I once attended a symposium on journalistic ethics where the keynote speaker, a well-known journalist, talked about journalists’ special role in society as guardians of democracy. Because of this, he said, journalists are sometimes allowed to do certain things that other citizens are not, such as intrude into people’s private lives. This is much like doctors who are allowed to cut into people or soldiers who are allowed to kill, he explained.
Then he offered another analogy: it’s like police who “have the right to beat people.” I sat in the audience, momentarily stunned. I nudged a friend next to me. Had he actually said that police have a right to beat people? Yes, she said, I had heard it right.
I looked around at an almost completely white and generally middle-class audience in the auditorium of the private college where the symposium was being held. No one seemed too upset by what he had said.
The speaker went on to say a lot of other reactionary things. Later, during the question period, I went to the microphone, intending to focus on another stupid point he had made.
"But before I get to my question," I said, "I want to say that it seems to me that anyone who can say that police have a right to beat people is presumptively excluded from discussion about ethics of any kind."
The audience squirmed, unsure of how to react. The speaker winced but never responded to my challenge.
Later, during the reception, I talked to a colleague who was unclear what point I was trying to make. Surely, the speaker just misspoke, he said; what the speaker meant to say was that in certain situations, police have a legal right to use force, sometimes even deadly force.
Yes, I understood that, I replied. But my point was that he used the phrase, "the right to beat people.” The language reflects his relationship to power. No one who comes from a class of people subject to being beaten by police would ever think of using such a phrase. Only people who don’t have to worry about being beaten would make the “mistake.” Beyond that, I argued, it’s not implausible that the speaker and lots of other folks like him are glad they live in a world in which police sometimes beat people; it keeps the “dangerous classes” in line.
"Try to imagine if he were black, even a black person with a professional career and a middle-class life," I said. "Think of how different interactions with police are for black people. Do you think he would have said that?"
My colleague shrugged and said I was overreacting to an admittedly careless, but harmless, choice of words on the speaker’s part. The colleague turned, never really understanding what I thought was a simple point, and headed off to talk to someone less contentious.
I was left standing there, full of anger, wanting to scream, and feeling incredibly alone.
I looked around and realized that all around me were people just like me - white, middle-class, educated academics or professional journalists. And I hated them. I don’t just mean that I was frustrated with them. At that moment, I hated them. Not just the speaker, but all of the nice middle-class white folks in the room who were too polite to say anything, to hold the speaker accountable. I even hated the three or four white people who had come up to me after the talk and thanked me for speaking up. I bit my tongue and didn’t ask them the obvious question: Why didn’t you speak up too, instead of leaving my comments to hang in the air, to wither and die without support?
I will have an undergraduate class, let’s say a young white male student, politically-correct, who will say: “I am only a bourgeois white male, I can’t speak.” … I say to them: “Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silenced?” Then you begin to investigate what it is that silences you, rather than take this very determinist position-since my skin colour is this, since my sex is this, I cannot speak… From this position, then, I say you will of course not speak in the same way about the Third World material, but if you make it your task not only to learn what is going on there through language, through specific programmes of study, but also at the same time through a historical critique of your position as the investigating person, then you will have earned the right to criticize, you be heard. When you take the position of not doing your homework- “I will not criticize because of my accident of birth, the historical accident” - that is the much more pernicious position.
HOLY SHIT YES YES YES
it’s also SUCH a reverse victimization thing like
when ~antiracist allies~ say this shit it always includes this sort of faux-self-deprecating element
and intentionally or not, there’s the implication that we white people in general are being ~silenced~ by the ~cruel~ person of color, and that ~oh no we’ve been taught to hate ourselves for our whiteness and believe all these self-deprecating things~ which of course is EXACTLY the white guilt script that more blatantly racist whites looking at this will want to see as more ‘justification’ to dismiss analysis of racism.
and it’s inevitably framing people of color as mean or angry or ~reverse racist~ and ourselves as beleaguered; it’s inevitably fishing for compliments, for coddling, for having the conversation recentered around us and derailing the actual conversation taking place.
Procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything…
Because it is rewarding on the short term, procrastination eventually takes on the form of an addiction to the temporary relief from these deep-rooted fears. Procrastinators get an extremely gratifying “hit” whenever they decide to let themselves off the hook for the rest of the day, only to wake up to a more tightly squeezed day with even less confidence.
