Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A few thoughts on race in the blogosphere and an encouragement to look elsewhere

So, I finally have both the time and the internal permission to think about something other than my diss project, every once in a while. And since I woke up very early because I was (ironically) replaying nearly every second of the exam in my sleep, dreaming about answers I should have given and questions I need to think about more fully, I've come to the blogosphere to see what's cookin' elsewhere and to post about some things that've been on my mind for a while now.

Recently, there's been a fascinating discussion in the blogosphere, spurred on by posts like this one from blac(k)ademic. The primary accusations against white, liberal, often feminist bloggers in this conversation, as I understand it, are two:

  • First, that white bloggers tend to want to talk about race almost exclusively when the issue at hand is white people's racism, rather than a broader range of the concerns of people of color.
  • Second, that, when dicussions of race that interest them begin on the blogs of people of color, white bloggers tend to co-opt discussions of race away from those blogs.
I take both of those points very much to heart, and I've been thinking about them a lot lately. I think they're both right on the money. In fact, I think I'm probably guilty as charged, and that disturbs me.

I am still mulling over the implications of that first item. I do intend to work hard to correct my own tendency to view race issues primarily through the lens of white racism. I think it's the straight-up truth that there are many more points of access to the dynamics at play here, and that my tendency to look at race through the lens of white privilege--in whatever form--is keeping me from more fully understanding other people's experiences.

On the second point, it is true that, when a fellow blogger says things that get me het up about an issue and I want to write about it at some length, I sometimes feel as though I ought, out of courtesy, not to hog the comments thread. So I might simply post my response to that issue on my own blog.

And this, one would hope, is where citation comes into play: such posts should always let their readers know who inspired them. I try to explain to my students that learning how to cite things correctly isn't just a silly academic convention. It's about an ethical stance of trust, respect, and honesty: giving other people their due, not trying to claim their thoughts for one's own, and acknowledging the inspiration that others give you. I think I've been pretty good about that in the writing I've done on this blog. But . . .

When it comes to issues involving race, citation can get especially complicated. It's undeniable that the history of race is also a history of appropriation, and I think that really establishes a different ethic we have to think about. Maybe, in the kind of scenario I mention above, it's not only less appropriate, but actually politically unhelpful, to take our comments back to our own blogs. I've commented on blac(k)ademic's post here in this format only because, in the time beween my initial reading of it and my post-exam ability to actually respond, the discussion on her post has nearly petered out. But you all should head over there to have a look around and join in on the conversations she has going now. She always has extremely interesting and insightful things to say, as do many of her commenters.

I also want to encourage y'all to go read a post and a comment thread that really got me going over at Angry Black Bitch's place. Of course, I fully realize the irony of having said what I did about the charge of a Caucasian one-track-mind about race and then directing you to a discussion of the Duke lacrosse scandal. After all, that's certainly a very clear example of racial issues getting loads of airplay and attracting loads of discussion because a group of white people acted like unbelievable asshats. Still, you really, really ought to go read what's going on at ABB's. Why? Well, this passage from one of her posts is a good example:

This nation is young, but the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and the unique exploitation and abuse of women of color is woven into our fabric. It lingers over our history like the stench of a rotting corpse…clinging to our great moments and indicting our bad ones.

Now that, my friends, is some mean writing. It is also some serious home truth. And there's more where that came from, so head on over there.