Read Section 2.2 and 2.3 to answer the question 1.
1.Explain how a ?master narrative? is a kind of theoretical framework. ?Give some examples from your assigned reading in Takaki, and in Sessions. ?I know this is hard at first; read the discussion posts of your classmates, to get some ideas.
A theoretical framework is a ‘way of looking at or thinking about’ something.
Read Section 2.4 to answer the question 2.
2. As you read, write about your thoughts and feelings in your notes.? Then use those notes as the basis for discussion posts.? Look at the rubric for Discussion posts again, to make sure you know how you are being assessed. Copy this into your post, and then answer it: ?Give some examples about names and labels from your assigned reading?in?Takaki, and in?Sessions, and from your own experience.
Session 2.2?? Introduction to Dr. Ron Takaki
OK, we’ve figured out what this course is about.? We’re working out the technology. We’ve figured out how to get our questions answered.??We’re getting to know each other better.? So far, so good.? On to today?s Session:
Takaki: A Different Mirror
I want to write about Dr. Ron Takaki?s work in multicultural history.? Dr. Takaki has been one of the pioneers in developing comparative history as a core feature of multicultural courses.? He was one of my teachers for a time, and I admire him enormously, especially his intellect, and his funny laugh. I added some YouTube links ?speech he often gives, that has been very influential to us at Shoreline, in developing our own outcomes in multicultural understanding.? In any case, here?s what I want to emphasize about Takaki. I will show you?his words from the text framed and in bold?(imagine a classroom overhead), and then I will add my comments (imagine me talking about the overhead).
Takaki says:? “America has been racially diverse since our very beginning”
Betsey says:? Multicultural Studies is not some new educational fad, and diversity and multiculturalism are not just a manifestation of the new millennium. The United States has always been diverse. We have rarely acknowledged our many voices, but the voices have always been here.
Takaki:? “?established scholarship has defined America too narrowly”
Betsey:? Dr. Takaki is a historian. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California at Berkeley, and taught history and multicultural studies there. He asks us to remember our many US history lessons, from preschool through now, wherever we encountered formal schooling. He asks us to remember what we learned in our classes about Asian Americans, or about Latinos who contributed to the making of this country. For example, when Dr. Takaki was on the Today show, he was asked to distinguish between Ellis Island and Angel Island. Many who grew up in the United States recognize Ellis Island as the Immigration Station in New York City where European immigrants first set foot on American soil. Very few know that Angel Island was the Immigration Station in San Francisco where Asian immigrants first set foot on American soil. Takaki?s point is that much of what we in the United States study as US History is more accurately called White US History.? Even those who did not grow up in the US get a version of US history that is mostly White History.
Takaki presents “?a fresh angle, a study of the American past that explores the comparative histories of: African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos, Indians, Irish, and Jews”
Betsey:? Remember when we defined the content of this course in Session 1.1 as race, social class, gender, sexual orientation, sometimes religion and disabilities, and their relation to power and privilege? Takaki is also naming some of the content of Multicultural Studies.
Takaki:? “While together they help to explain general patterns in our society, each group has contributed to the making of the United States. African Americans have been the central minority throughout this country?s history. Asian Americans have been here for over 150 years, before many European immigrant groups. Chicanos represent the largest group among the Hispanic population. The Irish came here in greater numbers than most immigrant groups. Jews struggled not only for themselves but also for other oppressed groups, especially blacks. Indians or Native Americans represent a critical contrast, for theirs was not an immigrant experience”.
Betsey:? Takaki?s point is that, contrary to what our US history books would have us believe, each of the groups mentioned has contributed substantially to making this country one of the world?s great powers.
Takaki:? “Race has been a social construction that has historically set apart racial minorities from European immigrant groups”
Betsey:? Remember that part about ?social construction?; it will come up again and again.? Just to start, one way to think of social constructions is to consider that some categories have no meaning in themselves, but acquire their meaning in social contexts.? For example, race is a category that has no meaning in isolation; it acquires different meanings in different societies.? You cannot always tell someone’s race by looking at them, or by blood type, etc., but race does have a social meaning when a society considers race to be important.
Takaki:? “The people in our study have been actors in history, not merely victims of discrimination. They are entitled to be viewed as men and women with minds, wills and voices”.
