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Blinding Sight:
A Question of Color
by Gene-Tey Shin
November 26th, 1996

	I loved comic books as a kid.  I still have hundreds of them, stored neatly
in alphabetical order in individual plastic bags, in two large boxes in my
closet, waiting for the next time I feel the urge to pull them out and relive the
days when I would spend hours poring over them, totally absorbed in the endless
battles between Good and Evil.  My father came in one day--I must have been
sixteen--and I could feel that he was anxious over the money I was spending on
something he would consider a useless waste, and he asked me "Why you spend so
much time on these comics, eh?▓  Telling him simply that I loved reading them
would be no use, that they took me places I could not go otherwise, that when I
read them, the world, for a time, made a simple, clear sense I found beautiful
and stirring, that quickened my heart and made me smile.  None of that would have
made any sense to him, so I spoke instead of the investment these books
represented.  "Look," I said, pulling out one of my favorites from a series where
mutants, people whose physical and psychokinetic abnormalities gave them great
powers to fight tremendous battles against evil while struggling with the
loneliness in their souls at being outcasts, shunned and feared by the very
society they risked their lives to protect, "look, this one cost 75ó when I
bought it; now it╣s worth almost three dollars!"  He was very receptive to this. 
"Really?'"  he asked.  Seizing the moment, I showed him several more that had
appreciated similarly.  
	I remember my delight with this moment of connection, of closeness with my
father that had waned as I grew up.  We didn╣t enjoy the same things: he was as
married to his business as he was to my mother, and I detested the Store and the
drudgery it represented to me, an endless, grey and gritty process of moving
boxes and dealing with moron customers who were all slightly crazy.  A continual
tension grew out of his desire to have me come and be a part of something he saw
as being built up for my brothers and me, but me especially because I am his
oldest son, and my own intense dread of the moment I knew could come at any
moment when he would ask me or order me, to come in and work at the Store, not
just because he asked me too, but because he wanted me to want to.  To have this
tension relax, even for a moment, was to relax a breath I had held for so long, I
forgot I was holding it at all.  
	The moment faded, though, as I went from talking about the financial
investment my comics could represent, to the qualities I loved most about the art
and the stories, how the layouts had changed radically in recent months and
years, breaking away from the straightforward sequencing of six or eight
self-contained panels per page, to wildly organized, freely developing explosions
of action, characters leaping out of their little boxes to extend across entire
pages.  Plot had enjoyed a similar liberation, with romantic relationships
developing across previously uncrossable lines, and even character development
had matured to the point that hugely important figures, central to major lines
were being killed, bringing an element of tragedy to the stories they had never
had before.  But, my father was only mildly interested in these types of details,
and he went back to his room to finish getting ready for work.
	It's funny, but now that I think of it, comics really contributed to my life
in a couple of important ways.  I remember being twelve and amazed when I found
several very old comics in my mother's desk at the Store, pulling them out and
asking in astonishment, "Mom!  You read comics?"  My mother always read
voraciously, and encouraged an equally insatiable hunger in my brothers and me,
taking us to the library regularly, and never refusing a request to buy a book,
but I had only ever seen her with a novel in her hand, never a comic.  She is a
very serious woman, and I couldn't imagine her reading anything under two hundred
pages.  "Yes," she replied with a smile, "I've had those since I was a girl." 
She loved the art in them, she explained, and I studied them closely, trying to
figure out what she saw, what it was about these comics which prompted her to
keep them all these years.  I never really figured it out, our tastes in such
things have always been different, but that moment gave me both a sense of
legitimacy in my comic book collecting, and feeling that, despite the difference
in our tastes, we shared something I was previously unaware of.
