Friday, March 09, 2012

Other Than Wise

The following paragraph, found in this Journal Times article, is why I worry about sending my son to college:

Jennifer Correa, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology who spoke on the history of lynching, urged students to be “race conscious” — to be aware of other racial groups’ ideas and beliefs — and to challenge the notions of “whiteness.” Just like you define “good” by defining “bad,” she said “whiteness” is defined by “the Other,” referring to anything different. In order to address institutional racism, she argued society must first challenge the notions attached to “whiteness” like being civilized and superior.

First of all, do we really understand "good" by first defining "bad?" How did we first define "bad" without a definition of "good?" And isn't it silly to think that we understand "whiteness" by first defining the "other?" If the "other" is defined in part as "anything different," wouldn't we have to understand that which it is different from? So right off the bat we are working with a nonsensical premise.

And we are told to be "race conscious" while challenging notions of "whiteness." I wonder what Correa is conscious of when she sees me, a white man, since the notion of me being civilized must be challenged.

My head is spinning. I am going to lie down. But first, can anyone define "up" for me please?


GearHead said...

In a simpler time, we would have just laughed someone spouting this nonsense out of the room. Today we reward it with tenure. My, how times have changed. !s long as Correa keeps chasing her tail, we can keep the race hustling game going on in perpetuity. Which is what she wants. Navel gazing at its finest.

Denis Navratil said...

If “whiteness” is defined by “the Other,” referring to anything different, then is "dog" defined by "tree?"

BradK said...

I don't like "white" as a race either. I'm Russian, or Slavic. I'm a tad put off to be lumped in with anyone who's "not the Other"... I think the whole conversation is messed up because the starting point / assumption is messed up. And that's not strictly related to this particular article.

Denis Navratil said...

We are urged to "be “race conscious” — to be aware of other racial groups’ ideas and beliefs."

This view suggests to me that we are entirely shaped, perhaps enslaved, into a particular belief system etc... based only on skin pigmentation. How to explain the radically different ideas and beliefs expressed by Sean Cranley and myself, both white males? Is Sean an "other" trapped beneath pale skin?

BradK said...


I had that "conversation" (debate / argument / etc) with the facilitator of a "diversity" class at a former employer.

Diversity of thought and experience was completely ignored (until I brought it up) in lieu of diversity of skin color, gender and sexual orientation. In a way I can understand it because it was a marketing company, and marketing demographics are broken down in the same way(s). But in a corporate setting, if you are going to claim to recruit and retain the "best and the brightest" yet classify them in those "buckets", you completely miss the point. Corporate America tends to ignore looking for the best and brightest thinkers, planners, artistics, engineers, mathematicians, etc when putting their diversity goals together in lieu of non-European "hyphen"-Americans, women and GLBTs. I'm not advocating ditching the legacy method of classification of diversity, I'm saying STOP IGNORING the other classification. There was a lot of study materials on the topic I researched back then, I wish I had kept it to reference. I'm sure some Googling would help me find it.

Your point on you and Sean is spot-on. If an organization were to pick you and say, James T. Harris and think they had accomplished "diversity", they would be missing out on the progressive / liberal thought process (not just ideology, but way of thinking and method of reasoning).

I freely admit, I come to your blog to read and contribute because of that thought diversity. If it was an echo chamber, it would either get boring, or whip itself into a passionate and emotional frenzy (which I find discouraging in political debate).

I would say "my 2 cents" but that might be nickel worth of typing...

Denis Navratil said...

Brad, in my opinion, diversity should be pursued if it serves the interests of the organization. For example, an NBA team will not pack their starting lineup with power forwards. They typically will look for a quick, highly skilled passer and dribbler, a dead on shooter, a slasher, a defensive expert, a very tall and strong rebounder etc... as these diverse and complimentary skill sets will more likely lead to success than the pursuit of gender, race, sexual orientation, or age diversity.

I can't easily think of a reason to pursue racial, gender etc.. diversity unless it is to appease the race and gender conscious/obsessed.

On a humorous note, I nearly laughed out loud once at a candidate forum for some elected office when a candidate urged the audience to vote for her because she was diverse, by which she meant black I think.

BradK said...


Understood, but the organization's unofficial "mantra" was "it takes all types" of thought leaders - but in this case, it meant all types of the three categories of race, gender and sexual orientation, and no types of anything else. It came off as more than slightly hypocritical or at least ignorant and shortsighted. I'm fairly certain the human thought processes and leadership aren't confined to those particular three.