Betsey:? In this quote, Takaki is talking about a concept that is essential to multicultural competence. Often, people who were raised in White U.S. culture read multicultural history as a story of victims. People who grew up in multicultural communities read multicultural history as a story of heroes, people who represent the essence of what it means to be American: resistance to oppression. Keep track of your own thinking on this. Takaki?s A Different Mirror is about people who embraced the big ideas of American democracy and justice, and who resisted oppression and endured.
Takaki:? “In the telling and retelling of their stories, they create communities of memory”
Betsey:? A community of memory is a key concept. Takaki is saying that when stories are told repeatedly, they become part of our collective memory. Let me try to show you one: If you grew up and went to school in the United States, try to remember what you were studying in school around the month of November. Remember, your teacher gave you black, and white and yellow construction paper and showed you how to make pilgrim hats?? What color was the band around the brim? What?s missing that was yellow? When we talk about this in a face-to-face class, almost everyone who went to elementary school in the US remembers making (men’s’) pilgrim hats, always in the same way (black paper for the stovepipe and brim, white for the band, and yellow for the buckle.? If you didn?t grow up and go to school in the US, try to remember something in your schooling that you studied repeatedly, every year. Remember? This is a kind of community of memory. Here are some others: remember what you drew at Thanksgiving by tracing around your hand? (a sort of turkey) What other hats did you make? Was there a woman?s hat?? Was there one with feathers? How many feathers? (either one or three).? Note that the community of memory surrounding Indian headbands at Thanksgiving is culturally inaccurate, as Indians of the East Coast of the US did not wear headbands with feathers.
The visual image of planes flying into the Twin Towers and then the Towers crumbling to the ground will be a ‘community of memory? to generations from this point forward, and maybe dead bodies floating in the flood waters of New Orleans. ?Or maybe oil gushing from an underwater pipe. How we interpret those visual images will depend on a variety of multicultural issues:? age, gender,?the political climate around your dinner table, whether you even meet to talk politics around your dinner table, etc.? Here is another example of a community of memory:? many US citizens came to believe that the US is involved in a war with Iraq because of the (2nd) World Trade Center Bombing, even though none of the terrorists involved were Iraqi citizens.? In fact, most of the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, which the US considers an ally.? This is an example of a Story that has come to have a life of its own, independent of the facts, which are easily verifiable.? Notice how often this comes up for us.
Takaki:? “The telling of stories liberates. Stories are not as innocent as they seem”
Betsey:? Start to notice whose stories you know. Try to notice communities of memory in your family (stories told repeatedly, even if they weren?t true).
L.M. Silko:? “I will tell you something about stories: They aren?t just entertainment. Don?t be fooled”
Betsey:? Leslie Marmon Silko, the author of this quote, is a Native American novelist/storyteller who knows something important about stories. Think of the music you listened to when you were just getting interested in sex and love. What stories did the songs tell you about love? About women? About men?? If you watch TV this week, try to notice the ?Stories?. In this case, Story doesn?t mean ?plot?; it means more like a stereotype. What do the ?Stories? you watch on television tell you about how people should behave toward each other? As you start to notice the ?Stories?, think about this:
Takaki quoting Adrienne Rich:? What happens when someone with the authority of a teacher describes our society and ?you are not in it?? Such an experience can be disorienting –“a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing”
Betsey:? Think about this:? What happens when someone with the authority of a teacher or politician or news anchor describes our society, and you and people like you are the only ones in it?? What happens when you and people like you are not at all represented?
Session 2.3???? Names and Labels
Hi, here we are again. Today?s conversation about names and labels is deceptively simple and straightforward. You will see that this issue of names and labels is pervasive in Multicultural Studies, for many sociological, psychological, and historical reasons. I will be using some ideas from Virginia Cyrus, Experiencing race social class and gender in the US.? Cyrus?s words in bold, Betsey?s words in plain type. OK? Here we go:
Names and Labels
Cyrus:? “Some people consider the issue of names and language trivial. However, what we are called and what we call ourselves powerfully influence our sense of self and the way others view us”
Betsey: some examples to start you thinking about this:
Example One: My legal name is Elizabeth Faye Barnett. That?s what it says on my debit card. So, when I go to the grocery store in my neighborhood, and give my card to the cashiers, sometimes they say, “Thank you, Elizabeth”. Now it?s no big deal that the checkers call me Elizabeth, it’s not some multicultural missed step.?? But it does tell me one thing: Those checkers don?t?know?me. If they knew me, they would call me by my name, the name I want to be called (Betsey, spelled B-E-T-S-E-Y).? Keep thinking about this; it is deceptively deep.? Think how you feel about someone after they call you by the wrong name a few times, especially after you correct them.
