Introducing My Glossary

After working on this a few weeks, I believe it is about ready for others to see….

I have been working on a Glossary, located here on this same webpage, that has what are hopefully basic and simple key terms related to Critical Theory and History. Those currently listed relate to my research and interests in some way or another. I have added a tab on the top of my webpage for this Glossary. I plan to make regular updates to this page. My hope is that it will help readers understand some of the perspectives I use and help others grapple with these ideas. 

Please take a look and let me know if any terms need to be added! :) 

As I am hoping to finish my dissertation in the next month or so, I will not be blogging as much for just a while. Thanks for reading.

PostStructuralism

 

Toward Explaining Clarence Thomas – A Very Brief Look at How “Race” Operates

Clarence_Thomas_official_SCOTUS_portraitSupreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is certainly an unusual judge—frequently considered the most conservative judge on the bench. (He recently gave his OK for individual states to establish an official state religion!)

Comments across news articles and social media constantly speculate about his seeming ignorance and/or laissez-faire attitude when it comes to concerns and justice for minority rights.

People ask, how could a Black Man be so uncaring and out-of-touch? 

So, I want to make just one extended point here. Thomas is a perfect example of how money, national status, and fame can buy Whiteness—just like was a legal right in various colonial Latin American nations. He is, thus, a perfect example of how “race” is not about skin color per se. Yes, of course, the various hues of our skin and how they are broadly and arbitrarily categorized do make up the basis of our completely non-biological, yet fully socially constructed racialized mores. The socially constructed nature of our racialized mores also gets more complicated when there are any kind of ambiguities or exceptions or unusual events one way or another. People can be racialized differently depending on their specific time and place or even clothing. Thomas’s behavior and his place in what bell hooks terms the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy, therefore, makes Thomas “White” – not “Black.” And Thomas chooses to use his Whiteness to perpetuate Whiteness in such a way as to maintain the status quo of the rich White Protestant cis-Men. 

Such a framework of money equating to Whiteness per se could help explain Condoleezza Rice “having lost her heart,” as one of my grad school professors put it.

Likewise, it might help explain how Oprah’s big encounter with racism was being told she couldn’t afford a £24,000 bag while on a trip in Switzerland.

I’d venture to guess that these individuals are also, at least somewhat, racialized as White by the general public – especially Thomas and Rice among White conservatives, and Oprah among television-watchers and her followers.

This is by no means to undermine Thomas’s, Rice’s, and Oprah’s national and international accomplishments – these should be celebrated. They are very accomplished (though out-of-touch with everyday people) and (depending on the given group being asked) very popular individuals. But by looking at their accomplishments and behaviors, we can see in at least some additional ways how “race” is a social construction and a function of a variety of subjective, selective, always changing, and potentially individual factors in exceptional cases.

(Updated 7/5/14, 12:35 AM: For a somewhat different and extended perspective, check out “Clarence Thomas’s Counterrevolution” by Corey Robin”. HT to Jonathan Dresner on Twitter for telling me about it!)

See also from this webpage:

“4th of July” vs “Independence Day” – Hidden Power of Words Series, #11

Do you refer to the United States’s birth by saying “Happy 4th of July!” or “Happy Independence Day!”? If you are like most, you have probably almost always thought of today as the 4th of July. As Bruce Martin points out in his blog article, “On Independence Day, Fourth of July, Fireworks Day, Whatever We Call It,” there are many important rhetorical differences between the two, and our common choice speaks volumes to what we do and do not really value. 

Before going further, here is an image (click to enlarge) from GoogleBooks (nGrams tool) that gives a really good idea of how the two have been used in printed English over time: 

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Additionally a quick search on Google brings:
  65,700,000 results for “Independence Day”
351,000,000 for “4th of July”

4th of July conjures up images of BBQs, family get togethers, maybe a day off from work if you are lucky, fireworks, parades, powerful classical musical (though historically misappropriated), Christmas in July sales, and a kind of high-mark of the summer in general.

None of this is bad in and of itself. But this in no way actually celebrates or reflects on the ideals of how the United States was formed. Although Christmas, for example, is not without similar issues created in part by hyper-consumerism, there is still an emphasis among those who celebrate it in Churches to reflect on the founding of Christianity.

