Ecumenism/'Identity Politics'/'Single-Issue Movements'(Re: religion)

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Thu Jun 4 09:15:08 PDT 1998

At 10:52 AM 6/4/98 -0400, Kenneth Mostern wrote:
>Ultimately, these facts [effectiveness of a white male to teach African
American lit] require a psychoanalytic theory to explain them.

That witchcraft? I think the status generalization theory will do nicely, and has the added value of being empirically verifiable. In essence, the theory says that people with dominant social status charecteristics (e.g. white male) are perceived as more knowledgeable and competent, or in the theory's lingo, their status is 'generalized' on the perception of their competencies.

It is easy to see that process at work with your white students -- they simply see you as more competent than a black teacher. For Black students, being white may not be a dominat status characteristics, especially when it comes to the subject of African American Lit -- they may even see your whiteness as disadvantage.

But I agree with most what you said in your post (especially the socialization into cultural identity part), although the notion of "important people" you mention was definitely NOT on my mind. My bottom line was, do not write people off soleley based on what they say or, worse, yet, what you think they say based on what the media tell you.


Wojtek Sokolowski

And of course marxist cultural studies is necessary to explain the narrowness of the group that even potentially can be "my students", of whatever racial background, to begin with.
>The point is this: I know how to talk to certain white students about
white supremacy - and also marxism - rather well. (It is a conspicuous fact in my case that I don't mean "white male" - actually white women are the large majority of "my" students, and the ones I'm closest to have been lesbian/queer. I don't know how that generalizes; I have some ideas, but they are beyond the scope of this post.) Because I do, I often learn in a rather nuanced way what their white working and middle class families "really" feel, the extent to which their religion/rurality/etc. is more or less open to left politics.
>Now, if, like Wotjek, I were the kind of person who generalized this very
particular experience, related to my social identity, to the truth about left politics, I would loudly claim that "the left" is not serious about talking to the people I am serious about talking to, and therefore there would be something wrong with us. Instead, I prefer to assume that my interests and abilities make it possible for me to talk to specific people, people who might, upon seeing Yoshie, completely refuse to engage at all. If I assume that, I will make two further assumptions: (1) that it is inappropriate to preach to her about who she should feel its worth talking to; (2) that if marxism, quite apart from identity issues, is important, then to the extent it is largely practiced (at least at the professional/academic level) by white men there is a major problem. If that's the case, it is the particular responsibility of white male marxists not so much to personally try to organize women of color (if we are not effective in doing so), but to respect, listen to, learn from, and interact in a mutually productive way with the women of color who are (or are potentially) already interested in what we know. They may be able to tell us stuff about organizing people who we've never been able to talk to.
>Attachment Converted: "c:\internet\eudora\attach\RE Ecumenism'Identity

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