	But comics were not the first stories I loved.  I remember reading the Greek
myths as a child in my grandparent's house; I was fascinated by Theseus, Icarus
and Daedalus, Jason and the Golden Fleece, Arachne and her pride, Pandora and the
box that could not be closed again, and Hercules, of course.  But my favorite
characters were the gods themselves.  I couldn't get enough of Athene, Poseidon,
Apollo, Hera, Hephaistos, but especially Zeus.  From these characters with their
fantastic adventures and superhuman powers, it was only a short step to comics,
and as silly as it may sound, as silly as it sounds to me now, comics were not
simply entertainment to me, they were a source of wisdom and virtue as profound
and stirring as any story from ancient Greece.  I remember reading one in
particular, it was a Superman, a special, double-sized issue where he had to go
to a planet which revolved around a red sun which, as everyone knows, being the
same type as the one which warmed his native Krypton, would rob him of the powers
he gains from living on Earth, in the light of our yellow sun.  There the Man of
Steel would have to face their champion, a huge, fearsome warrior, greatest of a
warrior race, with the outcome of the battle deciding the fate of the planet
Earth.  Fortunately, being the challenged race, humans could choose the contest; 
we selected boxing, (I don't really recall how).  
	To prepare, Superman had to train under the greatest boxer of all time,
Muhammad Ali.  I can still picture the scene where Superman is walking down the
street of a big city ghetto, resplendent in his brilliant blue tights and flowing
red cape, a shining figure in a neighborhood darkened by poverty and filth.  But
he stood out for another reason too.  Perhaps for the first and only time in the
thousands of comics I have read, everyone on the page was anything but White,
except for Superman, and it was for this as much as for his clothes that he was
noticed.  Two unsavory Black men watched him as he walked by, and one remarked on
how Superman was lucky to be the Man of Steel, being White in their neighborhood.
 His friend admonishes him and says that, among all the White men he knew,
Superman was the only one who was "cool," because despite his ability to see
through walls, he was blind in a very important way: "there's one cat who's blind
my way--colorblind."
	Of course Superman, with Ali's help, went on to win the day and the Earth
went on uninvaded, and everything went on as before, and that line has stayed
with me through the years, not only because of the comic book, but because being
colorblind was an extremely important facet of my life.  I remember my mother
teaching me that color was incidental to who I was, that the real worth of a
person was inside, and that was everything that mattered was kept, his thoughts,
his feelings, his character.  Color is only skin deep, after all.  From this I
inferred that to be colorblind was the way to really see a person, and this made
enormous sense to me, because I knew many people who used horrible words like
nigger, chink, and kike, people who would also beat me up an a fairly regular
basis, making it fairly easy to associate such words with very bad people.  Of
course I wanted to be nothing like them, so being colorblind became a firmly
established part of my view of the world, and of everyone around me.
	This fit in perfectly with school of course, facilitating the idea that we
were getting the best possible education, that the people we were studying,
Lincoln, Washington, Franklin, Dickens, Hawthorn, Shakespeare, Avogadro, Planck
and Euclid, all of these men through their brilliance, courage and heroism
exemplified the best of human knowledge and experience.  To bring up race in
regards to these men was simply unthinkable.  It would be in the worst possible
taste to focus on something so superficial and petty.  It would totally obscure
what could be learned from men such as these.  Truly, race and color were utterly
irrelevant concerns.  I certainly never thought about it, being colorblind.
	Until the day I called Kevin a nigger.
	It was during wrestling practice, and Kevin was one of only two Black kids on
the team.  He wasn't very good, and I used to ride him really hard, shouting at
him to work harder, scorning him when he lost.  By this time, I was one of the
major powers on the team, and I felt it was my responsibility to push everyone to
do their best.  I remember now, though, that I was always harder on Kevin than I
was on the others, always more angry with him, and ready to be disgusted with his
failure.  I poured all this out in my voice as I helped him work harder.  "GET
UP!  You're holding us all back!  C'mon, youŐ"  and I would trail off, my
eloquence exhausted.
	One day, our positions were reversed.  I was having one of those days all
athletes know, when nothing works, and the world is an awkward and disjointed
place.  All my reactions were totally off, and I couldn't hit a single move. 
