Social Justice Usage
Source: DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Beacon Press, 2018, p. 111.
However, whites do engage in racial discourse under controlled conditions. We notice the racial positions of racial others and discuss this freely among ourselves, albeit often in coded ways. The refusal to directly acknowledge this race talk results in a kind of split consciousness that leads to irrationality and incoherence. This denial also guarantees that racial misinformation that circulates in the culture and frames our perspectives will be left unexamined. The continual retreat from the discomfort of authentic racial engagement in a culture in which racial disparity is infused limits white people’s ability to form authentic connections across racial lines and perpetuates a cycle that keeps racism in place.
New Discourses Commentary
It is admittedly somewhat difficult to talk about the term “authentic” in the context of the Theory of Critical Social Justice and the related activism. To cut to the chase with the word, which has a variety of meanings, we’d like to insist that altogether too often, the word “authentic” in Critical Social Justice means “in agreement with Theory.”
For example, a person may be said to have an “authentic black voice” (say, particularly, on the issue of racism), but no black person who speaks against Theory or its conclusions would qualify for such an appellation. Indeed, they’d likely be accused of inauthenticity, usually in the form of some sort of false consciousness (see also, internalized oppression and internalized racism) or selling out (see also, acting white and white adjacent). This isn’t always the case, however, and—for this reason and that this usage requires elaboration—the term merits considerably longer discussion.
First, to understand this usage of the term, it is imperative to understand that the Theory of Critical Social Justice always conceives of such things in terms of alleged systemic power dynamics. Indeed, Theory exists to identify, expose, describe, problematize, disrupt, dismantle, and deconstruct these. That’s all Theory does, so the idea of authenticity within Theory must somehow proceed from this understanding. This particular use of the word authentic—meaning “in agreement with Theory”—cannot be understood otherwise.
It is very tempting, for instance, to ascribe to Theory the idea that it therefore describes authentic and inauthentic ways to be black (see also, blackness), white (see also, whiteness), male (see also, masculinity, hegemonic masculinity, toxic masculinity, and traditional masculinity), female (see also, hegemonic femininity), or a member of any other identity group, but this it attempts to avoid studiously and with utmost care under a rubric of anti-essentialism (see also, essentialism and strategic essentialism). Given that they vigorously police authentic expressions of various identity categories (e.g., with remarks like “straight black men are the white people of black people,” and accusations that various people with influence are either of African descent but not really black, like Kanye West, or in a loving and sexual relationship exclusively with a man but not really gay, like Pete Buttigieg), one would be forgiven for noticing that they fail rather spectacularly at this attempt, but they should be given something like credit for trying as hard as they do.
Setting their unfortunate and self-contradictory transparency aside, we should try to understand how they understand this idea in anti-essentialist terms. Theory denies that there is some authentic way to be a particular identity—be that black, white, queer, or whatever—but insists that there is a particular experience of one’s positionality—that is, one’s lived experience of and relationship to systemic power—for the various group identities (see also, intersectionality). To speak in opposition to that Theorized experience is to be inauthentic about it, either as a form of false consciousness or self-interest (or a blurry combination of the two). This, in turn, is not viewed entirely as the inauthentic person’s fault (except when necessary or convenient to the argument being made) but the fault of the system of dominance and oppression itself. Indeed, it is believed (at least within critical race Theory) that the systems of society utterly preclude black Americans from being authentic Americans at all (see also, cultural racism and double consciousness).
It is in this sense that the commentary around West and Buttigieg can be deciphered and in which our claim that in the universe of Critical Social Justice, “authentic” tends to mean “in agreement with Theory.” Kanye West, a black man, was accused of being of African descent but not qualifying as “black” when he started to support President Donald Trump. This is because he was ignoring the Theorized “realities” of black positionality and speaking into “white” and “white supremacist” discourses by supporting Trump. That is, it isn’t his genetic heritage or skin color that has anything to do with his racial status as black (his blackness), it’s what his “politics” are in the sense of which sorts of discourses and power dynamics he speaks into, supports, and maintains (and which he seeks to disrupt and dismantle). Similarly, Pete Buttigieg, Democratic presidential hopeful and former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is homosexual but straight passing and, in being more incrementalist and liberal in his views about gay politics, not openly a radical queer activist. He, in the eyes of the queer left, is therefore not really gay. From this, we can surmise that authenticity of identity category has much—but not everything—to do with one’s political stances, in the broadest meaning of the term, i.e., whether or not one agrees with Theory.