That?s the first part of names. People who?know?you call you by your name, the name you want to be called. Remember that when we talk about names for groups.? You demonstrate your multicultural competence when you call folks by the names they want to be called, and not by the names they don?t want to be called.? For instance, we agree not to call people of color ?colored?.? This term has a long history of negative connotations, and we agree never to use it.? I take points off when students use the term ?colored?. I will not give credit for posts that say ?colored?.? We say ?people of color?.
Example Two: I have a stepmother, who married my father a few years before I was married. Now, I was 35 years old when I got married for the first time, and my family thought I would never get married. So, when That Cute George and I decided to get married, he said, “What name do you like?” (George?s last name is Meserve.) I said (imagine a wicked grin), “I like the name Barnett, what name do you like?” George said, “OK, OK, don?t get your pantyhose all in a knot, you keep the name Barnett and I?ll keep the name Meserve, and forget I asked, OK?” (That?s not the story; that?s just the context ;-). Now, I was married in August, and my birthday is in November. That year, on my birthday, my stepmother sent me a birthday card. She never sent me a birthday card before. And she sent the card to “Mrs. George Meserve”.
OK, it?s no big deal. It?s a generational thing, you say. You could be right. So, the next time I saw her, I explained that I had kept my maiden name. I have a reputation in my field, and I?m published under my maiden name, and that?s my name. She laughed at me and said, “Oh, you women’s libbers…”?? No big deal. The next year, on my birthday, I got a birthday card from my stepmother, addressed to Mrs. George Meserve. Now is it a big deal?? In Multicultural Studies, it is.
Here?s the second part about names: I claim the right to name myself, as an act of resistance to oppression. Out of respect for me, please call me what I want to be called. If someone thinks they have the right to name me, it can mean they think they have power over me. This is the most common strategy of oppression: to take someone?s name (you will see this over and over in your history text).? Now my stepmother trying to get me to behave like a married lady is a minor incident for such a big word as oppression. I don?t think my stepmother was trying to oppress me, but we each had a different idea about who was doing the naming, yes?
Keep that in mind as we look at the issue of labels.? If you grew up in a community where labels were considered a?BAD?thing, and you shouldn’t ever label people, then these ideas about names and labels will be slippery for a while.? Just sit with them to see what they can teach you, OK?? Think about this:? a name is what I call myself. A label is what someone else calls me without my permission.
Cyrus:? How do we identify non-white people? That phrase itself is problematic in its implication that white is the standard one either meets or fails to meet. The term ?minority? gives ?majority? status to whites, who are in the minority globally. The label ?third world people? assumes that whites populate a ?first world?, ?first? being ?best?. ?People of color? is in current use, but it does imply that white is not a color. It is also Eurocentric: Asian Indians and Africans would not name themselves as ?people of color?
Betsey:? You might be asking, “Why should people be identified by their race at all? Why can?t we all just be human? This is a good question, and I?ll answer it a little more next week. For now, just stay with me as we look at some of the issues around labels.?
Oh, wait, while we are here:? I use the term ?people of color?.? Sometimes this term is very confusing for students.? Try to remember:? put the ?people? word first.? We won?t be using the term ?colored people? as it has historical and social baggage that makes it a hurtful ugly label.?
The names change.
This is often frustrating for beginning multicultural students. I?ll tell you another story:? My area of expertise is Multicultural Studies. Initially, this field was called Multiethnic Studies. Multiethnic and multicultural scholars always meant the word to signify the ways in which power and privilege are allocated differently, based on physical characteristics, such as race. When scholars in the field changed the name of their discipline to multicultural studies, people in the media and people in the mainstream tried to figure out what that meant. The mainstream, often not aware of the very serious issues around power and privilege, thought the word meant, “a discipline that studies many cultures”. So, they started using the word that way, to mean something very generic and solidly inside their comfort zone (see Week 1 Sessions for a handout about comfort zones). This is a very common story. A group chooses a name for itself. The mainstream culture appropriates the name and uses it to mean something the group never intended. So, the group must choose a new name that more accurately reflects how it sees itself, in contrast to how it is seen by the dominant culture.
