackles black rights

UO philosophy professor Naomi Zack
UO philosophy professor Naomi Zack

Discussions on white privilege distract from the real issues raised by racial profiling in American policing, according to one of the key claims in a new book by University of Oregon philosophy professor Naomi Zack.

In “White Privilege and Black Rights,” released in April, Zack challenges conventional wisdom, attempting to shift the focus from white privilege to the way the rights of African-Americans are violated with racial profiling and police homicide, a theory Zack calls applicative justice.

“This is a national problem because it’s not just a racial problem,” Zack said. “These are people who have not committed crimes, who for no good reason have been killed by police and whom everyone should be concerned about.”

Zack is an expert in race, ethics, equality and disaster ethics. The 110-page book was published by Rowman and Littlefield. She is the author and editor of a dozen books.

“White Privilege and Black Rights” examines recent cases of police homicide, looking at the legal structure around the killings of Travyon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and others.

Applicative justice means applying justice that is already working for most people to other groups. A starting point Zack recommends is reaffirming the standard for probable cause before a stop and frisk.

“Most of the recent homicides don’t even make it to stop and frisk,” Zack said.

In the meantime, she calls for public participation on the community level where policing is done. That could include attending meetings, voicing a certain level of complaint and peaceful protest.

“White Privilege and Black Rights: The Injustice of U.S. Police Racial Profiling and Homicide ” is available in paperback, hardback and e-book.