Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sorry-- Some Political Correctness Stuff


When Dickinson Grammar School, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was charted as a college it was a week after the official formation of the United States in 1783. It's founders signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The student newspaper, The Dickinsonian was founded in 1872. Last week the paper published an OpEd by Leda Fisher, Should White Boys Still Be Allowed to Talk? You can probably imagine Breitbart's reaction. But first Fisher's article:
When you ask a question at a lecture, is it secretly just your opinion ending with the phrase “do you agree?” If so, your name is something like Jake, or Chad, or Alex, and you were taught that your voice is the most important in every room. Somewhere along your academic journey, you decided your search for intellectual validation was more important than the actual exchange of information. Now how do you expect to actually learn anything?

American society tells men, but especially white men, that their opinions have merit and that their voice is valuable, but after four years of listening to white boys in college, I am not so convinced. In my time at Dickinson I have listened to probably hundreds of white boys talk. It feels incessant. From classes and lectures, to the news and politics, there is an endless line of white boys waiting to share their opinions on the state of feminism in America, whether the LGBTQ+ population finally has enough rights, the merits of capitalism, etc. The list of what white boys think they are qualified to talk about is endless. Something very few of them seem to understand is that their (ill-informed, uncritical) opinions do not constitute truth. In fact, most often their opinions aren’t even original. White boys spout the narrative of dominant ideologies and pretend they’re hot takes instead of the same misleading garbage shoved down our throats by American institutions from birth.

I am so g****mned tired of listening to white boys. I cannot describe to you how frustrating it is to be forced to listen to a white boy explain his take on the Black experience in the Obama-era. Hey Brian, I’m an actual Black woman alive right now with a brain. In what world would your understanding of my life carry more weight than my understanding? Unfortunately, it is this world, where white men debate the pain of other people for fun and then take away their rights. The second thing most white boys seem not to understand is that they do not exist separate from the rest of the world. You do not speak alone, you speak with the weight of every other white man who has spoken over a woman, erased the contributions of queer people from history, or denigrated “broken English” as unintelligent. You speak with the weight of policies and laws meant to forever define intelligence by how it measures up to the bros of America.

So, should white boys still be allowed to share their “opinions”? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no. Go find someone whose perspective has been buried or ignored and listen to them, raise up their voice. To all the Chrises, Ryans, Olivers, and Seans out there, I encourage you to critically examine where your viewpoints come from, read a text that challenges you without looking for reasons to dismiss it, and maybe try listening from now on.
And before heading over to Breitbart, the first response from a Dickinsonian, Scout Waverly:
It’s not often that racist and sexist thoughts are married so well on the page, so kudos to the writer for creating this perfect storm of hate. Who will get space next on the editorial pages of The Dickinsonian? A Klansman? A gleeful misogynist?

Is it meant to be a discussion piece? It’s not. Is it meant to be social commentary? It’s not. It’s a racially motivated attack, one that should be condemned widely across campus as if it were in fact written by a Klansman. And if we went through and replaced “white boys” with “black girls” and published it, there would be immediate protests on Britton Plaza and statements from the President’s Office condemning intolerance.

The piece is poorly thought out, full of presumptions cast as fact (clearly the writer hasn’t taken any logic classes), and raging with stereotypes. You say of white boys “most often their opinions aren’t even original.” None of your opinions here are original either. Ignorant people have held them forever.

Has the writer heard of the dangers of condemning all members of a group en masse? I’ll make an assumption of my own: She has probably been fighting that kind of thing her whole life. Now here she is embracing it in what can be only read as a racist rant that herds an entire group under an umbrella of hate.

