CCCC in the blogosphere

CCCC has created a blog on blogspot. Victor Villneuva offered the first post on the "Rhetorics of Racism." I commented on that discussion there, but here I just wanted to say something about CCCC as a blogging entity.

My students have better designed blogs that this, even on the first day that they blog. This is strictly blogspot template land. Also hardly an image, no video, hardly any graphics (aside from a list of stickies in the sidebar). Clearly the conversation about diversity does not include diversity of media. Maybe the thought is that ignoring delivery is a hallmark of serious intellectual work. Yeah right, if that’s the case then maybe they should just scrawl it out in crayon and post it on the fridge in the break room at NCTE (assuming they have one). If delivery doesn’t matter that is.

Villanueva’s post neatly articulates the problem between equity and diversity. Clearly what is sought after here is the development of communities and a society in which people with different gendered, racial, class, and sexual identities are treated equitably. Unfortunately equity and diversity are incompatible. Is it equitable to treat a white man and a black woman in exactly the same fashion? I would say not b/c that would mean ignoring the differences between them. But if we are asked to treat people differently, how do we know how to do it? How do the combinations work? And how do we measure equity between those differential identities?

That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to improve the material conditions and lived experiences of human existence. It just means this is a fundamentally flawed way of trying to think about that challenge.

How do these issues, the big four identities of gender, race, class, and sexuality, operate materially?

  • Gender can be a matter of chromosomes but even the X-Y business is oversimplified when you start to think about transgendered persons. So gender has biological factors but they are more complex than this. Gender is more of a continuum.
  • We know there is no genetic basis for racial identity. We sometimes say that genetically nearly all racial differences are on the surface, but even that is misleading as the practice of passing indicates.
  • Unless you’re a social darwinist, you probably don’t think there’s a genetic basis for class identity.
  • Sexuality seems to remain a debate. However I have always adhered to Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of "a thousand tiny sexes."

Of course there are extensive historical, culture, and institutional forces that have established these ideological positions in the pursuit of state interests. Of course these establishments are not conscious. Ideology doesn’t function that way. And we have naturalized these identities. They have material force in the way ideologies always have material force.

My personal belief about such matters is essentially Buddhist: the anatman, the non-self. Attachment to identity is one of the causes of suffering. That’s not to say one can just walk around in that mental state all the time. It’s a principle, a practice. (And it resonates with the concept of distributed cognition.) Not surprisingly, I don’t imagine that CCCC will create a statement on diversity hinged on asking people to give up their identities. Instead I’m sure they will manage to compose some plausibly liberal statement about how we should be nice to each other. I have no objection to kindness, so that’s fine with me.

Finally, where the rubber ought to hit the road at CCCC is with writing, and this is a great place to witness in incommensurable relation between equity and diversity. If we are to respect diversity in FYC, should we not respect the different ways in which students write? On what (hegemonic) basis ought we to determine which writing is "better"? Certainly we don’t imagine academic writing to be ideologically neutral, do we? Our strategy has always been to treat students equally under the eye of academic discourse and  MLA style, even though our students enter with inequal relations to these concepts. Maybe we are pragmatic in preparing students for the ideological discourses they will confront in the future.