We hasten to add that one’s politics are not the whole of one’s authentic identity status in the Theory of Critical Social Justice. To qualify, one must also be that identity. Thus, a white woman (like Rachel Dolezal) could not claim to be authentically black, no matter what her politics or how she speaks about things (or presents herself outwardly). That is because the relevant marker of authenticity in Social Justice is this: having the lived experience of being in a marginalized or oppressed position relative to systemic power dynamics and speaking in a way that reflects having had that experience. Because Theory has taken great pains to outline exactly what those experiences look like and cannot be contradicted, this renders authenticity (in this context) as being in agreement with Theory. (Thus, an authentic white identity would be one that exhibits whiteness, whether one acknowledges it or not.)
There are other contexts in which this word is used in a specialized manner within Critical Social Justice as well, but before proceeding with that, taking a short departure into the queer Theory of Judith Butler is necessitated. This is because queer Theory seems to do the opposite (as can be read in an example below), insisting, following Judith Butler, that there is no such thing as an authentic expression of gender or sexuality. This is tricky to untangle, even in light of the above explanation, but clarity is available through making two observations. First, Butler’s claim is more specifically that there is no prediscursively authentic identity, and second, queer Theory doesn’t reify particular gender or sexual identities, but rather a politicized queer identity that defies any usual (or categorizable) ones (see also, violence of categorization). These, together, prevent one from thinking queer Theory presents a blanket contradiction to the foregoing claim in this entry.
The point about Butler discussing only prediscursive authentic gender/sexual identities means that she’s resisting and rejecting sex essentialism in total (see also, biological essentialism). She is claiming that no gender or sexual identity is tied to any fact or accident of birth, but rather that all are the result of socialization (see also, performativity and gender performativity). What that means is that within the context of queer Theory, authenticity of identity cannot be a biological thing. Butler is making no further claim than that in this context of the term.
The point about queer identity is a detour here but is worth touching upon. In queer Theory, the ultimate point is to unmake normativity—that is, to subvert, deconstruct, and unmake the social structures that allegedly mislead people to believe that certain sex, gender, and sexual identities are normal or natural (see also, structuralism, poststructuralism, postmodern, critical, Foucauldian, and Derridean). Thus, not only are heterosexuality and cisgender (and heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) on the table for deconstruction under queer Theory; any stable identity with respect to sex, gender, or sexuality is problematic. Where critical race Theory seems to reify specific racial identities, then, queer Theory attempts to obliterate them in favor of a single, overarching, undefined (and ideally internally contradictory) queer identity. (This makes sense of the Hypatia transracialism controversy of Rebecca Tuvel, who did not realize adequately that while both queer Theory and critical race Theory reify identity and proceed roughly similarly, they Theorize racial and gender/sexual identity in opposite directions.)
Once one understands that the underlying goal of queer Theory is to create a single sex/gender/sexual identity that more or less describes everyone (or, everyone good, according to queer Theory) as queer, the claim being made here about authenticity fits within it. Of note, as a final queer aside, it bears repeating that queer Theory isn’t necessarily explicitly trying to create one “right” sex/gender/sexual identity for everyone so much as it is trying to remove any meaning or significance from any stable sex/gender/sexual identity category at all, leaving queer identity as the default. In the current moment, where queer identities (not to be mistaken for LGBT identities, necessarily, which might be stable) are profoundly in the minority, however, they can be championed and understood as a site for authentic queer experience, Theory, and activism, which by definition would agree with queer Theory.
As noted, the term “authentic” appears in more than one context within the Critical Social Justice literature (and related activism). Indeed, it often gets used with the usual meaning, or in a way that reflects the usual meaning although shaded by the overarching Theoretical assumption that systemic power dynamics bear relevantly upon all social interactions. This usage of the term often comes up in the contexts of authentically engaging with Theory (or related activism) and in having authentic relationships, especially the capacity to have them across demographic differences. A third way in which it appears in the usual meaning is in the way that the postmodern, critical, and sometimes Marxist philosophers (upon which much, but not all, of Theory is based) often used the term (see also, Frankfurt School, neo-Marxism, Marxian, and post-Marxist). The rest of this entry will be devoted to these three more usual usages. In all three cases, the connotation of the term still skews toward being in agreement with Theory while not being exactly that.
