Jonathan Franzen & Whiteness

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Hey, B!

What a treat from S! You deserve it. You’ve been working hard.

I’ve seen the Jonathan Franzen article on another author’s Facebook page I follow! I didn’t get a chance to read it, but I skimmed through his interview. Franzen is a fascinating author to me. He would say something as such about him not writing about race, but he does. His race is Whiteness and tends to be Western whiteness.

I stand corrected: it’s mid-Western Whiteness.

Could he really write about Black people or other people of color? I don’t think if he could and do it in an accurate portrayal. I mean in some ways, I can’t help that he is honest but in his ignorance as well. It is White male privilege to say that I don’t have Black friends which means that I don’t go out of my way to make or have Black friends or Black people in my life. Since I don’t go out of my way to make those connections or friends, I cannot possibly write about them. Lena Dunham, the creator of GIRLS, said something similarly, but she actually did make an attempt to write a Black male character…although though she created a Black male character, you can see that if she wants to, she can write Black characters from her perspective as a White woman.

I find it all fascinating as Black writer.

I mean I enjoy watching Sex and the City and GIRLS because I recognize what those shows mean…maybe a part of it is that they are women…

And I can relate to certain situations because I’ve been in similar situations because those characters are female characters.

But I can also relate to Franzen in a way, too, because we are both writers even though he may not be able to completely relate to me. He and I would have to have a conversation about that though.

Hey, B! I hope that your week went well, and you have gotten some time to breathe!!!

I went ahead and read the Jonathan Franzen interview before I wanted to respond to some of the points you’ve made more in depth.

My impressions of Jonathan Franzen is that he does understand his White privilege a lot more than folks think, but I get a hint that maybe he knows that he is egotistical as well. There are some moments in his responses in the interview that I am like…he knows that he is afforded a platform because he is a White male. I am sort of impressed that he actually can admit that he is privileged, and he doesn’t want to do much about it. Maybe some folks would put up a huge argument with me particularly Black folk and people of color about my opinions on this, but I think from his stance as a White male that this is as good as you are going to get it with someone who is not interested in being a social justice activist.

Basically, he knows that he lives in a White male privileged world, and I think in a lot of ways, he doesn’t t want to touch race because he knows that he would do a shitty job of writing about it and mangle it. Basically, in a nevertheless about way, he is saying that he doesn’t seek out Black friends because of the spaces he occupies which means that he is interested in other matters, and they happen to fit into his spaces that he occupies, and this is because of his Whitness.

Does this anger me or make me like…what a prick? No, not really. I think it is because he does admit it from the get go of what he is and what he is interested in. Some folks aren’t going to fight battles that they don’t want to be a part of, and I think that he is more honest than other White males that I have encountered or known. Throughout the interview, he even talks about what he isn’t interested in.

Another thing that interested me greatly is how he sees writing and his writing process which he and I have opposite philosophies on. I like a more involved story in my head which means researching a lot of information to make sure that I have it at more disposal when I write. For me and from my perspective, my fiction is only good when I know a lot of about what I want to know about at my disposal. But his philosophy is write what you know. That’s what William Faulkner did and Ernest Hemingway did. One could argue that this maybe a fundamental trend of principles of White male writers. It is to write what you know because the precedent is already set for you by writes like Hemingway and Faulkner to do that.

So, the two questions are…can Franzen write about other races? More specifically, can Franzen write about other races in a realistic portrayal from his perspective? My answer is that he can only write about them from what he knows from his (limited) perspective of what he knows about Black people. Because maybe he doesn’t like reading criticism and taking it well, and he doesn’t want to get slammed for writing something he may not know very well or can’t represent well.

The other question is…does Franzen write about race? Yes, he writes about his race, the White race. I believe I am interested in his writing and his characters because, like I am with Hemingway, there is truth to his fiction about how humans behave from his perspective. In Freedom, certainly, the characters in that novel are pathetic. There are White folks who are wounded, and they go about hurting one another because they have wound each other in their circle continuously. What I do admire about that novel and how Franzen creates and structures it is that many of us get involved in soap opera dramas in real life, and they play out because we are seeking something that we didn’t have when  we were growing up. We construct our identities, and we really find out that a lot of what we’ve constructed is really shitty about ourselves. I am thinking about myself while we were in our ECHD 8000 course…I thought about how I’ve been complicit in a system where I am getting gains. It is the same thing concerning the characters in Freedom…they are complicit in their Whiteness that results them in getting gains (financial gains, artistic gains, narcissistic gains, etc.). These gains actually drive them to become despicable people.

