November 26, 2012

Racial Stigma

The quote that stood out to me the most when reading Gates' essay was, "Race has become a trope of ultimate, irreducible difference between cultures, linguistic groups, or adherents of specific belief systems which--more often than not--also have fundamentally opposed economic differences" (5). Gates insists that even though the same biological criteria used to determine 'differences' in sex do not stand when applied to race, we carelessly use this language anyway, in such a way that is has gained permanence in our culture. Repeated racial slurs and stereotypes are grounded in the roots of our culture and as a result, this language "exacerbates the complex problem of cultural or ethnic difference, rather than to assuage or redress it" (5). What I also found interesting was the way in which race coincided with knowledge or power.

In the eighteenth century, the white European considered all blacks as destined to be slaves because they had no knowledge of reading or writing. If it wasn't for the publication of poems written by Phillis Wheatley entitled "Attestation," few would believe that an African could possibly have written poetry all by herself. In an attempt to limit African's rise in power, North Carolina issued a statute in 1740 outlawing black slaves from acquiring literacy. My question is, how can we condemn blacks for being subordinate because of their inability to read and write when one of the main reasons they are were unable to do so was because of laws and limitations we put into place?


gabyjoe21 said...

This is also what stood out to me the most about this reading. i thought this reading took what Burke thought about terministic screens and effectively applied them to how our society use them. While for burke he wanted use terministic screens to identify with people and relate, this reading illustrated how these screens have really been used to alienate and demean a race of people.

anaistamayo said...

The reason it happened this way is because those in power held literacy as a privilege over those they enslaved. Outlawing literacy ensured they stayed oppressed. Slave owners were not interested in empowering their slaves with the ability to read and write. When a community can read and write, it makes it easier for them to spread their ideas and engage with each other. By outlawing literacy for slaves, those in power were trying to ensure the enslaved stayed enslaved. They saw no logical paradox in viewing their slaves as ignorant while ensuring their ignorance because they assumed that they were that way already. Additionally, because they viewed them this way in the first place, many believed they were unworthy of literacy.

Huong Le said...

Have you ever seen Arthur Christmas? At one point the grandpa says something along the lines of, "in my day, we thought it was impossible to teach women how to read." Like the politically correct redneck meme, it's just one of those quirky thoughts that people of a certain generation have. I'm not saying that it's corrrect. When you have a thought like this that is just spread around collectively, you're not going to think it's wrong even if your children think you're crazy.

Steven Loer said...

No a-days African-Americans are not condemned for their lack of literacy because of an attempt at equality. Created through activists such as Martin Luther King African-Americans have altered the landscape of individuals terministic screen most greatly over the past 10 generations.
As noted prior, terministic screens play a large portion of the interpretations people have on the black community. When these laws were created many people interpreted African-Americans through a lens that depicted them in a negative light as opposed to whites. Now, our screen has altered interpreting blacks as normal and integrated in our communities.
The way individuals in the 1700’s used these laws only furthered how they were brought up to interpret African Americans. With blacks playing a significant effort in slavery most children were brought up obtaining the terministic screen that closely related to their family.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.