COVID-19’s effects on the black community discussed online this week by MSU philosopher

Contact: John Burrow

Studio portrait of Anthony Neal
Anthony Neal (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State philosophy faculty member presents “Experiencing Blackness during the Pandemic” during a Thursday virtual seminar as part of a COVID-19 series hosted by the university’s Institute for the Humanities.

Anthony Neal, an assistant professor, will be interviewed live May 28 at 1 p.m. on the institute’s Facebook page by Julia Osman, Institute for the Humanities director and associate history professor. The session is open to the public.

Neal is the final speaker of the institute’s online events this month, which have included topics related to history, anthropology, political science and medicine.

“I think this interview series has confirmed, once again, the humanities and the sciences are inextricably linked,” Osman said. “The virus is not just about microbes and vaccines and antibodies, but who is affected and why.” 

 “Dr. Neal will provide the perfect finale to this series by applying his work on ‘experiencing blackness’ to the COVID-19 pandemic—a very appropriate subject as African Americans have in many ways been bearing the brunt of the disease and often confront additional difficulties in trying to access health care,” she said.

Neal will discuss how the color of skin results in the “quality” of experiences that are highlighted during downturns in the economy or during the occurrence of major natural disasters or pandemics, she explained.

“I realize that one question is really at the core of diversity, equity and inclusion: who can participate? During this pandemic, this question has constantly reverberated in my mind. Who can participate in healthcare, in the stimulus packages, and who can participate in the much talked about American exceptionalism? The answers to these questions and others are as yet open discussions for humans like me,” Neal said.

“We have a very difficult time determining what is true. We have had to seek nontraditional sources, such as our friends in other countries. One thing that we know is that there is a lot of death in this period,” he said. “To be black in America has always had a dystopian aura, but in this moment, there is certainly something extra.”

Neal’s research includes political philosophy, Africana philosophy and religion, and aesthetics. As part of a current project, he is devoting a section to the topic diversity, equity and inclusion. He also has written a number of articles, op-eds and reviews, and contributed to chapters in several texts.

Neal earned his doctorate in humanistic inquiry with an emphasis in African-American philosophy and religion at Clark Atlanta University in 2012, and a Master of Divinity in philosophical theology from Mercer University in 2005. He earned his bachelor’s degree in religion from Morehouse College in 2001 and his associate’s degree from the State Technical Institute at Memphis in 1997. He is author of “Common Ground: A Comparison of the Ideas of Consciousness in the Writings of Howard Thurman and Huey Newton,” (Africa World Press, 2015) and “Howard Thurman’s Philosophical Mysticism: Love against Fragmentation” (Lexington Press, 2019).

 As part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Institute for the Humanities promotes research, scholarship and creative performances in the humanistic disciplines and raises their visibility, both within Mississippi State University and the wider community. The institute is active on social media on Instagram @msststehumanities, Twitter @Humanities_MSU and Facebook

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