Anyway, I am going to post the contents of what I’ve written you (my part) on my blog. This is a noteworthy discussion to have for me because I don’t think about Franzen in these ways as Black female writer, myself.

What are your thoughts?

S

I am a Jonathan Franzen reader. You are thinking…Sophia, oh hell no, not you, Friend.

The conversation that my friend, B, and I have up above are my thoughts about Jonathan Franzen. Today, I sat in the Barnes and Noble café after I bought a huge lot of James Baldwin books, and I saw a new one published, The Fire Next Time that is edited by Jemayn Ward. As I sat down and read the entire conversation while eating a tiramisu cup and drinking dark roasted coffee, another layer of Jonathan Franzen was peeled in front of my eyes as to who he is. A huge part of that is explained in my comments above. Franzen admitted in an interview done by Issac Chotiner “A Conversation with Jonathan Franzen” (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/interrogation/2016/07/a_conversation_with_novelist_jonathan_franzen.html)  that he is a White male who has benefited from White privilege. He also admits that he doesn’t write about Black people because he doesn’t know Black people or hasn’t been in love with a Black woman. He expresses that in order to write his characters he has to love his characters. I’ve seen responses from some folks from social media that this a cop out from Franzen. That he is writing about race—his race—the White race.

He admits this in the interview to Chotiner that he writes about Whiteness when Chotiner asks him about it, and he doesn’t deny it:

You must know that a lot of the response to you is surely that you are this white guy writing about white guy things.

And yet some people like it, so you can’t please everybody. You should worry if you are pleasing everybody. I write for the people who like the kind of books I like.”

Again, Franzen admits that he writes books about Whiteness even though he doesn’t explicitly admit it in his response. I believe what I am most impressed by with Franzen is his ability as a White male to admit that he does have White privilege. That he does write for a White audience, and that he has been afforded opportunities that others haven’t been afforded such as him.

I guess I am confused about what people are asking for now since I’ve read his interview, and I’ve seen responses about what he said in his interview. What are folks asking for? Are folks asking him to be a revolutionist? Because he ain’t going to do it. He says in the interview that he is lazy and doesn’t believe in much, and he isn’t going to be prompt to action unless it affects him. Hand in hand, this interview demonstrates Franzen’s White privilege—the very same White privilege that he admits to.

I don’t know many fifty something year old White men who will admit that they have White privilege. There is an acquaintance/friend who I no longer have a relationship with who could not handle her White fragility. I didn’t even bring anything up with her, and she unfriended me from Facebook because she could not handle an article that I posted about White fragility that was written by a White female writer. We had a discussion, and she made up so many excuses and was so condescending to me that I blocked her. At least with Franzen, he admits on some levels that he is afforded the opportunities and experiences that he has because of his Whiteness.

I am not trying to make Jonathan Franzen some kind of hero. What I am saying is that folks should not expect him to be an anti-racist social justice activist. Again, he at least admitted that he is White privilege. Even for him, that says a lot to me about him.
S

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Why Black Folks Still Talking about Cultural Appropriation

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This morning, news broke that parts of Melania Trump’s speech mirrored Michelle Obama’s speech that she gave at the 2008 convention.

This is cultural appropriation at its best—and it is also straight up plagiarism. This is nothing new because it has been going on for a long time. Several weeks ago, I discussed how Ernest Owens called out Justin Timberlake for culturally appropriating Black culture on Twitter (https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/theflemministwave.wordpress.com). Owens’s asked Timberlake when he was going to stop appropriating Black culture (this is a call to when Timberlake was inspired by Jesse Williams’s  BET speech), and then, he also asked Timberlake was he going to apologize to Janet Jackson. Owens’s discussed in a great interview on (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMgkCoADG8M) the skorpionshow why the interviewers and Owens discuss cultural appropriation. Owens breaks it down and explains he was calling attention to two issues that Williams’s spoke of in his speech when calling of Timberlake: one, the cultural appropriation of Timberlake using our style of music and culture, and two, calling out how Timberlake didn’t come to Janet Jackson’s defense when he was the one who ripped her costume where it exposed her breast. Fans, the media, and viewers slut-shamed Jackson, and Timberlake didn’t stand up for her as another artist.