With regard to the question of authentic engagement with Theory and the related activism, a great deal of Theory is devoted particularly to the question of why people (especially those in positions of dominance) fail to agree with Theory. Rather than admitting that people might just have differences of opinion or that they genuinely see flaws and holes in Theory and its assumptions (which is impossible from the perspective of Theory), Theory is dedicated to the project of explaining all such disagreement in Theoretical terms—i.e., in ways that incorporate the relevance of systemic power dynamics and various forms of false consciousness. Thus, failure to agree with Theory is typically Theorized as some form of failure to have properly engaged with it, as though proper engagement would guarantee agreement (see also, engagement). This renders Theory quite religious—indeed, fundamentalist—in its approach.
We see this rather heavily developed in the Critical Social Justice epistemology (theory of knowledge) and pedagogy (theory of education) literature, and a wide variety of concepts are pressed into its service, usually under the overarching concepts of some kind of intentional ignorance (active, pernicious, willful, white) or injustice and oppression (see also, epistemic injustice, hermeneutical injustice, testimonial injustice, discursive aggression, epistemic oppression, and epistemic violence). (These are technically related, as epistemic injustices and oppression are deemed to follow from the various sorts of intentional ignorances, particularly pernicious according to the highly influential Theorist Kristie Dotson.)
Without getting into the details, these include concepts such as white comfort, white fragility, privilege-preserving epistemic pushback, shadow text, colortalk, white talk, white ignorance, and white innocence, to name just a few that follow from a broader concept of internalized dominance. Others come from notions of internalized oppression, which come in a variety of specific forms. All have the purpose of indicating that to do anything short of enthusiastically and positively agreeing with Theory is to have failed to understand Theory correctly, most likely due to a willful or unconscious unwillingness or lack of ability to engage it properly. Authentic engagement therefore implies agreement with Theory.
In short, authentic engagement, according to the Theory of Critical Social Justice, requires engaging the material with a critical consciousness (see hooks citing Freire below; see also, critical pedagogy and wokeness). That is, if you are not approaching the material with full awareness of the assumptions of and alleged need for a critical awareness, then you cannot possibly be engaging the material correctly. This is the screw around which all of this discussion turns. If you have a critical consciousness, you will agree with Theory, and thus your engagement is authentic; if not, you may not, but your engagement wasn’t authentic because you failed to meet the literature upon its presuppositional terms.
The case with having authentic relationships is similar, with Theory indicating that the power dynamics that exist between different identity groups become a (nearly insurmountable) barrier to having an “authentic” relationship across differences of identity. For reasons similar to those characterizing the failure to have engaged properly with, say, the Theoretical literature, the various problematics underlying those issues would also apply, mutatis mutandis, to interpersonal relationships. This leads us to a decent guess as to what is meant by having authentic relationships (not merely “black friends”) across differences in identity—which is mandated for members of dominant groups and believed to be necessitated by the facts of dominance and oppression for members of marginalized groups, whether they like it or not.
An authentic relationship, as Theory seems to see it, is one in which identity issues are centered and dealt with as Theory would dictate—that is, one in which a critical consciousness is obtained by all participants and made relevant in the relationship. (Indeed, there’s a decent argument to be made that the bestselling book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, quoted above, is hardly more than a guide for this purpose.) That is, if there is a difference in identity, that difference must always be relevant to the relationship in terms of the power dynamics involved and the various problematics those dynamics create. “Positionality must intentionally be engaged,” DiAngelo informs us.
No matter the depth or quality of the friendship, unless identity issues are routinely acknowledged and properly deferred to by those in dominant positions—no such expectation is ever placed on people Theorized to be in oppressed positions—the relationship cannot be authentic by default because of the impediments the power dynamics (and the failure to continually acknowledge them) create. In other words, authentic relationships across differences in identity must follow the prescriptions of Theory (and agree with them and their necessity). In practice this means that an “authentic relationship” across a difference of identity will talk about that difference and the relevant issues (as Theory sees them) a lot, if not almost constantly, and Theory dictates the terms upon which these conversations must be had (see also, cultural humility, cultural sensitivity, racial humility, racial stamina, and shut up and listen).
Third, and finally, authenticity was a central concern both in critical theories (particularly the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School—see also, neo-Marxism and cultural Marxism) and to the postmodern Theorists (mostly because they were, ultimately, critical theorists of a different stripe; —see also, poststructuralism). In all of these schools of thought, it was the loss of authenticity that troubled the philosophers (and activists) involved.
