Theme 2 – Overcoming Prejudice

bell hooks identified sexism in Paulo Freire’s use of language in Pedagogy of the Oppressed and she talks of his humility when challenged with this.

What has been your journey to self-recognition of prejudice?

Please comment below…

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4 thoughts on “Theme 2 – Overcoming Prejudice”

  1. This theme is resonating most strongly with me, as I read through the book and it links to my overall comment about how much I’ve changed since I first read the book.

    I have a strong working-class identity, which I can be chippy about. I have come, over the years, to an appreciation of gender identity, something I took for granted as a young woman. When I first read bell, I was struggling with not only feminism but with my own place in what bell calls the ‘white supremacist majority’. I felt excluded from her writing; her passion and anger. I did not at that time understand that I had a responsibility to use my skills to challenge prejudice in all its forms, whether or not I could empathise with the experience of oppression. I had ‘white guilt’ and it paralysed me. I did not complete the book.

    Had I persevered, I would have read the chapter where she’s in dialogue with herself about Paulo Freire. Paulo’s humility when he was called out by bell over his sexist language in ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ ought to be a must-read for any liberal thinking person, who can’t find their way into anti-oppressive work. And bell’s wisdom in not allowing her response to his sexism to close her mind to the rest of his thinking is something the world needs to be learning from (not least our binary-minded politicians).

    I was also struck by the fact that bell’s colleagues had tried to prevent her from meeting Paulo in the first place. They feared she would be disruptive. She was, of course, and he welcomed that. He changed his thinking and bell’s challenge was surely part of that. This is a story I will tell when I’m teaching.

    1. Class identity is an interesting concept, I struggle to identify with it, but what about a neo-Gramscian division into dominant class, oppressed class, and auxiliary class – where would you (our readers) put yourself? Social purpose is about removing oppression, and in recent years I have increasingly identified with the struggle of workers for humanization.

      bell is very conscious of her identity as a black woman, just as @Teachnorthern is very conscious of her identity as a working class Polish woman. How conscious are you of your identity? What do race, gender and class mean to you?

  2. One of my limiting assumptions is that I assume that academics look down on me because I don’t have a research degree. I can’t say that I spend a great deal of time talking to academics, and those I do speak to are all what Gramsci called ‘philosophers of praxis’ and that assumption is way off the mark. I have come to the conclusion that I can speak my mind without needing one, and that sometimes I talk sense. Looking back to my training I remember friends telling me that they had been warned by the teaching staff that I had ‘strong views’ and ‘not to let him steamroller you’. I don’t recall acknowledging at the time the fear that they had of me, nor the restricted range of options that that led to. What bell communicates here is a healthy ability to see the feet of clay of her idols, to speak out when needed, and to do so in a way that they can hear. She was prepared to speak even though she was afraid at the reception.
    Part of my concern to actively promote equality of opportunity comes from an acknowledgement of my own complicit or explicit participation in discrimination (hopefully mostly in the past), and the deep seated nature of the prejudice. It needs acknowledging in ourselves before we can teach being aware of it and of discriminatory language and behaviour and being able to challenge it. If you will excuse me I won’t list my prejudices here.

  3. This is beautifully expressed stuff, Rev, and I appreciated your use of Thinking Environment language (eg limiting assumptions) because it helped me to understand. What your thinking has helped me to consider is how unhelpful categories of prejudice can be to thinking – not only in setting up exclusion hierarchies (see my response to Theme 1) but also in ringfencing on what grounds prejudice can be experienced – I guess most people, like me, would hear the word ‘prejudice’ and rattle of a mental list which would be something like race, gender, sexuality, disability, age…maybe even in an immediate taxonomy, which is the danger of any list.

    I do appreciate the argument about the power of cultural, structural and historical prejudice eg against people of colour (a North American phrase I’ve always liked), against women. But for an individual experiencing prejudice on the grounds of being strong-minded and disruptive, I’m not convinced the immediate pain is any less. How much this world needs strong-minded and disruptive people like yourself and bell.

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