Cultural appropriation is happening on the political level. Melania Trump is being praised for the speech that she did at the 2016 Republican Convention. However, again, parts of that speech is plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s speech. When Michelle Obama gave that speech, she hardly got any praise when she gave it.

And this is at the heart of cultural appropriation. The heart of cultural appropriation is when another person from another race takes or uses someone else’s intellectual property, ideas, and/or creativity, and the perpetrator benefits from the usage of the originator’s property. The race perpetrator gets credit, and they stole it while the inventor doesn’t get credit. When cultural appropriation happens to Black people, it is another repeated slap in the face.

Listen, I am all for people discussing other people’s intellectual property. However, you need to do two things: One, you need to cite where you got said property from. Two, you need to have read the entire context when you use said property. I believe Melania didn’t quote Michelle’s speech because she knew that it would look unfavorably on her because her husband, Donald Trump, is running on the Republican ticket. To quote the first lady who is a Democrat looks bad. However, since it has been reported that Melania didn’t write her speech, and she had speechwriters, she should fire her speechwriter for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech. She needs to be more proactive about who is writing her speeches and not entirely trust who does it. Or maybe even trying to write her own speech. She may not be the greatest writer, but it is better than being discovered that she read a plagiarized speech, But hey, that’s a part of White privilege, right? Your husband is the epitome of White privilege, White supremacy, and White wealth…so you don’t have to think for yourself but can hire someone to think for you.
S

Lewis-1 and Ryan-0

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Publicist stunt! Paul Ryan, Republican House Speaker, “laid into Democrats on Thursday for causing ‘chaos’ in the House, dismissing their sit-in over gun legislation as nothing more than a publicity student and fundraising effort” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/paul-ryan-democrats-sit-in_us_576c084ee4b0b489bb0c9b02). Led by the Civil Rights freedom fighter John Lewis, Democrats decided to sit-in Wednesday morning through Thursday to get their message across that their “No fly, no  buy” bill should pass. This bill would prevent individuals who are on a terrorist watch list to purchase a gun or guns. However, Ryan made this about Democrats pulling a political stunt to try to raise money off a tragedy (the horrible, tragic event in Orlando killing forty nine individuals and injuring fifty-three that were celebrating their lives at the LGBT nightclub, Pulse).

I find what Paul Ryan says is a continued legacy of cultural racism in our country. I would like to address Paul Ryan about his responses and how his words continue a legacy of cultural racism in our country.

Dear Paul Ryan,

This is not about Democrats pulling a stunt. This is about you practicing aspect of colorblind racism called cultural racism.

You have explained away in your outrage about “how dare Democrats sit-in to demand that their bill be passed: “‘This is Congress. [. . .]The House of Representatives! Oldest democracy in the world, and they’re descending it into chaos. I don’t think this should be a very proud moment for democracy or the people who staged these stunts’” ((http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/paul-ryan-democrats-sit-in_us_576c084ee4b0b489bb0c9b02). When you talk about “for the people who staged these stunts,” you mean John Lewis, right? You mean John Lewis who was a vital member of SNCC in the 1960s, right? John Lewis is the one who led the sit-in this past Wednesday, right? The rest of the Democrats followed his lead, right? Paul Ryan, your words are reinforcing and continuing the white supremacy that George Wallace and Lester Maddox practiced during their governing administrations in 1960s by identifying as segregationists. They continued Jim Crow laws in Alabama and Georgia, and many Blacks and Whites who were anti-racists activists were murdered for standing up for Blacks to insure that Blacks were able to have their freedoms. Paul Ryan, you say that you aren’t a racist, but you stated in an interview conducted by Bill Bennett from Morning in America that you “linked poverty to ‘this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.’” (” (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/is-paul-ryan-racist-104687))

Well, how colorblind racism is that? Do you really think that you are talking about white men and men of color in that statement? You minimize your racist statement by retracting that race did not cross your mind, so who in the hell are you talking about when you use phrases like “poverty,” “inner cities,” “generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and culture of work?” You are fooling yourself if you think that came across as all American men. You did not have to say that it was men of color that did not know the value of work. Your descriptions in the same sentence point to it was men of color. Your statement evidently describes men of color, and it also signals to other white folks that you aren’t talking about white men. But to us, people of color like me? It signals that you are talking about black males. Black Americans are associated with inner city poverty. White folks are not described as such; they are discussed in the manner of “suburbia,” “the city life,” “working hard,” etc.

