Cancel, Replacement, and Lies ~ Oh My!!

Hello from my kitchen island,

Let me be as up front as possible. This is a politically-motivated post. It is where I stand on things in our cultural morass we call America. It is my opinion, and I know there are other valid opinions out there and those who will disagree with me (even some in my family, whom I love deeply). It has happened; these opinions have caused some to delete me as a friend, block me I imagine, and have caused me to block someone I considered important when they called me out of the blue and started swearing and screaming at me over the phone. With that as a pre-statement, one might ask why would I choose to write? and that is a fair question . . . debate, argument, and expression are hallmarks of democracy. I believe this. Passion is needed, but so is respect. Struggle for consensus is necessary for freedom to prevail. Standing up to tyranny and injustice can appear as disregard for the rule of law . . . our founders knew and experienced this. History and the rationale for action is written by the victors, and that has happened throughout history. Listening to the defeated, the mistreated, the disenfranchised, or the other is not only necessary to understand a story, it is justice personified. So . . . if you prefer to stop reading, I can accept that, but if you are able and willing to read on, I offer this caveat . . . I am not brilliant; I am not omnipotent; I am not without my own short-sightedness. Yet, I do work diligently to see beyond my narrowness, my ineptitude, and my own failings. So with that I commence.

Let me begin with an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was walking down a main artery or street barely off the “Main Street” in my little college town (pop. 12,000 or so without students). It was 10:30 in the morning and a typical Spring day. Someone was walking behind me, but I had no idea who it was. I reached into my jacket to get out my AirPods, and he jumped out into the middle of the street. He was maybe 10 feet behind me at the time, so his movement startled me . . . when he realized I was only reaching for AirPods, he apologized, and said my reaching into my pocket when he was so close frightened him. He was a young black man. I apologized as did he again, and we went about our days. The remainder of the day, I could not get our interaction out of my head. Life experience had taught him to recoil when someone reaches in their pocket, and perhaps even more so when it is a white man. Stunning!! I had no ability to anticipate his response, but even in a small rural town, not in his perhaps inner-city experience, he still walked around feeling a need to protect himself from someone else. Certainly some could, and will, argue that is his fault, not mine, but I will respectfully and strenuously disagree. If what life (the media, other peoples’ experiences, and our current national attitudes) has dealt him elicits such a response on a small town street in broad daylight, we have a problem. Again, before you dismiss him, allow me to offer some analogous situation. How many females are afraid to walk alone because of what has happened to a friend, an acquaintance, a family member, or even their own experiences? How many carry mace or pepper spray, even in broad daylight? How is it different? I do not believe it is.

The number of incidences we are aware of are probably only minuscule compared to the actual events that occur daily in our country where the other responds out of fear or concern to daily happenings that as a older white male I have no conceptual reality of. Perhaps two and a half years ago I was involved in a faculty reading group where the book choice was the incredibly difficult book, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. It forced me to speak about things that made me uncomfortable; it compelled me to look at situations where my white privilege (and I know some do not like to encounter this term) provides me a different basic living experience than black, brown, or AAPI people must face on a daily basis. While I could point to some currently obvious examples, perhaps it is more appropriate to consider some that are not as apparent. One of the things I believe COVID has done is open-wide the curtain of much of the inequality of our current nation. From health care to education, from technology to economic opportunities, many from the inner city to rural America struggle to be able to manage in our technologically dependent world. I regularly hear people who want to shun the use of all things electronic (from smartphones to credit cards), but reality is such an existence is not very feasible. During the height of our COVID asynchronous remote/Zoomed process, I had to return to purchasing internet from the only provider in the area. The cost of their services are outrageous, and though I can afford them, which is itself a privilege, I had not choice but to re-enlist their services to manage teaching my courses. Almost 20% of the student body where I teach did not have access to sufficient internet. Simply stated, they could not participate in an adequate manner to engage their class work. Without going into all the statistics, I have done enough meaningful research to see these issue disproportionately affect those who have less economic opportunities or technological availability than others. The digital divide is real

