In the supermarket today, the people in line ahead of me and the checker were discussing Obama. He has raised their taxes and utility bills, and raised prices on everything. He has made major policy changes that have moved us very far leftward.
The participants in the discussion then gave limp wristed, parodic Black Power salutes.
All but one of them was Black.
An educator with a PhD said to me the other day that it was racist to teach about slavery because that way Black people would never be allowed to forget that their ancestors here had been slaves.
A former student has certain views on race and culture that he publishes in the popular press, using materials taught in my classes which he cites out of context and distorts terribly; he keeps sending me these pieces and asking for comment.
He wants adoring comments but I disagree with the pieces, sometimes vehemently. If not approached I would say nothing. Since I am, I limit myself to making a brief remark or two. These are not what he wants to hear and he complains, why do you challenge me, and why do you not comment in greater detail?
He thinks I am dismissing him and perhaps I should look at my tone. Although I try to choose neutral phrasing I feel sharp, and the reason for that is that I feel imposed upon.
What I would like to say is something along the lines of this:
“I am glad you are reading. I am very supportive of your desire to broaden your intellectual horizons, and also of your project to promote your native culture and the teaching of your language. However, I have a great deal more academic training in these matters than you do, and I also have professional responsibilities you do not.
“I cannot engage with an undergraduate on these matters at the level I can with a colleague in field, nor can I use University or personal time to give the level of professional feedback on your work I would to a student in our program. Yet more importantly, I do not wish to be construed or represented as lending my approval as a professional to any cultural or political project I do not actually support.”
I am feeling coerced by this person. I feel as though I were being recruited by a cult leader. It amazes me is that some objections I have made to his theories are then distorted such that they appear to support them. It insults me that he, an autodidact who may or may not have a B.A., thinks that by the use of condescension and suave persuasive techniques he will convince me to endorse his views and his shaky intellectual project.
The last fight I had with this person had to do with Blackness, my refusal to say regular African-Americans had no reason to resent Creoles and descendants of free people of color. Of course they do; but then white people don’t always understand me on this either, of course white privilege is resented.
Why does this bother me so? I think it is because my professional reservations about the project in question are not simply noted or even disagreed with from an informed point of view, but are treated as neuroses or ignorance. I am snapping at this person, yes, but I feel used and abused somehow — that is to say, I feel colonized.