Monday, January 20, 2014


The obvious focus of today for those in the United States is on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.  Today, the nation ostensibly pauses to honor the legacy of one of the many important civil rights leaders of the mid-twentieth century, reflecting upon the struggles of which, for a time, he was the perceived center.  ("Ostensibly" because, as is to be expected, they day is being spent otherwise; I have work to do even though my classes are not meeting today, and I am aware that many retailers are running sales to exploit the down-time that many others have as well as many workers who otherwise might have been able to benefit from the reforms King and his colleagues espoused.  It is not surprising.)

Today, it should be obvious that the work begun long before King is yet to be done.  There is not parity among races in governmental and judicial processes in the US, and even the term "race" is so problematic as to prompt many to shy away from the discussion thereof (I am, again, aware of my privilege and the limits on it).  That there are systemic inequities is recognized by few in power, and those few are typically unable or unwilling to effect the change that the recognition thereof suggests.  And I, at least, see little hope that it will be otherwise for some time,* for matters will not improve without the kind of coordinated effort that centralizing figures--such as King is romanticized to be--can facilitate.  The fracturing of the middle and working classes in the days since King, understandable as both expected consequences of world events and as products of systematic manipulation by a few assholes in power, works against that coordination.

Little hope is not the same as no hope, however.  While I cannot expect that all people will reflect upon their beliefs and attitudes and adjust them in accordance with observable data and sound ethics (a term which I well know to be fraught), I do expect that there are some who will and some who do.  Many of us are in positions of influence over the minds of the young--it is not for naught that teachers at all levels are accused of indoctrination rather than education (as though the two can fundamentally be disentangled, since education always assumes a given body of information to be transmitted and developed, and the determination thereof is a political concern necessarily incorporating elements of indoctrination).  Those of us who do teach have the capacity to encourage critical reflection, even as experience teaches us that at no point will we be able to get all of our students to do so.  Still, we can work, and (maugre Fish) ought to work to motivate such reflection, such critical investigation and analysis of the self and the preexisting beliefs imposed upon each of us by the prevailing cultural narratives in which we are enmeshed.

If there is to be any improvement, it will be because of such things and through no other agency.

*It might be wondered at that a person who enjoys white male privilege would be concerned for such things, given that he evidently benefits from the inequities in the system.  He does recognize, perhaps as arrogantly as his use of the reflexive third person implies, that he is diminished by the diminishment of his fellow human beings, and, more directly, he is married to a wonderful woman who is of a different background--and his forthcoming child shares in that heritage.  Fault him if you must for reacting because of his personal involvement with the matter.

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