Perhaps it is the division and the divisive nature that seems to permeate all aspects of our culture that so concerns me. I wish someone could explain to me how we got to the point that disagreement becomes only anger and anger becomes hate. In the actions of people, who seem consumed by hate (and fear) create the Sandy Hooks, the Buffalos, the Uvaldes and literally the hundreds of shootings that characterize our “UNITED” States. How incredibly foolish and sad we have become. And then I wonder why a young black man is frightened when I reach into my pocket? Of course, I should not be the least bit surprised. More importantly, I should be aware. I was not even that. The Honorable Senator Chris Murphy was recorded in a poignant and soul-searching Senate floor address last evening that I shared on my Facebook feed. What I wish I might have been able to see is how those, who believe any common sense restriction on guns assails the 2nd Amendment, reacted. What was the look on their faces or did they simply roll their collective 2nd Amendment protective eyes and ignore what seemed to be honesty and disbelief? Difference and debate are human qualities and reasonable elements of any society. As a book I’ve used in my first year writing classes is titled Everything’s an Argument. I do believe this is true, but again as I ask my students, what is the goal of an argument. If you immediately think it is to win, I will respectfully disagree with you. Argument is about fact, and fact is about creating consensus. Unfortunately, there is probably no area upon which we might find any modicum of agreement in our current national consciousness. Instead it is more likely that if someone is not fearful, they are angry, and generally they are angry because they are fearful. And often fear, contrary to the basis of argument is not based on fact. It is irrational. Please know that I realize this is not always the case.

At this point, the Tucker Carlsons or Sean Hannitys on one side or the Rachel Maddows and John Stewarts on the other seem content to lob IEDs toward the other. It would be interesting to put them together on a show and see if anything might get accomplished. Can anyone explain hate and anger to a degree that one will drive 200 miles to kill black men women, and children? Can anyone explain to me why such things as common sense when it comes to law, the second amendment, which I am not against, and possible restrictions on certain types of weapons and magazines is so abhorrent? Any questioning of our past or coming to terms with some of our less than stellar ways of creating the American fabric are argued to merely be the cancelation of something. It is not that simple. Our inequity has consequence. If there were not the case, a young black person, a student trying to go to college in a small rural white town would not need to jump into the street in broad daylight. I have experienced the grandeur of Monument Avenue in Richmond, and to be completely honest, I am not 100% comfortable with the removal of the statuary what was the Confederate Capitol. Do I believe there could be another way to be honest about the various artifacts that have been removed? I do, and part of that might be some kind of walking tour and commentary that explains the consequences of the actions of these generals, politicians, and others who believed leaving the Union over slavery was reasonable. When black, brown, or other minority students are told not to go out into our little town during Monster Truck weekend or to not walk beyond the fountain, we are compelled to understand what that sort of commentary or directive says about the others of us. Is it true that as a white majority we are afraid of being replaced? I must believe there is more truth to that than I would care to admit. Are we that afraid of the other? Too often, we are.

There are numerous stories I could share here to support this statement. Things my students tell me, from things that might seem benign to things that are flat out racist, generally cause me significant pause. When a shy black girl shares how when she was finally brave enough to go out of her room and even to a social event, and then a perhaps well-meaning white student tell her she is really attractive for a black person . . . what is she to say? What sort of idiotic thoughts or stereotyping happens for someone to make such a statement? When I have heard white folks say in a store in town “all black people look the same” (and yes I have heard this), what sort of stupidity allows for such an understanding? When the children of my Dominican family as I refer to them, or my Bengali students are spoken to or approached differently because of their brown skin, when they are discounted because of their accent, what are we doing? The pain that occurs when two incredibly talented and hard working colleagues are sitting on the street for dinner and someone comes across two lanes of traffic to holler at them because they are not white. These are the daily things I experience as a professor at a university that hopes to promote diversity. I am not saying the University has not done some important things, but too often it seems we white people do not want to be bothered with diversifying or again we are afraid of the consequence.

Much of what is occurring currently, the fighting, the vitriol, the killing, the fear and hate is based on a lie. What is that lie? I am not sure that is easily answered. Much of what is occurring in a world where 18 year olds legally buy semiautomatic weapons with the seeming intent to use them is because we are dishonest with ourselves and with each other. Can we see the other first and foremost as a human wishing to raise their family with hopes and dreams no different than our own? Can be believe there is room for all of us in this land we believe to be democratic where all are equal. We pledge that, but we so often fail to live it. I certainly do not have answers to all of these questions. I also know there are those I love who will disagree with some of this, and I appreciate their opinions, but could we at least talk about it and see where we might have places of agreement? Is it possible we can discuss with respect and the intent of coming to a better place? If we cannot do that, I too am afraid. Afraid that this amazing experiment called America might have failed. I have used versions this video before, but it seems appropriate again. This version is an older Neil Diamond with the London Symphony.