By not saying “Happy Independence Day” all the time, we consciously and unconsciously (further) avoid all of the on-going (and increasingly of late) contradictions between the United States’s long history and its ideals and its still current trajectory and ideals. For a nation so ready to scream,  “FREEDOM OF RELIGION” and “ALL ARE CREATED EQUAL” and to proclaim “THE AMERICAN DREAM AWAITS,” we sure do have a ridiculous time actually coming anywhere close to actually meaning this – we should be ashamed and embarrassed as a nation.

The other problem with today–although it is only natural and perhaps needed given the nature of humans–is the deliberate re-writing of our nation’s founding. This national mythology is very powerful today. Even President Obama is guilty of perpetuating this. Take a look at this address from today. (Email subscribers will probably need to visit this webpage.)

Our so-called Founding Fathers really did mean “all men are created equal.” Women–even by the language of their time–were deliberately left out and were not “included” in this male-centric diction. And if you would like to debate this point, I’d ask that you look at how women, Blacks, Indians, and others were treated. White cis-Men are the only group in the United States’s history that have not faced codified, institutionalized, perpetual discrimination. 

The nature of racism by the 1770s and 1780s was so assumed and so everyday that it was not necessary to say “all White men are created equal.” Just as I discovered in my research on the University of Houston during the Culture of Segregation: it was so assumed–part of the historical unconsciousness–that Black individuals were not going to be admitted, that there was no contradiction between this fact and UH’s fully open-admissions policy.

Additionally, these Founding Fathers also had in their grand and radical vision a society where this would only be extended to wealthy individuals. 

While things have absolutely changed and we have expanded on these grand and radical ideas in many ways–such that the so-called Founding Fathers are “rolling in their graves” to borrow the cliché–a simple look at history–history defined as everything from less than a micro-second ago–shows us how much things have not changed.

Perhaps if we sincerely reflected on the nation’s true origins (including that the so-called Founding Fathers created something much more like an oligarchy than a “democracy” or republic and had a deep-rooted fear of the common person) and true problems even 20% as much as we sincerely celebrate the (racist) institution of Football, every one would feel comfortable saying the Pledge of Allegiance, especially it’s promise with liberty and justice for all.”

Click here for my blog–Personal Histories and Reflections about the 4th of July–from Independence Day last year.

Additionally, you can find the full Hidden Power of Words Series here.

Native Americans and (Not So) Ironic Political Rhetoric

United Statesians–across time and place and without regard to political spectrums–have a very unusual relationship with those 50-100 million individuals who have been subjectively homogenized and called Native American, Indians, and/or Indigenous Peoples and who were living on the lands currently called North America and South America. 

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As the march of “civilization” spread West, those with both good and bad intentions contributed to physical and cultural annihilation of these peoples. We never hear about or read about the people who lived and worked here before the beginning of European colonization….unless, it is to make a political statement seeming for and from these individuals or to have the appearance of learning about the past.

Take a look at the following:

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If these indigenous peoples actually made such statements and seemingly had the desire or power to enforce these statements, you know as well as I know that the United States would squash it before it even started and the annihilation of these people would only continue – lessons from the past tell us this, as well.   

So when you see or share such an image, remember that this political rhetoric and iconography takes one of the weakest groups and has the appearance of giving them a voice but a completely inauthentic, unwelcome voice should it actually be from Native Americans. Additionally, many of these images have Native Americans dressed in stereotypical clothing that in no way actually reflects what most wore daily. 

See also: Katy Perry and Neo-Blackface 

Researching and Writing about Race and Sex – Hidden Power of Words Series, #10

Writing about racialized and sexualized ideas, events, and peoples naturally involves sensitive language. Equally, what is considered appropriate changes over time as one term acquires negative connotations or new language is developed.

For some time now, I almost always use “racialized” or “racialization” instead of “race.” This recognizes the socially constructed nature of how people are raced. People are not White or Black but are raced/racialized as White or Black, for example. 

Also, the capital “W” and “B” are deliberate. This helps us remember they are powerful—yet fully arbitrary—social categories.

More recently, I have also started capitalizing the “M” and “W” in cis-Man and cis-Woman because they are likewise powerful—yet fully arbitrary—social categories that are sexualized/genderized.  