Once a pattern of procrastination is established, it can be perpetuated for reasons other than the fear of failure. For example, if you know you have a track record of taking weeks to finally do something that might only take two hours if you weren’t averse to it, you begin to see every non-simple task as a potentially endless struggle. So a modest list of 10-12 medium-complexity to-do’s might represent to you an insurmountable amount of work, so it feels hopeless just to start one little part of one task. This hones a hair-trigger overwhelm response, and life gets really difficult really easily.
Gotta reblog this again cause it’s painfully relevant to my life
But as James Baldwin once said, “the paradox of education is precisely this — that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” Students of color have to be walking paradoxes at “elite” universities. And the degrees conferred upon us become symbols not just of our academic attainment, but of our ability to survive and carve out our place in institutions that never envisioned us as a part of them.http://www.blackyouthproject.com/2013/01/on-being-black-and-unwanted-at-elite-universities/ (via americanpromisefilm)
Language is a body of suffering and when you take up language you take up the suffering too.
-bell hooks, Wounds Of Passion (p.210)
i really really strongly despise academics who perceive themselves as leftists, activists, etc who refuse or are otherwise incapable of making their dialogue and interventions accessible
like if you can’t give a definition of what you mean by the term ideology without quoting Althusser and Lacan and using like three or four french words, newsflash: you aren’t really anything except deeply invested in violent class relations and the system as it stands
my dad is a construction worker. every week i call home and talk to him about what i’ve been learning and reading, and we spend hours talking things out. over the years, i’ve noticed massive changes in the way each of us understand the world around us, and that education passed on via conversation has changed things for our family, for our activism, and has even had reverberations back on academic-type people that subsequently learn from me what i learned from conversation with my father. this is really important. this is really necessary. working class people are not dumb, and putting things in accessible language is not dumbing the material down—a lot of what i’ve learned in academia gets translated into conversation with my dad as confirmation of things we already knew, or as new ways to think about things we had been talking about already. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: most of the most genius people i’ve ever met have either worked in construction or resources extraction. it’s absolutely crucial to be having those conversations, but requiring literacy in a discriminatory discourse as an entry point does nothing but reinforce that discrimination and violence.
theory can be extremely useful and liberatory and i understand that the concepts aren’t always simple but it’s not that difficult to put it in a language that enables conversation across backgrounds, and if you’re not concerned with those conversations or don’t have the language to hold them, then you’re obviously a pretentious purposefully-sheltered douche and not really ever going to a part of any kinda struggle except to maintain existing regimes of power
Living Queerly (by reesekelly)
Reese talks about how his disclosure (in class) of being in a relationship with a woman can be a queer experience due to his students reading him as a cis gay man.
Verrrry interesting. Thanks, Reese!
Those of you who have been through college know that the educational system is highly geared to rewarding conformity and obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a filtering device which ends up with people who really, honestly internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding power system in the society.
SO (sad but) TRUE. (partially true). Thankfully, there are many of us ‘troublemakers’ who resist/persist.
“The current model of “class-mobility” reinforces separatism and a class-hierarchy because it posits that in order to escape oppression, one must become an oppressor – and universities do not merely mediate the boundary between professional and laborer, they teach the body of knowledge, the worldview, the values that mark a person as professional, as “belonging” to the middle- or upper-class. Universities teach us to renounce our sense of identification with the poor; they teach us this by mainly ignoring the existence of poor people and by treating us as “other” when we do become the subject of discussion. Universities teach us not to care too much, because it will undermine our professional role. Universities teach that we are separate from where we came from, that we are “qualified” (which suggests our families and peers are not), that we are justified in having power over people, in speaking for the subjects of our study. Universities teach us that we are “too good” to wait tables and clean houses, with the implication that those who do those jobs are “not good enough” to deserve better. Poor people tend to see university as a way out for their kids, but university is also a way in to the class of people whose success is premised on the oppression of the poor. […]For a kid to become educated meant that he or she would live an easier life that was premised on the oppression and invisibility of the very communities s/he came from. This left a foul taste in many mouths. I have had that foul taste in my mouth for years, and I have come to the conclusion that it is the taste of injustice – of being forced to choose between the indignity of remaining poor and the ethically repellent strategy of privilege seeking. To a poor kid who has the chance to go to college or university, participating in an institution that she identifies as oppressive (either before attending or in the course of her education) might seem like the best choice with regards to her survival, but it is a conflicted survival.”
Megan Lee: “Maybe I’m Not Class-Mobile; Maybe I’m Class-Queer”, from the anthology Feminism For Real: Deconstructing The Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism. Quoted at Racialicious, March 8, 2011. (via lenachen)