I’m at a conference for university professors teaching core texts in higher education. I’m presenting a paper on the critical role of slave narratives in the American canon. Every morning we have plenary speakers. I went to the breakfast event this morning and the plenary speaker spoke on the death of the humanities and he said its because of, among other things, diversity and multicultural traditions and ethnic studies and the loss of respected traditions.
He said a whooooole lot of other shit, too, like how he can’t discuss Roe v. Wade in the class room anymore(?!) and that Trump’s not that bad, just his tweets (okay, sure but why..?).
I hold a PhD in African American Studies. You need to know that because I stormed out after the "xyz studies" comment. I was not gonna sit there and be disrespected like that as a scholar and a teacher.
...but i went back.*
And during the Q&A I said I had a few questions:
1. I asked could he elaborate exactly on what and whose traditions he's speaking of? And 2. given my speciality could he please suggest to me what I could do as a scholar so as not to undermine the liberal arts as he so clearly put it.
aaaand it began...or, rather didn't. http://www.tzr.io/yarn-clip/e03c847...
He never answered my traditions question. Backtracked on his points on ethnic studies and tried to explain that he just meant certain texts are better taught in “specialty” studies rather than in the core because the students “can’t grasp the content.” The whole time he was humming and hawing searching for words I kept hearing my mother tell me it’s not polite to interrupt.
I also heard her tell me she sent me to private schools to deal with old. white. men.
So I politely interjected and said “certainly such specialty departments encourage delving deeper into topics such as gender and race but, perhaps sir, may I suggest that maybe these students aren’t grasping content correctly simply because they’re not being taught correctly?”
I went on.
“Perhaps because of deficiencies in teaching that is why certain texts such as slave narratives and their content get pushed to the margins rather than kept in the core in the first place?”
He stuttered, mumbled maybe, and then it was time for panels. On the way out numerous attendees stopped me to shake my hand. One woman asked to be my new best friend. The president of the association thanked me and called my comments “curious.”
My panel was titled: “Colonialism and Slave Narratives: Finding Our Way Into The Core.”
I began my paper, “There is nothing for me to find because I was never lost. I’m right here, I’m asking you to join and follow me.”
*When I stormed out I went out of the hotel and asked the shuttle driver if he had a cigarette (yes, that heated). He didn't but offered to drive me to the Rite Aid nearby. On the drive I told him what happened. “You need to go back there and debate him. Don’t let him win,” he kept stressing. So, Aaron of the Merriott Atlanta Perimeter Shuttle, I very humbly thank you for the reminder.
just some things usually on my mind....