So, your reputation precedes you in your latest comments about “Democrats” making a disgrace to Congress and The House of Representatives for doing a sit-in as a publicity stunt to make money off the Orlando victims. For the past several decades, Democrats have a history of championing Black American causes. When you are talking about the “people who staged these stunts,” how dare you speak of setting a precedent when you continue to contribute to White supremacy by practicing cultural racism and speaking and saying that black folks pull these stunts—and the folks who aren’t black are race traitors for following them. John Lewis knows what is like for people of color to get killed by guns due to motivate racial violence. He stands on that floor knowing that the Orlando victims were killed due to an act of violence motivated by hatred. John Lewis doesn’t just sit-in for publicity stunts. John Lewis sits-in because it is his duty to continue to seek justice and to further fight for all Americans to exercise their freedoms in our country.

Paul Ryan, I call to action that you need to get schooled on Whiteness and White Privilege. I am sure that you wouldn’t because you are too deep into the system of Whiteness. Since I don’t believe you would do it, I challenge all other white people who are clouded by white privilege that contributed to White Supremacy to take a course in Whiteness and White Privilege. Or a multicultural course. Or could you all make time to read any of Tim Wise’s books? Or I double challenge you to step into the Other’s shoes? What about reading Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry, or Brother Cornel West? Don’t worry. If you check all that I mention out, I am sure that there is something I kind find you to enlighten you on your white privilege.

As for you, Paul Ryan, instead of you reading all that Ayn Rand and objectivism, you need to get real and start reading about people of color. You are obviously minimizing your racism due to the white privilege you possess that contributes to the ongoing white supremacy in this country. You have no respect for John Lewis and people of color by calling us “people who pull these stunts.” Get with it, Friend. You fall right in line with your predecessors, Wallace and Maddox. They said, too, that John, Martin, and the rest of the freedom fighters in the Civil Rights Movement…their sit-ins were publicity stunts as well.

What you fail to realize is that our publicity stunts are calls to action. And John Lewis and Co. are transforming the White House. Didn’t we do that when we elected President Barack Obama?

From a Black Cisgender Feminist,
S

Respectful Spaces and Conversations

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Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own comes to mind after finish reading or viewing the four assigned pieces for my “Whiteness and White Privilege in America” class. Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own discusses how English women do not have access to spaces for many, many years. Woolf specifically speaks of English female writers in the past and in her present and how past English women writers did not have the opportunity to have space to write or create novels, short stories, or poems because of how women are viewed in society.

I am sure that Woolf has her fist raised up today and looking down on all of us…seeing how past injustices continue for women in the publishing industry. This morning, I read a piece by Dana Schwartz called “Why Hasn’t the Late Show Invited Any Female Novelist?” (http://observer.com/2016/05/why-hasnt-the-late-show-invited-any-female-novelists/#.VzIuvu2iWWw.twitter). In this piece, Schwartz adds to the discourse about how women writers who are novelists or fiction writers are not invited to the Stephen Colbert show. Instead, Colbert has had several male novelists or fiction writers one after the other on his show. The female writers that have appeared on Colbert’s show are memoirists. Schwartz mentions in her piece how Jennifer Weiner discusses how female writers get treated in the publishing industry when they write about families and female characters compared to our male counterparts. Weiner and Jodi Picoult have spoken out about how sexist the publishing industry is. During an Huffington Post interview, Weiner answers, “I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-pinter/jodi-picoult-jennifer-weiner-franzen_b_693143.html).Weiner and Picoult addressed how Franzen’s Freedom received all these accolades for writing a great American novel about how a family in peril handled temptations of contemporary American society. Weiner’s and Picoult’s arguments stem from that they and other female fiction writers are deemed as chick literature writers whereas Franzen and other male counterparts are viewed as “Great American” writers. I followed this story in 2010 very closely, and I read Franzen’s Freedom which I happened to like. I believe it is a very good novel, and it shows how individuals can get caught up in a commercialized society where they bury their deep desires, and those deep desires come back and haunt them. Now, reflecting on it, I would like to go back and read everything on this happening because it is starting to seem like the story was sensationalized by the media. There has been other news on Weiner and Franzen discussing his latest novel, Purity.