The Critical Theorists saw this loss of authenticity in a number of ways, including the emergence of popular culture (thus diverting middle class interests away from high culture) and in the relentless production of propaganda, both intentional (by the fascists) and unintentional (through ideology and hegemony—see also, alienation). The postmodernists were similar but even more cynical, finding profound concerns with the authenticity of most facets of cultural production, including consumer products (see also, simulacrum), psychology, societal vision (see also, metanarrative), language and meaning (see also, absence, differance, discourse, and Derridean), and knowledge (see also, Foucauldian, episteme, biopower, and power-knowledge). In a very real sense, both the critical mood (as in critical theory) and the postmodern condition (as it has been called) could be characterized with a profound and pessimistic crisis of authenticity emerging in the late modern period as it matured and faltered (relevantly taking into account the rapid changes to everything between and following the World Wars).
Yet again, even in these deep roots of the idea, though the Theory involved is different, here we see hints that whether something is “authentic” is something to be decided by the high-minded Theorists, who have ordained themselves better able to tell what is real and meaningful than any of the everyday plebs who get it all wrong for what amount to bad reasons. Though the meaning “in agreement with Theory” isn’t quite so explicit in this older sense of the term as it is under Critical Social Justice, the idea that Theory could declare everything except what it might approve of (subjective lived experience, local knowledges and narratives, counterstories, high culture in art, etc.) to be “inauthentic” as the source of a crisis of authenticity fits with this more general understanding of the term.
Absence; Acting white; Active ignorance; Alienation; Anti-essentialism; Biological essentialism; Biopower; Blackness; Center; Cisgender; Colortalk; Counterstory; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical pedagogy; Critical race Theory; Critical Theory; Cultural humility; Cultural Marxism; Cultural racism; Cultural sensitivity; Deconstruct; Derridean; Differance; Discourse; Discursive aggression; Dismantle; Disrupt; Dominance; Double consciousness; Engagement; Epistemic injustice; Epistemic oppression; Epistemic violence; Essentialism; False consciousness; Foucauldian; Frankfurt School; Gender; Gender performativity; Hegemony; Hegemonic femininity; Hegemonic masculinity; Hermeneutical injustice; Heteronormativity; Homophobia; Identity; Ideology; Internalized dominance; Internalized oppression; Internalized racism; Intersectionality; Knowledge(s); Liberalism; Lived experience; Marginalize; Marxian; Marxism; Masculinity; Metanarrative; Minoritize; Narrative; Neo-Marxism; Normal; Normativity; Oppression; Performativity; Pernicious ignorance; Position; Post-Marxism; Postmodern; Poststructuralism; Power-knowledge; Privilege-preserving epistemic pushback; Problematic; Problematize; Queer; Queer Theory; Race; Racial humility; Racial stamina; Racism (systemic); Radical; Sex; Sex essentialism; Sexuality; Shadow text; Shut up and listen; Simulacrum; Social constructivism; Social Justice; Socialization; Straight passing; Strategic essentialism; Structural; Structrualism; Subversion; System, the; Systemic power; Testimonial injustice; Theory; Toxic masculinity; Traditional masculinity; Transphobia; Violence of categorization; White; White adjacent; White comfort; White fragility; White ignorance; White innocence; White supremacy; White talk; Whiteness; Willful ignorance; Woke/Wokeness
Source: Subotnik, Daniel. “What’s Wrong with Critical Race Theory: Reopening the Case for Middle Class Values.” Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy 7(3), 1998: 681–756, pp. 704–705. [NB: This source isn’t Critical Social Justice itself but, instead, a useful critique of an aspect of it from the outside.]
Perhaps no issue has served more “to open up space” for [Critical Race Theorists] no issue has been used more for rhetorical advantage-than whether blacks can be “authentic” in American society. Patricia Williams’s equation of integration and self-erasure has already been noted.”‘ For Gary Peller the threat posed by integration is cultural “genocide.” What is the connection between integration and self-erasure? For one thing, writes Peller, it is whites who define knowledge. “[K]nowledge [is] itself a function of the powerful to impose their own views, to differentiate between knowledge and myth, reason and emotion, and objectivity and subjectivity…. Understanding what society deems worthy of calling ‘knowledge’ depends on a prior inquiry into a social situation…. Culture precedes epistemology.”