If you made it to this point, thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin

Published by thewritingprofessor55

I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and the director of and Professional and Technical Writing minor, a 24 credit certificate for non-degree seeking people, and now a concentration in Professional Writing and Digital Rhetoric. We work closely to move students into a 4+1 Masters Program with Instructional Technology. I love my work and I am content with what life has handed me. I merely try to make a difference for others by what I share, write, or ponder through my words.

8 thoughts on “Cancel, Replacement, and Lies ~ Oh My!!

  1. With a Ph.D. in rhetoric, it would be interesting to your audience to use your education and experience to inform how the media rhetoric influences race relations in the United States. I challenge you to do this in a near future blog.

    1. Dear Cousin,

      Quite a surprise to hear from you in this forum, and yet appreciated. Trying to take on your topic in a single blog would be quite a task, and yet, even in this blog, I noted that media on both sides of the political aisle certainly influence our national debate on all of this. I most definitely believe they all influence our divided national conversation. There is a great deal that has been written, and a book that I have used in my upper level classes titled Angry Public Rhetorics by Celeste Michelle Condit, one of the most influential 21st century rhetoricians, might be worth a read. In fact, if you were to read it and wanted to discuss it, I would be down for that. More importantly, I hope you are well.

  2. I think one of the most insightful statements in this post is the inclusion of defining an argument. You advocate that “[a]rgument is about fact, and fact is about creating consensus.” The latter part of the statement is most intriguing as well. The idea that fact is more based around what a majority agrees upon rather than fact existing as something absolutely true and real is a much better explanation, especially considering the content of this post.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they’ve given me more to think about.

  3. When determining the audience of any piece of literature, there is a general process that I tend to follow. My first step is to search for any direct references to the audience. This will obviously tell who you are writing to; the context clue’s evident nature is why I stress this is the first step. For example, in your last blog post, “deoch don doras,” you directly reference your audience when starting the entire blog; you clearly state, “we are in the throes of the end of the semester….” This phrase makes it apparent that your audience is your students. However, this new blog post is different. You make no explicit reference to your audience. Therefore, step one is a bust.
    The second step is to analyze the tone of the literature. In this case, the overall style of this blog post is casual. Knowing that this is a casual tone, we can deduce who isn’t the audience. First of all, a casual style would not be appropriate in a professional setting. Therefore, any sort of “professional” audience can be ruled out.
    Step three is to analyze for who the literature would make the most sense. The subject of your blog seems to resonate well with people who are similar to you. Not only that, but this seems more tailored for a general white audience as well; in contrast, I do not think this blog would mean very much to any colored audience. I say this because your words do not seem to elicit any action from your readers. I’m sure a colored audience would appreciate your comments; however, the blog fails to accomplish little more than stating, “there’s a problem, and that’s bad!” Next, the context is about current events in America – so it’s clear that the audience has to at the very least be American. Finally, this is certainly not made for those who aren’t “in the know” either (the uninitiated audience). I can confidently state this ruling because the blog never takes time to introduce any ideas to the audience; instead, it appears the audience is expected to know the topic before reading. Therefore, any professional/scholarly audiences can be ruled out. In summary, your audience can’t be colored audiences and any uninitiated readers; however, your readers are most likely average white Americans (step 3 ties this all together, which is why it’s so long).
    Knowing the tone and the general context, we can conclude who your audience is. From everything I figured in the prior paragraphs, I believe the audience to be an average white American audience.
    As for the purpose of this blog post, it seems to be a rant. In other words, your goal in writing this blog post was to speak your mind for anyone to listen. Something that reinforces this idea is something I stated earlier: these words seem to do nothing to provoke action from the audience. This quality appears (to me) as a clear indicator of a rant.
    All in all, this was a pretty interesting read. I agree with you at every point – the main street occurrence you experienced is beyond revolting. I can never understand the hatred some white people can have against any colored folks. At the end of the day, we’re all humans struggling to make the most of this strange world. This world can be cruel, and it will mercilessly leave anyone behind. For that reason, I feel like we should all be more united. Instead, the hardships of life seem to divide us. Honestly, it’s the opposite of what I’d expect, but I guess that’s life.