I’m frankly disappointed in Dickinson that a senior would write this.
The second response was from a young woman, Erika Hvolbeck:
his article is inherently and horrifically racist. If I, a young white woman wrote the same article but changed “white” with “black”, I would probably have unmatched consequences. This article is horribly written, sounds appallingly uneducated, and has no merit. You are lumping a group of men together and racially stereotyping them. WHO has the right to judge ANYONE based on the color of their skin? White or black. It’s 2019, and we should respect everyone despite their race, ethnicity, class, or sexuality. To list “white names” like that was terribly racist. Imagine if I said people like Deshawn, Laquisha and Dayvon shouldn’t be listened to because they have “ghetto accents”, or because their opinions were “unoriginal”? Frankly, this article was horrible to read, and I’d feel like that if it was about Latino-Americans, African Americans, or Asian-Americans. No one’s voice can or should be silenced based on their skin color. You argue that these white college boys only want to search for intellectual validation rather than exchanging new information. This claim could not be more false. I must debunk your assertion that is is true, because the main reason why many people go to college in the first place is to have their views and ideas challenged and to expand their knowledge. I doubt a white boy who only wanted to have his belies reaffirmed would go to a liberal arts college. You also touch on the fact that American society tells only white men that their opinions are valid. First off, everyone in America is entitled to their own opinion. What makes America so great is our freedom of speech, whether that speech may go against common morals and values, we are all able to state our opinions in this country without persecution from the law. Overall, your article is absolutely one of the most ignorant, unscholarly, and remarkably racist articles I have ever had the displeasure of reading.
Followed by a little irony from Jonathan Murray, an alum: "This piece succeeded in its desired objective: as a 'white boy', it left me utterly speechless." Hundreds of comments, most negative, but not uniformly so. A couple of days after the OpEd was published comments were still coming in. Yesterday David Smith wrote that he's "an ‘82 Dickinson grad. As I see it, the opinion writer’s basic point is that, in her experience, white males at Dickinson tend not to understand or really listen to the opinions and perspectives of students from different racial backgrounds. Apparently that’s been her experience. Is it racist for her to say that? I don’t think so. Most of the comments here miss her basic point. Yes, she uses in your face language, which is clearly intended to provoke, and it goes overboard in a few places-- the title in particular. But at root she’s simply pointing a finger at white male privilege. You’d be hard pressed to say that doesn’t exist at Dickinson, as at many schools. Which isn’t to say that white male students at Dickinson are bad people or need to feel guilty about who they are. I was one. But there are societal and institutional structures in place that benefit white males. And it is incumbent on us to be conscious of those advantages and to seek to 'spread the wealth.' Not listening to and learning from people of other races/backgrounds/genders/sexual orientations, etc. is ignorant and inconsistent with Dickinson’s purpose. The bottom line is you may disagree with her opinion and the language she used, but you can’t take away her experience. Maybe that’s not your experience, but that’s how she sees it. The statement on this matter by D’son’s president hit the mark perfectly, I thought. She seems great."

Zadie Smith is an award-winning English author from London who currently teaches creative writing at NYU. Her parents are a mixed-race couple. Her younger brothers are rapper and stand up comedian Doc Brown and rapper Luc Skyz. She's a graduate of King's College, Cambridge. This is an interview she did last year:

Last week, at the Hay Cartegena festival in Colombia, Smith addressed the political correctness and identity politics plaguing the literary world. [That's right-- it isn't just fucking up electoral politics, Broadway and cooking shows.] Claire Armistead wrote that "Smith laid into identity politics in a headline session at the 14th Hay Cartagena festival, insisting novelists had not only a right, but a duty to be free.
Asked how she felt about cultural appropriation, she told an audience of nearly 2,000 at the festival in Colombia on Friday: “If someone says to me: ‘A black girl would never say that,’ I’m saying: ‘How can you possibly know?’ The problem with that argument is it assumes the possibility of total knowledge of humans. The only thing that identifies people in their entirety is their name: I’m a Zadie.”

She conceded that the assertion of a collective identity was sometimes necessary “to demand rights,” but cited the dismay of her husband-- the poet and novelist Nick Laird-- at finding himself increasingly categorised. “He turned to me and said: ‘I used to be myself and I’m now white guy, white guy.’ I said: ‘Finally, you understand.’ But the lesson of that is that identity is a huge pain in the arse. The strange thing to me is the assumption [of white people] that their identity is the right to freedom.”

She went on to question the role of social media in policing personal development. “We are being asked to be consistent as humans over great swathes of time. People are searching through social media. But everyone is changing all the time.”

In an essay in her collection, Feel Free, she investigated one such change in herself, when she fell in love with the music of Joni Mitchell, a singer she had despised when she was a mixed-race teenager growing up on a London housing estate. “The reason for hating Joni Mitchell was that I didn’t listen to classical or ‘white’ music,” said Smith. “Then I had an epiphany, and suddenly realised that her voice was beautiful. It’s a responsibility to be as open as you possibly can to the world as an aesthetic object.”

Returning to the issue of political correctness, she reflected on her debut novel White Teeth, which had depicted characters from many backgrounds but, she said, had been given an easy ride by the white critics because “[its characters] were mostly brown. It had all sorts of mistakes I’m sure but if I didn’t take a chance I’d only ever be able to write novels about mixed-race girls growing up in Willesden.”