Out of the reigning cultural epistemology, writes Peller, the notion arises that “merit itself is neutral, impersonal and somehow developed outside the economy of social power-with its significant currency of race, class, gender-that marks American social life.” But the reality, according to John Calmore, is that “[c]ultural bias sets standards for performance in terms of the tendencies, skills, or attributes of white America, and it is against these standards that all other groups are measured.” Implicit in these notions is the question: How can blacks be authentic when, at best, they are measured by standards not of their own creation and, at worst, by standards created “to help justify racial domination”?”
Source: Applebaum, Barbara. Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy. Lexington Books, 2010, p. 127.
Second, group members can also be responsible for negligent omission. If one does not register disapproval when confronted with racist wrongs perpetrated by other group members, one also shares responsibility for such wrongs. Borrowing from Sartre, May claims that group members have a duty of authenticity. May explains,
Authenticity involves, among other things, being conscious of who one is and taking responsibility for the harms of one’s class, one’s position, and one’s situation in the world. To be “unauthentic” is to “deny” or “attempt to escape from” one’s condition, to fail to assume responsibility for choosing to be who one is.
Elaborating on what such inauthenticity means, Cassie Striblen argues that inauthenticity is manifested when one does not publicly show disapproval because one allows those members who do harm to define one’s group. If one responds with disapproval, one chooses not to contribute to the association of doing harm with the definition of the group and, thus, one escapes responsibility. Individuals who fail to distance themselves from the group members that are causing harm whether by condemning these people or by ending affiliation with the group where possible give their implicit endorsement to the harm and become morally tainted.
Source: Applebaum, Barbara. Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy. Lexington Books, 2010, pp. 56–57.
Butler’s work is initially framed by a concern with the unproblematized identity category “women” that serves as the subject of feminism. Not only have white, straight feminists excluded women of color and lesbians from the universal concept of “women” but also they have not taken seriously Foucault’s insights that all identities are effects of power regimes. What is required, Butler contends, is a critical analysis of the subject of feminism and how “the category of ‘women’ . . . is produced and restrained by the very structures of power through which emancipation is sought.” A genealogical critique of the concept “women” is thus necessary to expose who benefits and who is excluded when essentialist notions of identity are the basis of politics.
A genealogical critique refuses to search for the origins of gender, the inner truth of female desire, a genuine or authentic sexual identity that repression has kept from view; rather genealogy investigates the political stakes in designating as an origin and cause those identity categories that are in fact the effects of institutions, practices, discourses with multiple and diffuse points of origin.
In Gender Trouble, Butler embarks upon such a genealogy by exposing the political stakes that are hidden by the sex/gender distinction so crucial to second wave feminists in the United States. The distinction between sex (being biologically male or female) and gender (culturally imposed roles of femininity and masculinity) played a major role in challenging biological determinism or the view that masculinity and femininity follow naturally from biological differences in the male and female body. Second wave feminists in the United States were able to fight for social change by arguing that gender roles and stereotypes were socially constructed and not biologically based. In doing so, however, the notion of sex as nature remained beyond interrogation. Butler deconstructs the distinction in order to uncover the heteronormative assumptions it preserves and perpetuates. …
In Bodies That Matter, Butler further expands this claim by arguing that homosexuality is the constitutive outside of heterosexuality and is essential to the forming of the strict borders that police what lies within the norm. Bodies that matter are bodies that are intelligible and attributed worth or value but are also relationally contingent upon a domain of bodies that are unintelligible and “unlivable” within the matrix of hegemonic, heterosexual normativity. For Butler, the intelligible requires the abject. This applies not just to gender categories; all identity categories that presume to be stable or fixed and prediscursively “authentic” are “instruments of regulatory regimes.” All essentialist identity categories are not politically or ethically neutral; rather, they are ethically pernicious because they necessarily exclude and foreclose the possibility of certain identities. Butler argues that identity categories are never merely descriptive but instead are normative ideals. Thus, she is led to conclude that identity categories, such as “women,” must be rejected as a basis for politics, particularly feminist politics.
Source: Delgado, Richard. “Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others A Plea for Narrative.” In Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, Third Edition, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefacic (eds.). Temple University Press, 2013, pp. 75–76.