Cyrus:? Each name change represents a shift in the way the group sees itself and is seen by others
Betsey:? A primary strategy of oppression is to take someone?s name. A primary strategy of resistance to oppression is to claim the right to name one?s self. Here are some examples of ways in which the dominant culture has tried to name some groups in the US:
Cyrus:? The US Census Bureau lumps together as “Hispanic” people from quite different cultural backgrounds solely on the basis of language.
Betsey:? We?ll use the term ?Latino? or ?Latinx?.
Cyrus:? The term Asian American, formerly Oriental, includes people from at least 19 distinct groups who represent very different cultures.
Betsey:? We?ll use Asian American or Asian Pacific Islander or API
Cyrus:? The same is true of Native Americans (American Indians), who represent some 500 different tribes, with different customs, different languages, and different histories.
Betsey:? I use these terms Native American and American Indian interchangeably, because my mentor, Ken LaFountaine did that, and he was my teacher.? I often use First Nations, which is a Canadian term for Indians.
Dr. Beverly Tatum says, ?The language we use to categorize each other racially is imperfect. The original creation of racial categories was in the service of oppression. Some may argue that to continue to use them is to continue that oppression. I respect that argument. Yet it is difficult to talk about what is essentially a flawed and problematic social construct without using language that is itself problematic. We have to be able to talk about it in order to change it. So this is the language I choose. (p. 18, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the Cafeteria and other conversations about race.”)
Betsey:? Given that the language is problematic, let?s look at some of the names and labels I?ll be using. I chose these words over other words based on my training and experience in multicultural studies. In choosing what words to use, I follow the advice of Virginia Cyrus:??Best to call people what they want to be called
I use the term African American interchangeably with Black. When I use both terms, I capitalize them, to indicate that I am speaking of proper names for cultural groups.
I most often use the term Asian American, and I also use the names Asian Pacific Islander, Asian Pacific American and/or API.
I use the term Latino or Latina (or Latinx). I don?t use the term Hispanic.
I use the term Native American interchangeably with American Indian, or often, just Indian, recognizing that Indian was a name given to a group of people by a man named Christopher Columbus, and he was lost.
I use the term White and I capitalize it to indicate that I am speaking about a cultural group. I also use the term European American, but not as often.
I use the term woman to describe much of the North American population (52%), because African American women, Asian American women, Latinas, Native women and White women contributed more than 52% to the making of this country, and their stories are largely untold.
Since my voyage to Mexico and Central America, I try to not to use the term ‘American’ when I mean US citizen.?
I use the terms, people of color, students of color, kids of color, women of color, etc.
I never use the terms ?colored? or ?nigger?. I resist giving credit for written work where those words are used, unless they are used in a historical context, or to ask a question specifically about those words.
Some other words: These definitions will help us make sure we are talking about the same thing
Prejudice: negative attitudes about certain groups?Notice that some people use the word racism when they mean prejudice.? We will work hard to use this word appropriately.
Discrimination: actions that flow from those prejudices and disadvantage members of other groups.?Racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism are all types of discrimination.
Racism: a system of advantage based on race?Notice that this word requires power over; you can?t subordinate a group of people unless your group is in charge.? People often use this word when they mean prejudice.? We must remind each other of the appropriate use of these terms repeatedly.? I will insist that we use the proper terms in the context of this course, at least until we are clear about what these words mean.
Sexism:?a system of advantage based on sex.?Notice that this word requires power over; you can?t subordinate a group of people unless your group is in charge.
Classism: a system of advantage based on social class?Notice that this word requires power over; you can?t subordinate a group of people unless your group is in charge.
Heterosexism:? a system of advantage based on sexual orientation?Notice that this word requires power over; you can?t subordinate a group of people unless your group is in charge.
