Thursday, December 16, 2010

Progress and superego

Speaking of moralism and repression.

A friend who works in a public educational establishment told me this true story. Details have been changed a bit because...that's what I like to do. I'm a storyteller, not a court stenographer.

As term was ending recently, somehow it was bandied about among the faculty, by email I think, that when a grand place like Yale was founded, its original egalitarian ethos...oooohh, can ya feel the frisson?... meant that faculty and administration joined with students in physically maintaining the institution: cleaning, sweeping, etc. Someone thought it would be nice if this local school did that. Modelling and all that.

Problem is: the two top administrators are men of color. So a white female teacher objected, from Wymyn's Studies, I think, saying that having them rake the lawn would replicate the evil times when men of their ethnic persuasions were limited by bigotry and prejudice to doing menial tasks like raking lawns. It would be a painful and humiliating image.*


But, amazingly, a black English teacher, a male, objected back, wondering when the time would ever come when people like him would be free to be individuals and do what they damn well chose to do.

Very effing good question.

After all, the reason why Ms. Moral was upset was because the two most powerful position holders in the place were men of color! Yet she was going to hold them hostage to her own archaically time-frozen and pseudo-guilty racial collectivism. In the trade, it's what we call a complex.

The liberal superego.

Shelby Steele argued in The Content of our Character that the worst effect of racism for him as a man of color was that it made it very hard for him to be an individual, just himself. And that pressure to be part of the group, the prescribed role of Being Black before being himself, came from blacks and whites both.

In this case, happily, it was a black man who stood up for men like him to be free to be who they damned well want to be.

*Of course the real problem would have been the janitors' union!

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