Sunday, March 13, 2016

Whitesplaining to Blacksplainers

 America has race on the brain right now.   The language of racial justification has propagated its way into education dialog from quasi-sociological courses taught by theoreticians of white privilege and other related doctrines.   Recently, I asked what I felt was a simple question on an educational issue, and I found myself being attacked by blacksplainers for whitesplaining.   I'm wading into this territory thinking I'll probably regret it later.   I've learned recently that white people can use the term whitesplaining against other white people:  in fact, if they do, that turns out to be a big plus for their side of the argument with fellow blacksplainers.  Even a white person can disparage another white person's argument by asserting, evidently on behalf of black people, that the white person is whitesplaining.   One of the most effective arguments a white person can make in favor of a doubtful proposition is that a whole class of people who disagree are serial whitesplainers.   

I hadn't really paid a lot of attention to the meaning of the word until I became a target the other day.   According to one source whitesplaining:
a combining form extracted from mansplain and meaning "to explain or comment on something in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner, from the prospective of the group one identifies with, as in ladysplain, whtiesplain:  whitesplained to a person of color.
Notice that in this first definition, whitesplaining is the brother of other kinds of splaining.   Blacksplaining under this definition would be to explain or comment on something in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner, from the perspective of the group one identifies with as in ladysplain,  blacksplain...blacksplained to a white person.

People of any race can be condescending.  Here's another definition
The paternalistic lecture given by Whites toward a person of color defining what should or shouldn't be considered
And another explanation:
Whitesplaining – derived from “mansplaining” – is a new, zietgeisty, word, but it’s essentially an expression of privilege: the unconscious, unearned and largely un-examined benefits of prejudice
Ok that makes sense.  If  I were to object to "Black Lives Matter's" concerns about the high rate of  police shooting of  young black males by asserting that they should change their slogan to "All lives matter," that's an example of whitesplaining, and legitimately so.  There's a more eloquent, and persuasive way of expressing that sentiment, but I'll refrain from expressing my opinion on that, because that too would be "whitesplaining."  

But here is what I hear when someone claims that I"m "whitesplaining:"  I really don't give a hoot what you think, and in the mean time, I'm going to  put you down with an epithet to let the whole world know.

Recently there's a crowd of people that have used the term whitesplaining for another purpose, to counteract an idea which may have merit, by using a racial epithet that seeks to suppress dialog with racial invective.  To put down legitimate invitations to dialog by persons of a different perspective, color, or cultural background.  To say:  you can't ask this; you can't assert this, because to assert something with which I disagree is condescending.   Any time you say something on a topic of interest to me, you are failing to take into account my perspective, because you don't see the world in the way that I do.    This whole tactic of killing off dialog with invective is a copy cat of the way that white racists sought to marginalize the opinions of black people.   So perhaps turnabout is fair play.   Take a little dose of racist medicine and see how you like it.    I can blacksplain just as good as you can whitesplain, and don't call me on it, because that's another form of whitesplaining.

In the two major metropolitan school districts teachers are complaining that their job has become unsafe.   There are some few students who are serial disrupters of varying degrees. In schools that are predominantly black, the odds are that more of these students are going to be black.  In any school, the students who are serial disrupters are more likely to be themselves victims of trauma, and who am I to discuss trauma, because that would be more whitesplaining.   But the upshot of all of this is that it is wrong to see teachers as the only victims of these incidents.

Most of the victims are students.  They are victims because teachers are the authorities in the building who are charged with making the building safe for young people.  They are victims because if another student can seem to get away with ignoring adults, then that student can project himself as more powerful than adults, and able to wreak havoc on fellow students with impunity.  Nobody wants their kid to go to a school where the teachers are the targets of violence.    We had better all be willing to have thoughtful dialog on how to address these issues, because its everybody's problem.  Right now the majority of teachers in these schools are still white, and at the rate that black teachers are being graduated, that's going  to be true for quite some time.  We have to  listen to each other.  To challenge people's points of view on how to resolve this as whitesplaining is  another way of trying to win an argument with insults.  

When you are communicating with folks you want to convince, calling them whitesplainers is another way of saying you don't want dialog.  And if you don't want dialog, why the heck are you initiating it.   Persuasion and communication is a mutual process that involves valuing the perspectives of others, even when they are coming from a biased or filtered perspective.   Its fine to attack Matt Damon as a whitesplainer.  He's not listing to you; doesn't care what the heck you think. But when you are dealing with people you want to persuade,  based on the possibility that they care what you think, telling them that they are whitesplaining is a form of blacksplaining, which in my world is no better than whitesplaining, even if you are actually black.

We need to find a way to come together to make sure that all students are getting an education, and that all students are protected too.   Yes, I need to understand your experience, and I want to.   We need to find techniques that keep students out of the juvenile justice system to the maximum extent possible.  We should provide all student in school with an educational environment even kids that serially disrupt, but we have to insist that students in regular classrooms meet reasonable standards of behavior.   To make that happen,. we are going to need more staff, better trained staff, more staff support, more adults on duty and some alternative settings in school.  If you don't agree with me, bring it on, because this is a problem that is only get addressed if we all listen to each other:  I won't claim you're blacksplaining, because frankly, I think my views on this are shared across racial lines.