Privilege Praxis

December 12, 2008

Sherman Alexie’s Book Banned From Classrooms in Oregon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — quiteneil @ 9:21 pm

via Oregon Live:

The Crook County School District has temporarily removed a book from classrooms after one parent complained to the school board that the National Book Award winner was “trashy” and “inappropriate.”

Written by Sherman Alexie, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” which is based on Alexie’s own experiences, follows a boy who leaves the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white school “where the only other Indian is the school mascot” according to the book jacket description.

But Hank Moss, of Prineville, read the book his son was assigned to read and raised objections to the school board earlier this week, according to the Bend Bulletin.

Moss, reached today by The Oregonian, said the book includes “a reference about masturbation, and that it’s ok and no big deal.” He added that he felt it was “inappropriate”…But Moss, the parent, said he does not think the book should be taught at any age.

“I don’t think it should be for anybody,” he said. “I think it’s trash. I don’t think a 50-year-old ought to read it.”

Blech.

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December 8, 2008

Beer Pong, Objectivication, and Agnes Scott

Check out the article one of my friends, a senior at Agnes Scott College, wrote about the recent film shot on campus: “Road Trip 2: Beer Pong.”

Basically, Agnes Scott is a small women’s college in the South that prides itself on being the world for women. However, from time to time movies are filmed on campus, and this one was clearly quite terrible. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was when a student from Agnes Scott was paid to recruit other students during dinner to participate in a scene about a “LUG club”–lesbians until graduation. Students were told that they didn’t have to kiss, they just had to be comfortable around lesbians. Ick.

Other terrible stuff happened, too–Louisa writes that

FURTHERMORE, the movie’s Craigslist ad states “primarily seeking White” and “Attractive Female Model Type” extras, valued at $7.17/hr (be sure to send in your weight!). These racist and sexist standards are clearly visible on the movie’s promotional flyer. The flyer shows a headless white woman’s body, focusing on her large breasts, barely covered by a shirt that says “Nice Rack.” Her pelvis is in front of a triangle of shot glasses. The tagline? “Get your balls wet.”

Check it out. Ick.

Eta: One of the Bitch Magazine blogs has a write up about it.

December 4, 2008

ridiculousness of the day: english-only elections in tennessee

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — quiteneil @ 2:22 pm

via The Tennessean

Metro Nashville’s English-only special election is on, for now.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Wednesday that her court did not have the authority to grant a request to halt the Jan. 22 election.

“The court takes no pleasure in dismissing the lawsuit filed by Ms. Quinteros but does so … because the issue is not ripe,” she said.

In essence, Bonnyman ruled that plaintiff Rosa Quinteros — a Honduran immigrant who has been living in Davidson County since 1998 after being granted temporary asylum by the U.S. government — must wait until the measure is put to voters and becomes law before she can challenge its constitutionality. She is suing Metro government and the Davidson County Elections Commission to stop the election.

Quinteros declined to comment on the advice of her lawyers, David Randolph Smith and Sean Lewis.

Smith said he would file an appeal as soon as possible with the Tennessee Supreme Court or the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Either court could rule in favor of Quinteros and could halt the election.
Voting begins Jan. 2

Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, the driving force behind efforts to limit most government business to the English language since 2006, said he doesn’t understand how Quinteros’ rights have been violated.

“What I don’t understand is why someone granted temporary asylum … felt that that gave her the right to suppress the right of voters to be heard,” he said.

Bonnyman did not rule on whether the English-only measure is constitutional. She said that a 2004 case decided by the Tennessee Supreme Court indicated that such a determination cannot be made before an election unless there are questions about the process or procedures used leading up to an election.

Ballots will be mailed to military personnel and other Davidson County voters living abroad on Dec. 8. Early voting is set to begin Jan. 2.

On Tuesday, a naturalized citizen from Myanmar joined the lawsuit, claiming that he has concerns about how an English-only rule would affect his ability to assist Southeast Asian refugees in Nashville. Win Myint’s legal filing said he has noticed more divisiveness locally since English-only has become an issue.

I really want to write more about the oppressive privileged nature of the English language, both in the academy and in every day life.

December 3, 2008

Prop 8 Response, Privilege, and What Have You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — quiteneil @ 3:36 am

I know I’m behind the times blogging about this, but Dan Savage’s comments along with the generally terribly racist response that went unchecked over at a reposted letter at the Bilerico Project have frustrated me beyond words. I was reading over bell hooks’s Teaching Community tonight at work, and I wanted to pull out this section from it.

