Hi everyone! I wanted to show you how to hyperlink an image in a blog post.
Isn’t that totally awesome?
Peggy McIntosh is a feminist, clearly speaking to white feminists. So, again, she is not necessarily speaking to you all. Her choice of audience may make some of you feel alienated. It's important to remember that for many (not all) white males of middle-upper class, that it is hard to identify with these experiences unless they’ve experienced some kind of issue that they can tap into to understand how it feels to be voice-less, or to be taken advantage of. Sometimes you have to reach back into that place to understand. For many white men and women, white people in general, this is difficult to talk about. Women, though, tend to be able to identify with these concepts on some level because they have experienced a level of gender oppression. This is not to say that it's easier for them to understand, but they can at least refer quickly to their experiences of gender difference for comparison. They probably have examples that come to mind easily, whereas for many men it takes a bit more searching. Feminism and gender differences are much more acceptable to talk about in this society–and men tend to be able to accept some of this talk (respect women, equality in the workplace, etc) more readily and comfortably because they see women as partners. On the other hand, when it comes to race, ethnicity, and sexuality, everyone becomes uncomfortable. Our society pays a lot of lip-service to equal rights, but it is a sad truth that our country has not had equal rights for many years. We have to acknowledge the scars of a racially-charged history. The easiest, most common, and perhaps most powerful examples of racially-based oppression in America are the takeover of Native American lands and the enslavement of millions of Africans. It's not comfortable to talk about these ugly practices, or the ugly consequences of them. Like it or not, our country's history shapes our social ideology. It takes a lot of work and ideological brainwashing to justify the takeover and enslavement of millions of people, just as it takes a lot of work to undo all of that.
But more importantly, and more difficult, is understanding how/why/ and when you are a culprit of oppression. This is not necessarily a fault of yours (true, you or I may have engaged in racist/sexist/etc speech or actions, which we could be blamed for), but it mostly is a cultural fact, and it is a system we all participate in. Additionally, even those who have experienced some kind of systematic oppression (for example, language suppression) might advocate for our own assimilation or oppression into the culture because we want to conform and erase our difference so badly. It is important to resist the urge to just deny our complicity in a system where we earn various privileges others do not. It's not easy to digest; nobody likes being told that we are wrong. But if we are wrong and nobody tells us, then we will continue to perpetuate something horrible without knowing it.
So when we talk about these things, those of us who are granted more power within society get defensive and uncomfortable, understandably so. But guilt and defensiveness end up being unproductive emotions. What we have to do is to ask ourselves, what is our level of responsibility in this? In what ways are we responsible for contributing to, challenging, or perpetuating the current systems of power and inequality in the USA? What choices will we make to act upon our responsibilities as citizens in the US? What definition and shape will we give to our citizenship, knowing that we have "more" citizenship rights than many others, or that we are considered "full" citizens while others tend to enjoy a muted or limited citizenship? What control DO we have over the systems at work around us?
Thank you all for your thoughtful, interesting reflections on the Writing Histories. I'm sorry to be a litte sentimental, but I am touched by the ways in which you appreciated each others' stories and experiences, and extracted interesting, generous reflections from them. Please, as we continue, keep this spirit of generosity, contemplation, and compassion going!
We had some good discussion last week about identity, difference, race, ethnicity, nationality, and much more, as we examined the results of our own Google survey. I've been thinking quite a bit about the interesting moments from our discussions, and considering how we should move forward in our class, based on the ideas we are reading and thinking about. A few significant points emerged from our discussions that I want to record and remember.
A few students emphasized that it is important to them to assert their national, racial, or ethnic identity. They suggested that they want others to know them not just by an ordinary identity category, or an assumed identity category, but by a particular, specific identity category. For example, a student might insist on being called "Jamaican" rather than "African-American" or "Black;" similarly, a student might prefer to assert her "Italian-ness" rather than being considered "just another American." What I took away from that (and this is echoed in materials that we will read) is that we as people want to be seen for who we are. That is, people are saying, "See me for who I AM. Don't see me for a category or something else–ask me who I am, see me as I define myself." As students/scholars, let's be accountable to that and to each other; let's understand that who we are recognized as is very important.
Another issue that came up is the tendency to avoid uncomfortable subjects, or more specifically, uncomfortable differences. In fact, I noticed that some of us wanted to erase or elide difference in some way. A few people pointed to the White/Caucasian American population as being "obviously American." In some cases, I found it really interesting that students felt like "other" nationalities or races were somehow more special, interesting, or extraordinary than the "typical White American" identity. Why is that, I wonder? Why would a White, American identity be considered "ordinary" or "typical"? Isn't there proof that the idea of a "typical" American is really a misnomer? It's possible that we want to blend into conformity and ignore our own ways of being "different" from others. While it is possible for some to ignore the broad spectrum of difference and diversity that exists in the American landscape, others don't have that luxury because they are visually "different," for example, or perhaps different in ways that can be "spotted" by others. I'm interested in how we might take this up as we discuss Nancy Cantor's piece.
Finally, as I read the broad spectrum of Writing Histories that you graciously posted, I made a good effort to connect what I was reading to what I was learning about you through class discussion and the Google survey. So I asked myself, what connections do I see across these different artifacts? In the Writing Histories, one (of many) theme emerged, which was that you are all here (in college) because you tried and tried again when you were completing the assignments your teachers gave you. You did not give up. You either gave the teachers what they wanted, figured out a formula for writing successful papers, or at some point just had to do your best and accept the possibility of failure. No matter what, though, somehow you all found a way to accept the American schooling model, to manipulate or survive within it, and succeed. As I look to our Wordle, from which the word "AMERICAN" emerges so prominently, I thought, yes, we are all somehow part of the American schooling system, and we accept how it works. A good number of people described in some way or another that they are a part of that system despite any burdens, fears, barriers, impediments that you may have brought to that table. Not too many of you "bucked the system" or fought any of those teachers who gave you red marks, "Fs", "Cs" or dirty looks. Likewise, when faced with negative peer feedback on your writing, you often described backing down, or feeling like you'd learned a lesson. While I noticed a palpable anger or frustration over that kind of rejection in some of your descriptions (more from teachers but less from peers), I also noticed the lack of any power you had or felt to respond in kind. I'm not sure what to do about this. While I am glad that you made it here and are able to go to college because you did not "buck the system" (congratulations), I also wonder what kinds of difference are ignored, erased, silenced by our American schooling system, and by the ways in which writing is taught. (And it should be noted that I wonder about perpetuating such a problem as a writing teacher.) It makes me curious about what we don't see, who or what gets silenced among classroom walls and essay formatting rules. In what productive ways should we or could we seek opportunities to push against this?
Welcome, everyone, to WRT 105! Please feel free to look around the site for information on the course calendar and current blog posts. Thanks for visiting!