I do agree with Weiner on how sexist the publishing world is. Male writers are still looked upon as “Great American” writers and/or “The Men of Letters.” Female writers don’t get that title, and people don’t look upon us as such. When female writers are successful, the media, advertising, and some critics will craft us as the darlings by the fans who support our work. Yet, we don’t get the same title as our male counterparts. We don’t get the same respectable publicity that our male counterparts do. Male writers not only get that recognition, but they are privileged to be granted the space that they are in. More so, white males writers have greater accessibilities of these privileges than white female writers, men of color writers, and women of color writers. We exist in a white patriarchal society still. Yes, still after all of this time. Those who aren’t white males have a more difficult time being “granted” recognition for their crafts. Most of all, white males writers are able to occupy many spaces in their careers which grants them many opportunities to become successful writers. As a black female fiction writer, I am going to have to fight, just like my predecessors, harder to explain in ways why I write what I write because I will be going against the status quota.

Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Tayari Jones, Gayle Jones, and other black women writers have paved a path for me. Black women writers continue to pave a path for each other, so the next generation of black female writers will continue to contribute and aspire like the ones who have paved the way for us. Toni Morrison and Alice Walker are living legend established writers who write about the black experience from their own eyes and how they have seen American society and American culture in their world—and how they continue to see it. However, Morrison and Walker do not get talked about as much as white male writers—and they don’t get taught as much as male white writers overall. The four pieces I read for my “Whiteness and White Privilege in America” will help enrich my discussion about writing spaces. In general, Gay, Janai, Smooth, and Martínez discuss how important it is that we practice conversations when it concerns minorities in America when they are in certain spaces. This is quite important in how we facilitate conversations that empower individuals that are viewed as “Others” and are in the “Minority” and how it is important that the ones who have been oppressed find ways to liberate from oppression and have the opportunity to create, use, and utilize spaces.

The four pieces I read and viewed:

Roxane Gay’s “The Seduction of Safety, On Campus and Beyond” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/opinion/sunday/the-seduction-of-safety-on-campus-and-beyond.html?_r=4)
Janai’s “Introverts and Extroverts and Power (Oh My!) (http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/introverts-and-extraverts-and-power-oh-my/)
Jay Smooth’s “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussion Race” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU)
D.E. Solís y Martínez’s “How the Trigger Warning Debate Misses the Point (http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2016/01/how-the-trigger-warning-debate-misses-the-point/)

These four pieces reiterate for me in how you and I need to continue to find ways to discuss discourse in a way that makes us feel compel to without feeling like we are going to get potentially attacked for what we say or how we express it with all matters( including how writers are treated in public spheres in the publishing industry). Jay Smooth discusses this in his New Hampshire Ted Talk how it is difficult to have constructive conversations about race and racism because when an individual confronts a person or persons about a racist comment or opinion that he/she/they said, it turns into…are you saying that I am racist? I know as a person of color it is hard for me to engage in conversations with some people about race, and this is from all types of people—even people in my own race. When I’ve had discussions with some of my white friends about race, it pretty much goes over their heads. Even if I try to break it down or explain it to them, it gets pretty frustrating because no matter what you say, they do not want to get it at all. Questions like “how can I be privileged?” when I have explained to them a scenario in how they are privileged in a certain situation when I am not, gets frustrating. There have been times where I’ve had close friends who have made racist statements and/or racially prejudiced statements about black folks or black women in particularly. I know of one instance where I heard several comments about black women from a close friend being ghetto, and I was even confronted by…”Well, you know it is true, though. You know that black women are loud and vindictive” I am paraphrasing this because it was a long time ago, but I had thought days and days about not being this person’s friend anymore. My logic is…how can you want to be friends with me when you really don’t want to talk about or know anything about my culture? I do struggle with white friends who don’t get that. Yet, there are white friends that I do have who get it. They get that they are privileged and recognize it and want to change it. I am able to have thoughtful, engaging conversations with them, and with those friends, I am able to create those spaces with. Roxane Gay talks about that in her piece. When we use free speech, we don’t use it as a threat. I would like to add we need to all know what freedom of speech means before we throw that phrase around because many people hide behind “freedom of speech” when they are throwing hate speech around. Gay mentions that just because we have freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t exempted from its consequences. She’s right. What I know about verbal words and written words is this: they hold tremendous power. People say that they don’t, but they really do. Verbal abuse? There have been abuse victims that say the verbal abuse they received was worse than the physical abuse that they received. Words do hurt, and when you say them in certain spaces, you are either uplifting people’s self-esteem, or you chipping away or destroying folks’ self-esteem.