Often the white women I have encountered who are most passionate in their will to be anti-racist, who carry their commitment from theory to practice, are gay women. Interviewing them I heard again and again that discrimination against them on the basis of sexuality helped bridge their understanding of the pain of race-based discrimination. Rather than assuming that this pain was identical to the pain they experienced, they accepted the “bridge” as merely a base to walk across, allowing them to learn from people of color the nature of our experience in the social context of white supremacy.

Many white gay people are unable to bridge the gap. They remain unable to look at the way in which whiteness and white power give them access to privilege to the role of dominator. They refuse to see the ways discrimination can impact on our consciousness differently even though the forms it takes are the same. Often gay white people look down on black people because they percieve us to be more homophobic or less sexually progressive. These stereotyped assumptions are rooted in white-supremacist thinking, which deems white folks to be always more sophisticated and complex than people of color. White gay women and men who are fundamentally anti-racist do not need to use the notion that they are intellectually superior or to legitimize their fear of us.

ETA: Renee from Womanist Musings has a post up at Feministe about pearl clutchers that speaks to this really well, too. I think that a lot of response to Prop 8 from white people has very much been a pearl clutching response, almost in the worst way–“Of course we aren’t privileged–we’re gay! Why don’t you understand!” while repeating the same racist blather that keeps them from seeing their own privilege.

November 7, 2008

Privilege and Response to Barack Obama.

One of my best friends from high school couldn’t have more divergent political views than my own.  He posted a dramatic note on Facebook about how Barack Obama would tax the upper middle class to death and that was nothing less than a “Marxist created theory of the redistribution of wealth.”

I didn’t reply, because there is no way I could change his mind, but I couldn’t put my finger on why I was upset until I did my laundry last night.  I realized I was upset because economic policy, while part of the reason I didn’t vote for John McCain, was not my main decision.  Here are some of the more salient reasons I didn’t vote for him.

  1. John McCain, on his campaign website, states that he “believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.”  Clearly, he doesn’t care about women’s bodies, or their right to make decisions.  I must also say that I hate this idea of “activist judges,” because it implies that first, an activist is a bad thing incongruent with being a member of the judicial system, and second, because it implies that conservative judges aren’t “legislating from the bench.”
  2. John McCain also states he “believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.”  Thanks for upholding a heterosexist, sexist, and generally not accurate view of what a family is.
  3. If John McCain had been elected, it would continue this paradigm of a white, rich man being the president of the United States.

I could go on and on.  You know the facts; you know what each candidate stood for.

I just think it’s privileged to focus on how each candidate will affect your tax return.  If you don’t have to worry about conservative activist judges making decisions about your body, if you don’t have fight tooth and nail to enjoy the privilege of being married, if someone who shares your identity has NEVER been president, then you have the privilege to focus on taxes.

July 29, 2008

Tutoring “Examples” in Writing Center Tutor Training Texts, Take Two

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — quiteneil @ 8:46 pm

“As you read these responses, think about the experiences that you bring to tutoring writing. From Jessi:

 

I remember when I was in fourth grade, I was singled out (I hate when teachers do that) to help a slow kid named Peter with his reading. We sat down during “quiet time” and I helped him go over the lesson we had learned earlier that day. Each day when we were alone, the teacher would give me a sticker, I assume as an award, that I had to wear on the front of my Catholic school uniform. She never gave Peter a sticker.

Today I am still undecided as to why I chose to help Peter. Was it because I had always been good at matters pertaining to English? Did the teacher think that Peter would benefit more from my help as a peer? Or was she just lazy and preferred to have “quiet time” to herself? I guess I don’t expect a sticker at the end of each of my tutoring sessions these days. I do expect tutoring to be a fulfilling experience for both myself and my students/classmates…”

The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring, Gillespie and Learner, Allyn and Bacon, 2000 (emphasis mine).

Blech.

