Thursday, October 19, 2006

superfluous, abd

I am five-minutes-away-from-nervous-breakdown. (Sorry, Quinn). But it is a relatively benign breakdown--brought on by my son's fall carnival being this Friday (and I'm in charge of ticket sales) and trying to wrap up the initial revision of this chapter (I realize that it's been three+ weeks, I want to get it in before a full month!!!).

So, nothing particularly interesting to post except this: in the last couple of days, I have found two quotes that pretty much sum up anything I could've ever planned to do in my career as a historian of black women, labor, the New South, and the effects of the intersections of class, race, and gender on all three. It's not that these quotes say anything new, particularly, but that I like the way that they say it: a few words, a lot of meaning. All my planned scholarship summed up thusly:
The real beauty of whiteness was that all its privileges were masked. White wasn't privileged; white was normal. Whiteness became essential to the American conception of individualism because it is the only racial classification that exists to empower rather than disable its members... For most of American history, the idea of competitive striving among "equals" has presumed whiteness and masculinity. For everyone else, race ensures that the race is over before it has ever begun. -Richard White
My only problem is that this is written in the past tense. Quote #2:
only very rarely, it seems, are sistas able to live in our own damn communities without walking on egg shells… brownfemipower on a comment thread at nubian's.
Having accepted the inherent redundancy in my work, I'm off to finish the tickets.

9 comments:

Moksha said...

"Whiteness became essential to the American conception of individualism"

This is so weird to me. Because while I continual to try and reconcile that I am view by society as a white woman and have the unearned privledges of simply being white, I don't see it as individualism at all. If one was to take every thing attached away from white the collective, it would have to be the history of powering over, oppression, etc, after that what is left to make someone white, --------comformity, assimilation, which is the opposite of individualism. White parodies white.

Moksha said...

I meant to add, sorry, I got caught up in my self-centered white pearl girl selfish. LOL!

You will find your niche! I know you will.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

With the multiple, intersectonal oppressions at play in black women's lives, in every sphere of their lives, from their homes to their communities, to their jobs, there will no doubt be many ways to interprete, think about, and write about them. Figuring out that history with the lens that you will no doubt bring--just because of the care and attention you give your work--could never be redundant. You have lots to say... important things to say. Say them.

elle said...

i wrote this wonderful comment that seems to have disappeared.
D-A-M-N. (I'm hoping if I take the time to spell out cuss words, I'll stop saying them so much. Moksha, I know a little of your opinion on that :-), but really my mouth is foul!) To paraphrase my earlier comment:

Moksha,
I think he meant that idea of "rugged individualism," that "pull yourself up by your bootstraps/succeed by your own incredible will, desire, intelligence, etc)" that's so dear to the American imagination. Of course, it is lots of imagination--you're right in that conformity, assimilation, (to my mind, acceptance of the right to benefit from the status quo/no efforts to change or challenge it) pretty much shoots those notions dead. And, individual characteristics (including "ruggedness" which by it's very definition belongs to teh WHITE MENS) and will, ability, etc, are very much helped or hampered in this society by race, class, and gender.

Gwyneth, thank you. Despite my often flipant tone, I do have lots of ideas, lots to say. But I have to learn to trust my voice, my interpretations. I'm still ver much in an awestruck, self-doubting stage.

Quinn said...

Hey, everyone's entitled to their own nervous breakdown. Plus, I'm almost through with mine.

nubian said...

i don't know if we ever get past that stage of self-doubt. i was watching video from a conference which feature prominnent black female hitorians (hine, painter, higginbotham, white) and deborah gray white said that sometimes she still feels insecure like one her female graduate students felt. but remember, if you weren't worthy of this work and if you weren't brilliant, you would not even be in the phd program in the first place---at least, thats what i keep telling myself!

elle said...

nubian,

i know i need to look into myself to find out why that's so hard for me to believe...

nubian said...

i deal with it all of the time. trust. everday in class, at the computer, or simply walking through the campus of northwestern, i ask myself, am i really 'spossed to be here?

sometimes seminars are so draining and kids use LOTS of big words, that i feel like i don't belong--like i'm not really smart and i got in by luck, by chance--and they will soon find me out.

plus, i think, since our work centers on black women, people can't understand that, and essentially that adds to the insecurities--at least, in my experiences it does.

i doubt myself every damn day and what i'm saying, i really don't follow because as we know, it's always easier said then done--but i'm so proud of you! i can't wait to be teaching your books and your articles to my future classes. we are a new generation of BLACK FEMALE scholars and, i think, we are amazing.

p.s. sorry for the typos last time and this time--my computer is acting wacky.

belledame222 said...

per "whiteness as empowering:"

i think what it is more, perhaps, is "whiteness as absence." Whiteness as PURITY. purity is huge. and it takes a lot of forms. yeah, easy enough to recognize in Calvinist-fuelled crap like "..and i am black but O my soul is white!"; but i think also there are more obscure ways this plays out. The "pureness" of a blank slate. Starting over. No history. In many ways it's part of the mainstream American ideal. the myth of a "virgin" continent "we" could write anything we want on; there's endless land; endless resources; you can always pull up and move and start again.

for some people this is more "freeing" than others. for people who were pretty much -forced- into this--the various diasporas--this erasure of history, this wiping of the slate--is one more part of the burden, the broken lines.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...