Session 2.4???? Intellectual Traditions?Part I
This piece on Intellectual Traditions is in two parts, and both are challenging.?
Someone who does not see a pane of glass does not know he does not see it. Someone who, being placed differently, does see it does not know the other does not see it (Dr. Simone Weil, French philosopher)
The Social Construction of Knowledge
This is a good place to start our conversation about intellectual traditions and the social construction of knowledge. It?s easy to see when someone doesn?t see the glass, yes? I saw someone walk through a plate glass window once. It wasn?t even a blip on his radar. He would have taken the window into account had he known it was there. But he didn?t. So, he couldn?t. Keep that image in mind as we travel through what is challenging and provocative terrain.
James Burke, author of?The Day the Universe Changed, argues that, when what we know changes, that changed (transformed) knowledge has influence on everything else in our world. Burke argues that knowledge is a man-made artifact; and when people?s views of reality are changed by knowledge, reality itself changes.
Here?s what he says:
You are what you know. Fifteenth-century Europeans ?knew? that the sky was made of concentric crystal spheres, rotating around a central earth and carrying the stars and planets. That ?knowledge? structured everything they did and thought, because it told them the truth. Then Galileo?s telescope changed the truth.
Thus, he says, our entire perception of our universe changed, and we changed in relation to it. If we are no longer the center, then all that stuff we ?know?, that assumed that we were the center, we must rethink it. Hold that idea in your mind for a while.? Try to keep track of the idea that we build our world based on what we know. When what we know changes, it changes our world. Make a connection to the social construction of knowledge. Hold that there. J? I know this is a slippery concept, so let?s see if we can sneak up on it from over here:
Think of a hammer. What is a hammer good for? Hammering, right? (you?re supposed to say “Right”.) What else? Is a hammer good for taking a nail out?? Propping the door open against the breeze? Opening a beer bottle? Yes, yes, and maybe. Some hammers are designed to also take out nails, a hammer could prop a door open, but something heavier might work better depending on the breeze (THE CONTEXT, yes?). You CAN open a beer bottle with a hammer, but it might cost you… Think of a saw. What is a saw good for? Cutting? Wood? Plastic? Metal? Your toenails? “Yes, yes, no, maybe”, you say? It depends on the?. (What? I can?t hear you?) THE CONTEXT? Yes, the CONTEXT. Now think of another set of tools. Intellectual tools.
I want to compare TWO of MANY Intellectual Traditions or sets of tools for thinking. I use the word compare in this sense: “here are some characteristics of this tool, here?s what it is useful for; here are some characteristics of another tool, here is what it is useful for”.
The first intellectual tradition we?ll call?EITHER/OR.?Either/Or intellectual traditions use a set of tools characterized by mutually exclusive categories, in which something we can hold in our hands and in our minds, is either a THIS or a THAT. Here are some examples:
As soon as you have mutually exclusive dualities, a choice is required, and choice in this context is hierarchical: one is better, one is not. Good is better than bad, right is better than left, able bodied is better than disabled, male is better than female, heterosexual is better than homosexual, etc.
This set of intellectual tools has another name: The Western Intellectual Tradition. It is the tradition that US schools are based on (also British schools). That means that wherever in the world the British had influence over education policy (almost everywhere), western intellectual tools were the thinking tools of choice. No other tools were considered valid. When other tools were acknowledged, they were considered inferior, primitive, based on the logic inherent in either/or intellectual tools
I want to compare the intellectual tools of the Western Intellectual Tradition with another set of intellectual tools we?ll call?BOTH?AND. This set of intellectual tools assumes no mutually exclusive duality and thus no hierarchy. The internal logic of both-and intellectual traditions sometimes assumes a continuum, and sometimes assumes contradictory forces that are embraced, or paradoxes that are resolved. Here are some examples:
Good and Bad Yes and No
Right and Left Blind and Sighted
Able-Bodied and Disabled Black and White
Male and Female Heterosexual and Homosexual
Liberal and Conservative Democrat and Republican
True and False Teacher and Learner
These dualities can be mutually exclusive, AND they don?t have to be.? Sometimes things can be both good and bad.? I?m not saying this is always so, I am saying, the trick is in making the judgment.? OK so far? Time for a story? I?ll tell you a story:
I spent a significant portion of my childhood at the kitchen table in my Nonna?s (grandmother?s) home in Naples, Italy. I understood from a very early age that the women around that table were powerful and influential in that community. I saw them yell, scream, argue, wave their hands, be opinionated, stubborn, brilliant, articulate. The women in my mother?s family were never more articulate than when they felt passionately about something. They would weep and speak, wave their hands and speak, yell and scream and speak, with great authority and influence, about this issue or another. Eventually whatever they decided would find its way to the ears of my Nonna?s brother, Zio Pepino, who was the mayor of our small town, Portici.? I had role models for powerful women who could think and feel at the same time, and all that thinking and feeling had an impact. Indeed, I saw them think the most clearly when they were most emotionally involved. They made things happen.