As we saw last time with Darren and Yaroslav, privilege plays a key role within the texts used to train writing center tutors. In the St. Martin’s guide, they primarily rely on fictional representations of the tutoring session; Allyn and Bacon gets in the “tutor voice” by beginning their text with narratives from tutors reflecting on what brought them to tutoring. The above passage is the first narrative. Here’s a few things that are problematic about it:

1) As the first tutor narrative in a book whose audience is meant to be tutors and people in courses preparing to become tutors, it uses perjorative, ableist language to describe a tutor’s relationship with a situation that brought Jessi to the writing center.

2) It sets up that tutors will be rewarded for their ability to help someone who is not fitting an academic mold or standard, not a relationship between two people who want to examine ideas/context(s)/text.

3) Is Jessi a peer to Peter? Given that she was “singled out” (specially chosen) and given “a sticker” (rewarded) that Peter didn’t get, I don’t think that a peer relationship is what Jessi nor her teacher had in mind. I think it’s interesting too that she refers to her current tutees as students/classmates–especially when later Allyn and Bacon goes into such detail about why tutors are not teachers.

What I’ve learned so far from reading these guidebooks (we’re not required to read them to tutor at Agnes, but they’re around) is that their kind of peer tutoring isn’t actually peer tutoring. It’s semi-peer-tutoring. It’s about going to see a para-para-professor to clarify your ideas and get your paper in shape for academia. It is about instituing privilege into a tutor so that they have the upper hand in a tutoring situation. Consequently, tutoring guides don’t tell you how to deal with issues that tutors might have with their own race/class/queer/gender/ability stuff. It assumes that all tutors don’t have to worry about it and only tells you (sometimes) how to deal with someone else who has race/class/queer/gender/ability stuff.

 

 

 

 

July 4, 2008

Tutoring “Examples” in Writing Center Tutor Training Texts, Take One

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — quiteneil @ 10:13 pm

I have a love hate relationship with writing centers.  Generally placed in colleges and universities, they’re supposed to be places for writers/peers to collaborate rather than either a triage unit for “bad” writing or an American academic writing cupcake mold in which to pour people’s ideas.  I’m a tutor at the writing center at my college.  I’ve been preparing for a presentation at a conference for writing center folks, which involves examining tutor training texts, mostly books and articles aimed at tutors who are either just beginning their tutoring or are in a tutoring class.  Something just keeps sticking in my craw about the fictional representations of tutoring sessions.  Generally, they seem as if they’re stories that the director of a writing center is retelling from a tutor’s perspective, not stories directly narrated by tutors.  In the introduction of The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, three fictional students are presented to the reader.  First, there is the exchange student who comes from a repressive country.  Second, there is the truck driver who is going back to college for an engineering degree and is worried about his compositions skills.  The third student is quick to learn computer programming, but has trouble writing due to a learning disability.  The scenarios involving each of these students are incredibly problematic.

 

So, Darren and Yaroslav.  Yaroslav is “a Russian student…bright, articulate and highly motivated.”  Darren is presumably American.  The assignment is to write a “letter to the editor against changes in governmental policies.”  Yaroslav is have a lot of trouble writing it, and Darren patiently questions him until Yaroslav says, “In my country you do not write letters to the editor to complain about the government.  You could be imprisoned for such an act of defiance.”  Darren, however, as an American, understands democracy and acts of defiance, so he is able to gently lead Yaroslav to the American way.

 

To me, this is pretty racist, especially because I see this line of thinking applied to English as a Second Language students quite often.  In The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, tutors are urged to use a “nonevaluative approach…[for folks who are] unaccustomed to questioning authority (and to them, you are the authority in the tutoring session).”  First, the context of this paragraph makes all ESL students out to be Asian exchange students, as no other language difficulty is discussed besides the dynamic grammar differences between Korean and English.  Second, ESL students in both Bedford and St. Martin’s are presumably from non-democratic countries—and of course, the good old USA should be the gold standard for democracy.  Third, this plays into all kinds of racist assumptions that Asian students/tutees/folks are passive, particularly in the sense that the tutor becomes a figure of authority.  I’m sorry, but my coffee-swilling, pen-clicking, mis-buttoned shirtfront self shouldn’t be an (the) authoritative figure in any tutoring situations.  That the writers of Bedford assume so rings to me of a)  tutors are white, non-LD and able-bodied, young middle-class Americans who can and will play the academic writing game, and b) folks who are not those things will be tutees and will consider us authoritative.  That is bullshit.

 

More on the other scenarios later.  And authority.  And authority in the writing center.

 

Neil

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