Speaking in the home city of Gabriel García Márquez, Smith admitted that she was not a great fan of magic realism, preferring to deal in more concrete realities.

She ended by citing Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as an example of the power of the reprobate imagination. “Women have felt very close to these fake, pretend women invented by men. It makes us feel uncomfortable in real life. This is not real life. It’s perverse, but it’s what’s possible in fiction. There’s no excuse for its irresponsibility, but fiction is fundamentally irresponsible.”
The urban dictionary-- I never knew it was so political!

Wikipedia is far more... timid:
Cultural appropriation, at times also phrased cultural misappropriation, is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures. Because of the presence of power imbalances that are a byproduct of colonialism and oppression, cultural appropriation is distinct from equal cultural exchange.

Cultural appropriation is often considered harmful, and to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating, minority cultures, notably indigenous cultures and those living under colonial rule. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures' cultural and religious traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and music.

According to critics of the practice, cultural appropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation, or cultural exchange in that this appropriation is a form of colonialism: cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context-- sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of members of the originating culture.

Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, and such displays are often viewed as disrespectful, or even as a form of desecration, by members of the originating culture. Cultural elements which may have deep meaning to the original culture may be reduced to "exotic" fashion or toys by those from the dominant culture. Kjerstin Johnson has written that, when this is done, the imitator, "who does not experience that oppression is able to 'play', temporarily, an 'exotic' other, without experiencing any of the daily discriminations faced by other cultures." The African-American academic, musician and journalist Greg Tate argues that appropriation and the "fetishizing" of cultures, in fact, alienates those whose culture is being appropriated.

The concept of cultural appropriation has also been widely criticised. Some writers on the topic note that the concept is often misunderstood or misapplied by the general public, and that charges of "cultural appropriation" are at times misapplied to situations such as eating food from a variety of cultures, or learning about different cultures. Commentators who criticize the concept believe that the act of cultural appropriation does not meaningfully constitute a social harm, or that the term lacks conceptual coherence. Some argue that the term sets arbitrary limits on intellectual freedom and artists' self-expression, reinforces group divisions, or itself promotes a feeling of enmity or grievance, rather than liberation.

And, yes, yes... I'll get to more about Virginia later this morning, I promise.

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At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

seems like the white commenters only served to validate the author's premise... in spades.

this is the usa... where white privilege must never be questioned and certainly not by anyone who is not white.
this is the usa... where nonwhite means nonperson.
this is the usa... where only a tiny minority of people are capable of reasoned thought. The author is one of them. The responders are not.

This is the usa... a cluster fuck of a shithole populated by a majority of imbeciles and fools... an awful lot of whom can do only one thing well -- hate.

This is the usa... where if a majority of people are basically decent, they still refuse to demand that their chosen governmental reps actually serve their needs. They blithely accept and affirm the service ONLY to the rich.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Thomas Ten Bears said...

My academic career ended with a religiously racist, misogynous, homophobic, old testament authoritarian, dominionist no doubt Trump voting sure as hell looks and sounds like it bigot with half my education and half my experience but none-the-less in a position to get away with harassing and ultimately forcing me to quit the career I had invested fifteen years and tens of thousands of dollars in educational expenses to have...

It's no surprise we're collectively stupid but there's a cure for that and we're rolling right up on it. Death, end of the road. Rightfully so.

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TTB, amen.

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Focusing on race is taking the wrong path. Gender and status are the real complaints of the Dickinson author. The males cited in the complaint are the few who stand out from the crowd, the ones who dominate everything they are involved with. Such men (and I am not one of them) make themselves targets, for the world of academia is now the domain of dominant females. The majority of males are out on the gridiron, or racing between the hoops, pursuing a dream they will never realise and not strengthening their minds instead.

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't recall any mention of observing rich blacks or black males.

White and male both IMPLY some manner of privilege. Wealth also, of course. Put white, male and wealth together and you'll get hubris 999,999 times out of a million. Of every white male we've elected in this shithole, the only possible exceptions may have been FDR and Lincoln. Even obamanation oozed the hubris of privilege... probably by virtue of being a Daly proxy his entire political career... culminating in him being Goldman-Sachs' proxy during his presidency. Can't get any whiter than that.

maybe you read a different article.


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