November 26, 2012

Little White Girl Gets a C-

I thought Gate's article was really interesting and something that I think frequently about. When I started my degree I focused all of my studies on African-American Literature and was frequently given bizarre looks because, frankly, I was always the only white girl in the class. I even got in a fight with a professor once because of it. She was black and I was a young, white, freshman taking her class on society and racism. I was well read and when it came time to write the papers, I knew I would do extremely well. That professor gave me a C- on that paper and when I asked why, knowing it wasn't a fair grade, she said she thought it was only fair to grade me against myself rather than the rest of the class since I was the only one, "like me" in there. 

I had never experienced racism personally until that moment. And even after I explained it to her superior she still called me, "the little white girl." Though I may not have known the name, I know now that this professor could not remove herself from her terministic screen. On page 5 of the article, Gate says, "race, in these usages pretends to be an objective term of classification, when in fact it is a dangerous trope." I believe any time we look at situations only through the eyes of whatever our racial stereotype is we are committing a small hate crime due to the fact that we are saying, in some sense, this is how I know things and its hard to change it so I simply won't. Also, by identifying as something we are immediately identifying as not something else. With my professor saying she was going to grade me against myself, she put me in another category, and because she parted me from everyone else she also parted everyone else from me. Not only did I have to be graded by her apparent standard for myself but no one else would be graded at the standard she had set either. And while keeping me separated from the rest of the class, they became offended because felt as if she was saying to them that they couldn't be held to my standard which was far from true. Race is an enormous terministic screen that I'm not sure we can ever reconcile, but I think it's important we try to recognize the danger that Gate's talks about and fear away from it.  


Jessica Weaver said...

I agree completely when you say that race is a terministic screen that our society carries. However, sometimes I feel as if some people hide behind this screen as a means of protection. You said yourself that the idea of race separates us; puts people into different categories that may be unfair or unjustified. Your teacher took the effort to seperate your grade as not to jeopardize the grades of the others in the class. She purposefully put you in a place that made you feel inferior all while protecting herself and the students like her. While she may claim that your grade was one you deserved, race could have been the underlying issue. So rather than give the "little white girl" a chance, she would rather protect her other students who were of a similar race.

Stephen Craun said...

I believe that you've chosen a valid example to demonstrate the constraints of which the influence of terministic screens present to our interpretation of reality, which in this case is depicted in the perceived differences of race. Racial identity is one that has been inscribed through and within literary form, and through this inscription forms of cultural and national identity have been formed from our acceptance of their precepts. Because African American literature was developed almost in response to the accusations of western literary tradition regarding the lack of cultural identity as a product of a culture which was not only perceived as been the "other" but also perceived itself as the "other", there are fundamental differences in which african american literature is interpreted. Therefore, although your existance within your own terministic screen of orientation may prevent your interpretation of "african-american" literature based upon the perceived influence of your racial orietation to in historical or actual context, your professor can be considered to be at fault for reinforcing a racial profile as a mechanism for literary interpretation.

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