The individuals’ consequences of what they say either violate, disrupt, or destroy any type of safe space for any individuals who need to seek them when needed. Safe spaces are supposed to be temporary spaces for emotional refuge when the majority makes others “The Other.” When the majority collectively abides by existing, binding rules/standards, individuals who don’t fit in or abide these rules are the “Others.” They are unable to be themselves or express themselves because their uniqueness does not fit in with the “standard norms.” Safe spaces are there for those who feel traumatized or triggered by events that have resulted from “constructive norms” that have hurt them. As Martínez discusses in his piece about trigger warnings, we have to create spaces and communications to talk about what triggers are trauma—and discuss why we have that trauma and what we can do about healing from that trauma so we can have more fulfilling lives.

Yet, it is quite hard to have those spaces due to how people see those spaces and not understanding how they are causing those spaces not to be created. Janai’s piece offers interesting insight to how introverts and extroverts are privileged individuals in different spaces and how we all should recognize that being introverted or extroverted has privilege along with it. If you are an extrovert in spaces while having conversations, Janai writes that your loudness can silence other individuals in the group who want to share their experiences. If you are introverted, you have the privilege to observe and listen to people without having to share anything about yourself in certain spaces. What she says is interesting, and I can see how extroverts and introverts have some privileges depending on what spaces that they occupy…it is an interesting take. I suppose I am privileged in a way concerning not sharing my fiction writing with certain people. I tell them about I am writing a novel, but I don’t share parts of it, and they don’t but in. I suppose that I drew the line in the sand earlier about my writing, and in the past, I was quite selective about telling people that I had an online blog. So, I am introverted about certain aspects of my life while I am extroverted by certain aspects of my life. In some ways, I can see one seeing that as a privilege that I practice.

However, if we examine other minorities in the past compared to what I just shared, we’ve come a little ways. Woolf gives examples in A Room of One’s Own about how Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters had to hide their passion for writing. The Bronte sisters had to come up with male pseudonyms, so they could publish their books in a white male dominated publishing industry. A female author did an experiment where she used a male pseudonym and saw in a startling way in how agents/publishers treated her. Catherine Nichols used a male pen name (http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627) and saw the results she got. In 2015, Catherine received very positive feedback and even pleasant rejections as her male pen name than when she actually submitted her work under her real name. Can we say sexism much? The Brontes published in the 19th century, and Catherine had her experience in the 21st century. That is two centuries—that is two hundred years, and in two hundred years time, individuals are still practicing sexism within publishing—and in many aspects of our culture.

In order to create spaces where individuals can freely express themselves without harm or persecution, we must have these conversations about racism, sexism, classism, elitism, ageism, and all other –isms that prevents many of us for being ourselves or talking about our experiences, so we can make changes to a system that benefits some. However, a system that eventually harms all. Yes, safe havens should still exist because those spaces need to be utilize by individuals who are looked upon and treated as the “Other.” However, you and I need to continue to create respectful spaces and have respectful conversations. The way we create spaces is tolerating and empathizing with one another and trying to learn how to have healthy, balance respectful conversations. I agree with Jay Smooth. Once we start becoming better in how to communicate with each other, then, we can start tackling the major issues that systematically oppress people from having access to certain opportunities or knowledge. We can also dismantle how ism tropes destroys spirit of self-innovation which is a part of freedom because individuals who are oppressed are worried more about obtaining freedoms and having the chance at opportunties that they limit own time in pursuing their talents that help our culture and society move along to being greater and greater.

Cheers,
Sophia

The White Privilege Course

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I decided to take a doctoral level course because my advisor coworker friend was emailed by another advisor who advertised that this instructor needed students to take her course.

