you + me


I introduced the course I'm leading next semester to a group I'm already working with and I think I introduced it badly because I really wasn't sure whether they understood why we're running this course. The course is meant to look at knowledge and at which things count as high culture or have inherent value - who is accorded value and who isn't. Specifically, the course looks at the displays at Tate Modern and asks the question: why are there so few black artists (or artists of non-European descent) represented there?

Maybe I'm being paranoid but I could almost sense the sighs from some members of the group... why do we have to think about that? they seemed to breathe. I felt like they were putting these ideas in a box marked 'politically correct' and closing the lid. It is so hard to make people who don't face racism, or instituional racism, or who are immensely privileged, understand why it's important that we ALL take responsibility for it.

I guess I assume that everyone is interested in equality, democracy, inclusiveness, whatever you want to call it... But I guess it's just "natural" for me. Afterall, I know there are people who look down their noses at me, consider me inferior or deviant or less than. I don't sit at the top of the privilege pile so I don't want the heirarchy to exist. If I don't want anyone on top of me, I can't have anyone underneath me either. It's quid pro quo

Still, I remember one of the very few occasions when there has been a black person in a position of authority over me. I kept trying to make us friends, to equalise the positions between us. When I was challenged about it, I realised that yes, I did have a psychological and emotional issue with a black person having power over me. Yes it was true that I enjoyed my usual sense of privilege; that I am ipso facto superior as a white person and I didn't like having this sense challenged. Despite all the things I had read, from "To kill a mockingbird" in high school to post-colonial theory, I still had a fundamental belief in my own superiority. It was a nauseating shock.

<< | >>