Saturday, September 10, 2016

Some humans

are spooky. I'll be more specific...some humans who are raced as white are spooky.

This morning I went on Facebook and quickly ran into a link to this story. A brief summary:...a woman (white) publishes a textbook about Mexican American heritage and makes the mind-boggling statement that "...Mexican-American scholars weren't tapped to help write the book in order to have an unbiased book." She's saying if you want a supposedly factual book about a subject you should avoid consulting those who are knowledgeable about the subject in order to be "unbiased". Hmmm...

Then I ran across this next story. It's an article about a woman (white) who has written several books but this time the author is giving a talk and in the talk she's promoting the idea that she (or anyone) should be able to write about anybody's experiences because...it's fiction. She's arguing that since fiction is "fake" anyway then no one should object to her (or anyone) writing from the viewpoint of, for instance, a rapist (even if they are not a rapist) or a Nigerian woman (even if they're not a Nigerian woman) and on and on.

This might be an interesting question to wrestle with (whether or how you can "know" the experiences of someone different from you) but...apparently that wasn't the tenor of the talk. The speaker was primarily ridiculing the idea of anyone objecting to writing from viewpoints that the author knows little about...if they were writing fiction.

There might be something of substance to consider here...but...I suspect the substance is going to be bound up primarily in consideration of whether the speaker/writer is operating from being positioned in a group that socially dominates another group or other groups. I'm specifically referring to Ruth Frankenberg's third axiom.

I can meld the messages together coming from these two women (white) and they seem to be saying that they should be able to present anything they want...without anyone objecting...and that ignorance about the topics is actually a strength. If the writing is supposedly factual then ignorance is a strength because it is "unbiased" and if the mode of writing is fiction then ignorance is a strength because it is an exercise of "freedom".

Notice that both are apparently upholding and lauding and maintaining that ignorance indicates some kind of strength or positive thing.


I couldn't help but think that, in some form or fashion, both of these women (white) seem to be confirming some of Dr. Mills' conceptualizations about an epistemology of ignorance.

He wrote about the substitution of ignorance for "knowledge" in regard to race but he also made mention (as does Cori Wong) that maybe there is an epistemology of ignorance for each manifestation of group dominance/subordination.

There's ignorance (masquerading as "knowledge") associated with white people vs people of color, there's an ignorance associated with men vs women, there's an ignorance associated with heterosexuals vs non-heterosexuals and on and on.

In each configuration of social domination directed toward a subordinated group noted in this post, the members of the more powerful group claim that they don't have to "know" that which they don't "know" and that their their "unknowing" is actually a good thing...either because it is "unbiased" or it is an exercise of "freedom".

There's something sort of Orwellian (think doublespeak) about all this...and...like I said...spooky. Humans sort of frighten me vis a vis their attitudes and behaviors toward Earthlings not identified as humans.



And, even more unsettling (spooky) maybe, is the fact that more and more I am rather frightened by white people.

Notice that I am situated as being in each of these groups (human, white...plus, jeez, I'm also situated as male and cisgendered and heterosexual)...and that is deeply uncomfortable to me. Because...each/all of those groups are situated as dominant and there seems to be a pervasive epidemic of unfounded prideful superiority coupled with a serious and persistent embracing of ignorance among all of them.

Also note...even though both the folks referenced in the articles I'm writing about are situated as women (a subordinated group) they are raced as white (a dominant group). Their dominant ways of viewing the world are apparently obscuring or suppressing the possible knowings they might have access to as a result of their belonging to a subordinated group. Is this a situation where the bad pushes out the good or power makes you deficient in awareness? 

These two articles made me think about the notion of not knowing what we don't know. It's very unlikely that we'll be able to find out about our not knowing that which we don't know if we maintain the position that our lack of knowing (or our lack of knowing that which we don't know) is a positive or laudable condition. That seems very much like saying "I'm ignorant and proud of it" or "I'm ignorant about being ignorant and I'm proud of it". Or...as Mr. Orwell said...ignorance is strength.

Like I said...some humans (especially those who are raced as white) are spooky.

2 comments:

Have Gone Vegan said...

"Their dominant ways of viewing the world are apparently obscuring or suppressing the possible knowings they might have access to as a result of their belonging to a subordinated group. Is this a situation where the bad pushes out the good or power makes you deficient in awareness?"

In a word, yes. Seems to me that just as we all may be oppressed in one way or another, we're also oppressors of some other group even if we don't realize it. Invisibling, as you mentioned in the previous post, is pervasive. Spooky indeed!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. I recently read a paper wherein the author pointed out that grasping our privilege is so very hard because the world rarely challenges the assumptions that uphold that privileged position. I'm still working to wrap my mind around that one.