The advisor friend pleaded with me to take this course with her. I decided to do it, and I applied to the graduate school as a non-degree seeking Master’s student. There was a lot I had to do in a short period of time to get into this course. I went ahead and contacted the instructor of the course. I already met the instructor of the course. She did a presentation a few months ago about the history of sexual violence and how it was tied to the university campus. It was a great presentation. Anyway, once I found out from my advisor friend who taught the course, I definitely wanted to take it with her. She and our other advisor friend told me I should apply to the TAP program to take the course.

First, I had to apply to the graduate school. I went online and completed the graduate application. I kept on it, and they admitted me as a non-degree seeking graduate student (Master’s). Next, I had to complete the TAP program application. Before I did that, I ask my supervisor for approval. The course was after work hours. She agreed and approved the application. Next, I sent off the TAP application. The TAP director could not approve it until I was admitted as a non-degree seeking graduate student. Once I was, I contacted the TAP director, and he processed my information. Next, once I was in the system, I checked the student website to make sure I was integrated as a graduate student. However, I had several holds on my account. First, hold was easy to remove. I had to complete emergency contact information. The next holds were tricky. I had went ahead and pay a three dollar fee to have my undergraduate BA transcript sent electronically to the graduate student. They received it and took the hold off. The toughest hold item was the immunizations. In order to get the immunizations, I had to go to the county health department. All my immunizations are not on the national database. My immunizations were still on the health department cards that they filled out back in the day to document babies’/children’s immunizations. In order for me to get them, I had to go to the local health department, complete a release form, and the local health department official had to fax the form to my hometown’s health department where the my hometown’s health department had to fax a copy of my immunization records. The administrator was griping about how they need to put the immunizations on the national immunization database. I told her that they were old school, and that’s how they were.

Finally, after three hours (because the administrator keyed in the wrong fax number), my immunization records were faxed in. I went ahead and had the administrator key in my immunizations, and I decided to get the outdated immunizations done. I was due for a tetanus shot. As for the chicken pox immunization, the records state that I had a titers, and I was immune to it, but I didn’t know how true that was. So, I went ahead and scheduled the chicken pox shot as well. The nurse that did the shots were great. We had a long talk about education. After she finished my shots, I drove over to the university’s health center to turn in my records. Come to find out, the titers counted, and I didn’t need a chicken pox shot.

Then, my student accounts record was cleared, and I was ready to register. The way the TAP program works with registration is that university/college employees have to wait a certain date to register. Our registration date was this past Monday. After 5 a.m. this past Monday, I registered for the course that I was granted department of permission to register for. My TAP waiver took effective twenty four hours afterwards. I get to take a course that will help me finish my Master’s thesis.

The course is White Privilege in Education. You ask…why would I take a course as such?

First, my graduate work for my master’s program is on Toni Morrison and her works. For the past several years, I’ve been writing about privilege concerning race, class, and sex. It is only natural I want to learn more about how white privilege is playing into our cultural and what new ways can I learn to help educate people in collegiate environments and in my life about it. I also believe that this will help with the significant revisions of my thesis work so I can move on to doctoral work and get a PhD next.

Today, the instructor email all of us in the course so far. She hasn’t completed the syllabus yet, but she did complete the first week. I have my texts, and there will be a lot of reading to do, but I am looking forward to it.

I will be writing about the course and what is going on in it and what I am learning. Another reason why I am taking this course is I want to further understand and share what is going on in my department. I work in a science department where we hardly have any minorities training out PhD/MS graduate students. We have four black female PhD graduate students, an African male MS student, and we have one black male graduate student. We have one Puerto Rican female graduate student, and one biracial graduate student who is Mexican. We have one Pacific Islander male PhD student, and one multiracial female student who is part Pacific Islander. Of course, the rest of our department is white graduate students—half of white female PhD students and the other half is white male PhD students. Yet, when you look at higher up administration who have PhDs in power, the majority of them are white males. If any white females with PhDs that are administration have power, they don’t have nearly as much power as their white male counterparts. Any people of color who have administrative positions, they are lumped with the minority and have to work thrice as hard to get heard. So, the question is…why are we still in a racial hierarchal caste system that is run by white males? More important, to me, what tools and actions we need to take to make spaces more diverse because folks this caste system still exists in America and is several hundred years old.

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