  4. Good Evening Professor!

    There is a presence of fear and anger indeed within many spaces that I have personally occupied. Misunderstanding and ignorance, I believe is a huge contributor to these negative and destructive feelings that many of us withhold, which can be lightened through argument. Like you have stated, an argument is not simply about winning but it is about the exchanging of facts that will then be used to reach a consensus. Your blog post, with its personal anecdotes and national references, is aiming to speak to those that are willing to participate in discussions that can prove to be rather uncomfortable. Discussions that could lead many to realize that what they have believed their whole life is now a lie, a lie that has contributed to the mistreatment and disenfranchisement of countless individuals.

    You are reaching out to those that are the other “80%”, students that have the access to internet to even be exposed to perspectives such as these. You are reaching out to those that are attending college, those that are searching for the answers. Answers to not only their own trajectory in their life journey, but to also find out how they fit into the world as a collective. How we can work together symbiotically, without all having to be exactly the same. I have always concluded that media is one of the essential contributors to this confusion, this fear, this anger that many people have today against their fellow community. Just as much as it is a tool, something beneficial to inform its viewers, it can also harm us by triggering our fears and creating scapegoats. This is truly tearing us apart (,Lisa)

    Best,
    Dayasia Bandy

  5. Hi Professor!
    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. I agree with the fact that a major issue is being able to state your political and social opinions with regard to different opinions/perspectives from family and friends. It is hard to state your opinion about anything these days without having somebody disagree with you. I respect the fact that you gave an example of women being scared to walk alone not only in the night time but in the daytime as well. Many people do not believe this is a huge concern however I feel that it is. I think you summed it up beautifully with the statement “Struggle for consensus is necessary for freedom to prevail.”
    The audience that you are trying to reach would be the percentage of people who have the privilege to have working internet and a device to be able to read it on. I happen to have that privilege and I definitely take that for granted daily This piece made me realize that so many people have it worse than I do. We must come together to try and change history rather than allowing it to repeat itself.
    Thank you

  6. Cancel, Replacement, and Lies ~ Oh My!!

    Living in a Democracy is a privilege that I am very grateful for. To live in a country, where I can vote for who governs me is a privilege. Prejudice occurs worldwide, whether you live in a Democracy or not. Democracy is not equivalent to prejudice. Democracy is equivalent to freedom and choice. Prejudice is equivalent to hate. This is because people are afraid of what is different. Of course, prejudice is found in America. America is the great melting pot an excellent example of people who are different coming to this land in search for a better life. Racial tensions, gender issues, and ageism, occur because people come from various cultures and ethnic backgrounds and do not understand the others, they are ignorant. So, the choice becomes do I learn about the other and do I accept him or her, or do I remain ignorant.
    The incident of the young black man jumping into the street is tragic. The violence happening in the Ukraine is horrific. We do not have control over every situation and that can be hard to accept. What we must remember is that we have control over our own actions, we can learn, and we can choose to love instead of hate.
    My great grandparents came to this country via Ellis Island. They chose to move to PA. They lived together on the same street. My mother tells me stories of her growing up with her aunts, uncles and cousins living close. They attended church. My Dad as well grew up with his extended family surrounding him. He was so close to his family that we attended a family reunion every summer until he past. He also attended Church. Both my parents were Catholic and lived in the same town, but they did not attend the same church. My mom attended the Italian Catholic Church and my dad the Polish Catholic Church. It’s a miracle that they got married and I was born. Fortunately for me they both attended the CYO dances, or I guess I would not be here. This was not an uncommon occurrence, in Nanticoke there were four Catholic Churches within several blocks of each other. Of course, now after many years those sections where my parents grew up have changed. People over the years begin to get to know each other and traditions blend and change with time. Even the church parishes in Nanticoke consolidated with church closures.
    The audience for this blog is Dr. Martins’ students, colleagues, and friends, people who read blogs, people who own a computer and are online.

    Ann Lockavich

    1. Good Morning Professor,

      I want to start by saying this post is eye-opening, especially regarding the monster truck weekend. Monster trucks was an event I paid to go to at the fairgrounds, it was also an event I left early and lost money on because of the people around me. That being said I can understand why different ethnic groups on told not to go beyond the fountain, which I would say is an alarming reality for a country like ours so in love with freedom. No matter who you are you should have the right to attend a public event and not be discouraged by being a member of a particular ethnic group, that is out of human control. However, I agree with Ann Lockavich when she says we can not control every situation but we can still make a positive difference through our own actions.
      The information relayed in this blog post could easily start a neverending debate. I believe you already knew that when you commented about putting opposite viewed reports in a room together and seeing what if any can they get done.

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