A few days after word of Henry’s rejection reached the student body, Noel Al-Hammar X, leader of the radical Third World Coalition, delivered a speech at noon on the steps of the law school patio. The audience consisted of most of the black and brown students at the law school, several dozen white students, and a few faculty members. Chen was absent, having a class to prepare for. The assistant dean was present, uneasily taking mental notes in case the dean asked her later what she heard.
Al-Hammar’s speech was scathing, denunciatory, and at times downright rude. He spoke several words that the campus newspaper reporter wondered if his paper would print. He impugned the good faith of the faculty, accused them of institutional if not garden-variety racism, and pointed out in great detail the long history of the faculty as an all-white club. He said that the law school was bent on hiring only white males and only “ladies” who were well-behaved clones of white males. It would never hire a black unless forced to do so by student pressure or the courts. He exhorted his fellow students not to rest until the law faculty took steps to address its own ethnocentricity and racism. He urged boycotting or disrupting classes, writing letters to the state legislature, withholding alumni contributions, setting up a shadow appointments committee, and several other measures that made the assistant dean wince.
Al-Hammar’s talk received a great deal of attention, particularly from the faculty who were not there to hear it. Several versions of his story circulated among the faculty offices and corridors (“Did you hear what he said?”). Many of the stories about the story were wildly exaggerated. Nevertheless, Al-Hammar’s story is an authentic counterstory. It directly challenges—both in its words and tone—the corporate story the law school carefully worked out to explain Henry’s nonappointment. It rejects many of the institution’s premises, including “we try so hard” and “the pool is so small,” and even mocks the school’s meritocratic self-concept. “They say Henry is mediocre, has a pedestrian mind. Well, they ain’t sat in none of my classes and listened to themselves. Mediocrity they got. They’re experts on mediocrity.” Al-Hammar denounced the faculty’s excuse making, saying there were dozens of qualified black candidates, if not hundreds. “There isn’t that big a pool of chancellors or quarterbacks,” he said. “But when they need one, they find one, don’t they?
Source: hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994, pp. 53–54.
Freire’s work (and that of many other teachers) affirmed my right as a subject in resistance to define my reality. His writing gave me a way to place the politics of racism in the United States in a global context wherein I could see my fate linked with that of colonized black people everywhere struggling to decolonize, to transform society. More than in the work of many white bourgeois feminist thinkers, there was always in Paulo’s work recognition of the subject position of those most disenfranchised, those who suffer the gravest weight of oppressive forces (with the exception of his not acknowledging always the specific gendered realities of oppression and exploitation). This was a standpoint which affirmed my own desire to work from a lived understanding of the lives of poor black women. There has been only in recent years a body of scholarship in the United States that does not look at the lives of black people through a bourgeois lens, a fundamentally radical scholarship that suggests that indeed the experience of black people, black females, might tell us more about the experience of women in general than simply an analysis that looks first, foremost, and always at those women who reside in privileged locations. One of the reasons that Paulo’s book, Pedagogy in Process: The Letters to Guinea-Bissau, has been important for my work is that it is a crucial example of how a privileged critical thinker approaches sharing knowledge and resources with those who are in need. Here is Paulo at one of those insightful moments. He writes:
Authentic help means that all who are involved help each other mutually, growing together in the common effort to understand the reality which they seek to transform. Only through such praxis—in which those who help and those who are being helped help each other simultaneously—can the act of helping become free from the distortion in which the helper dominates the helped.
In American society where the intellectual—and specifically the black intellectual—has often assimilated and betrayed revolutionary concerns in the interest of maintaining class power, it is crucial and necessary for insurgent black intellectuals to have an ethics of struggle that informs our relationship to those black people who have not had access to ways of knowing shared in locations of privilege.
Source: hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994, p. 199.
If, as Thom as Merton suggests in his essay on pedagogy “Learning to Live,” the purpose of education is to show students how to define themselves “authentically and spontaneously in relation” to the world, then professors can best teach if we are self-actualized. Merton reminds us that “the original and authentic ‘paradise’ idea, both in the monastery and in the university, implied not simply a celestial store of theoretic ideas to which the Magistri and Doctores held the key, but the inner self of the student” who would discover the ground of their being in relation to themselves, to higher powers, to community. That the “fruit of education . . . was in the activation of that utmost center.” To restore passion to the classroom or to excite it in classrooms where it has never been, professors must find again the place of eros within ourselves and together allow the mind and body to feel and know desire.
Revision date: 6/25/20