But getting back to racialized terminology, more recently I’ve wondered over the difference between Black, African American, African-American, and African-American (as an adjective).

First, regarding the hyphen between the “African” and “American,” there are three schools of thought (and the same would apply to “Mexican” and “American”):

1-    some say to always use the hyphen

2-    some say to never use the hyphen

3-    some say to only use the hyphen when the term functions as an adjective (e.g., African-American students)

There is also a debate from the Gilded Age and Progressive Era that looks at “hyphenated Americans” as less than real United Statesians (and yes, “United Statesians” is deliberate – I see ethnical dilemmas with the word “Americans”). This was an era when full assimilation was not only expected but was demanded – but only to the extent that people “looked” and “acted” like a proper White United Statesian, not to the extent that they were granted rights White individuals had.


 

From Wikipedia:  Cartoon from Puck, August 9, 1899. Uncle Sam sees hyphenated voters and asks, "Why should I let these freaks cast whole ballots when they are only half Americans?"

From Wikipedia:
Cartoon from Puck, August 9, 1899. Uncle Sam sees hyphenated voters and asks, “Why should I let these freaks cast whole ballots when they are only half Americans?”


 Potential problems with “African American” and its various forms include:

1-    “Africa” is a huge, huge continent.

2-    Not everyone who is “Black” derived from the African continent per se (of course we all did in the long run but that discussion is for another time).

3-    Those called “African Americans” have no more connection to Africa per se than Whites (“European-Americans”) have with the European continent.

4-    “American” refers to all of North and South America, so the technical, precise term would be “African-United Statesian, and that gets awkward. 

Of course anytime a group is being studied and written about their own preferences are important. I’m interested in knowing more about what those who are racialized as non-White prefer to be called—when it is necessary for historical and social examinations to reveal such dynamics and relationships. From what I have found so far, “Black” seems to be an increasingly popular choice because it more accurately describes the associated notions of power and status.

Regardless, we need to remember that “White” and “Black” as racialized categories are fully illogical, have no biological grounding, and in no way refer to the colors “white” and “black” or any actual colors at all.    

Thanks for reading. Be sure and check out the full Hidden Power of Words Series if you haven’t already. 

The Inherent Contradiction Between the “Constitution” and “Democracy,” More on the Hobby Lobby Decision

There is a deep on-going, yet unstated conflict in our nation. Upholding both the Constitution and Democracy are impossible tasks unless one has a fully homogenous nation or fully educated/open-minded/not greedy citizens. 

Of course, when the nation was created, Democracy only applied to rich White cis-Men, and the Constitution was written by and for rich White cis-Men. As said from a Critical Race Theory point-of-view, this has created an on-going White-centric legacy that has infiltrated all of the nation’s laws and institutions – institutionalized racism – racism that affects and hurts all individuals but functions from a White-is-default framework.

By process of amendment and interpretation, as a result of grassroots protests, the Constitution has evolved, somewhat — more often in theory than in practice. But those in charge of Democracy continue to be White and cis-Men far too often. And, with occasional exceptions, have always and continue to actually only represent rich White cis-Men. Consider the oligarchic nature of our CEO-controlled government today.

Additionally, we “elect” (but not really) people to “represent us” (but not really), so in theory violating the Constitution is legal if it “represents” the people –especially those with power and vocal voices. And since corporations are people (I still wonder what gender pronouns they prefer), these corporations further complicate the legality of representation, Democracy, and the Constitution.

Herein lies the irony and the problem: A fuzzy boundary between upholding the Constitution and representing the people, all of the people–two charges that are at competing odds.

Last night as I was planning this post I was asking myself “What happened to one person’s rights can’t limit another’s?” but quickly realized this is a misguided utopian view of the past. Our government has almost always limited the minority right for the majority interest.

Our nation continues down the trajectory if started as a colony of Britain: One group defines its freedom against the unfreedom of all others and sanctions this practice under the cloak of freedom and representation and liberty.

Check out part one of this post: The Supreme Court, (Male) Whiteness, and Why Today’s Decision “Makes Sense”

[Update 12:06 PM, July 1: Yes, I know the so-called Founding Fathers created a "Republic," not a "Democracy." This is touched on above. Additionally, in everyday practice in the United States, "Democracy" and "Republic" are synonymous.]

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