When I was a teenager, I began to speak with passion and emotion in arguments with my father, who found this way of communicating very disturbing. He would say, “I can?t talk to you when you?re so emotional, so irrational. Go to your room, and come back when you can speak calmly and rationally”. This almost always put me into a rage; “I can?t say what I?m thinking if I have to speak calmly.? This is not a calm issue!”
From these experiences, I assumed (at the time) that only women could both think and feel at the same time, and since my female relatives also taught me that men have fragile egos, I thought that was why. “Men have fragile egos because they can?t think and feel at the same time”. I got that all straightened out eventually, but you can see the problem. My father was operating with a set of intellectual tools that said EITHER THINK / OR FEEL. I was operating under a set of intellectual tools that said, “I CAN think and feel at the same time. Can?t you?”
I want to clarify here that men certainly CAN learn to think and feel at the same time.? Often, they don?t have to.? This is a skill they can choose to learn.? Also, it is insulting to men to assume that they have fragile egos, and need protecting.
So, we?re comparing two sets of intellectual tools, or two intellectual traditions: The Western, Either/Or Intellectual Tradition and this BOTH-AND intellectual tradition. Both-and intellectual tools or traditions are common in many disenfranchised groups, some Asian cultures, many African American communities, many Native American cultures.
Paula Rothenberg, a multicultural scholar, has influenced my thinking about the Western Intellectual Tradition. I want to quote her extensively here, because she helps me both understand and explain. She says, in talking about multicultural learning:
In the US…. training tends to be fairly narrow in orientation and perspective and often leaves out the rich intellectual traditions of the diverse cultures of the world and of many peoples in our own society, beginning with Native Americans. It has offered us a restricted intellectual perspective and set of theoretical categories and treated them as if they were coextensive with human thought. This approach to conceptualizing reality overemphasizes oppositional thinking, individualism, and linear models. These are a few of the intellectual structures that limit our progress and make it difficult to deal with theoretical perspectives that emphasize complex interrelated elements.
Rothenberg is saying that this narrow intellectual training is the wrong set of tools. There are other intellectual tools that do the job better, especially if we are trying to understand very complicated ideas that have lots of different threads and connected-but-not-exactly-the-same concepts. She describes either/or tools as ?oppositional thinking?:
Oppositional thinking and teaching encourage us to divide the world and its people into hard categories –“black and white”, “rational and emotional”, “strong and weak” – and then to divide these qualities among people or things instead of adopting a model that posits continuums and complexities and embraces contradictions.
When Rothenberg talks about embracing contradictions, continuums and complexities, she is talking about both-and intellectual tools.
Where models drawn from Native American cultures and many Eastern traditions posit opposites existing in harmony with each other and often see growth as the result of reconciliation among contradictory elements, education in a Western tradition leaves little room for these possibilities.
Rothenberg is talking about using the right set of intellectual tools for the intellectual task. She makes a good connection to the social construction of knowledge in that she suggests that the WAY we think about something influences WHAT we think about it. The internal logic of either/or thinking tools cause us to think about what we think about in a certain way.
This way of thinking is an important part of the social construction of gender, race, and class as difference. It defines what is different as utterly other and insists that we either destroy difference entirely (as in the melting pot approach to ethnicity) or be divided forever by differences that are unbridgeable. Such an approach tends to regard those who are not white, male, heterosexual, and middle class as the ones who are in fact different. The very notion of difference comes to include hierarchy and to carry with it a rationale for the unequal distribution of power, privilege and opportunity that characterizes society