Guys I normally tied in knots were holding me down as though I were a baby, or a
girl.  And Kevin was ecstatic.  Using precisely the words I had always lashed him
with, he drove into me, taking every chance to give back what I had given him for
weeks.  Finally, my mind broke open and I turned to him in rage and hate, knowing
that something horrible was coming up out of my mouth, out of my eyes, out of a
place deep in my belly, and I couldn't stop, couldn't hold back but could only
throw up at him with every drop of red anger in my body:
	And even now, more than fifteen years later, my shout pounds at the walls of
my skull, a hammering wave of shame and guilt, throwing me off balance and I sit
dizzily, trying to blink away my sorrow.  
	My coach did exactly the right thing; he grabbed me by the scruff of the neck
and threw me out of the room, shouting that he didn't care how good I was, if I
ever said anything like that again I was off the team.  I could only nod,
horrified by what I'd said, agreeing with him even as I wanted to die right
	But I didn't die.  And I didn't die when I apologized to Kevin as fast and as
strongly as I could.  He just brushed it off, and gratefully, I let him, and I
buried that incident quick and deep.

colorblind colorblind colorblind colorblind colorblind colorblind colorblind 
	Originally, my heuristic question asked: How have mainstream cultural
traditions and definitions of literacy, while seeming to put White, heterosexual
men at the center, interacted to actually prescribe their consciousness of
themselves?  Of their own thoughts?  Of the idea of White men?  To define words
and concepts, including: education, learning, strength, power, competition, race,
racism, gender, literacy, and sexuality?  But in the process of wrestling with
this question, I have come to see that it is too large for me to deal with fully
as it is stated in the time I have for this project.  What's more, it is
premature for me to even try.
	I am coming to see that the defining of words like identity, virtue,
manliness, colorblind, race and White is not limited to any one place, any one
educational setting, but is developed in many situations and through many
processes simultaneously, which constantly inform each other, even as they
operate independently.  Therefore, as I begin to hypothesize why White men in
general seem unable to affectively apprehend the privilege of their position, I
must also examine how my own consciousness has been prescribed.
	I don't know if I can describe how many ways, and how profoundly the incident
with Kevin shocked me.  I could not understand how, despite all I had learned
about seeing humanity, I could have said such a horrible thing, and yet somehow I
had developed an entirely unconscious attitude which could only express itself in
this way.  For some reason, something within me was racist.  Looking back, I can
see now how many subtle influences guided me to such words, but first I want to
point out that I never experienced a similar incident with any of my friends or
acquaintances who were White.  Looking back on this writing, it is very
interesting to observe how seemingly disparate concerns are interconnected: my
relationships with my father and mother, and the differences between them; what
comic books represented for me, not just as an escape, but a sense of order and
rational for my own feelings of alienation; the connection between comic book
ideals of manhood, racial equity, Greek myth, and my internalized racism.  It's a
lot to investigate.
	This piece began as a freewrite and, with only a little polishing of
conventions, was composed pretty much as it stands now.  I began it with two
purposes in mind:
 	1.  I wanted to write about my experience of being colorblind, and how I
learned it, and the first time I came face to face with what it had really taught
me.  At first, all I had in mind was the line from the Superman comic, but as I
wrote, I found memories of my father and mother welling up, and they naturally
worked their way into the piece.  This is important, I believe because of the
second purpose I had in mind.
	2. I wanted to communicate not only what I was thinking as I learned how to
think of race, and, as it turns out, manhood, but I also wanted to revisit how I
was thinking as I learned these lessons.  That's why I don't mention mine or my
parents' racial makeup.  One thing this clearly shows me, is how the question of
race was not consciously defined as an internal one for me, it was an exterior
concern being played out by cultural icons of White masculine ideal, although
from my attraction to the mutant comics and my reading that Superman comic book
and thinking "that is really cool,"  I had clearly internalized issues about race
to an unconscious level beyond my ability to examine at the time.  So it did not
occur to me to consider race in the context of my own family, which is biracial
and therefore ought to be a perfect example of colorblindness, and compare quite
favorably with what the comic book said.  This lack of comparison is a perfect
illustration of what I now identify as the flaw of believing in colorblindness as
a virtue: it discourages thoughtful self-reflection and an awareness of
environment and relationships. I never mention the fact that my father came from
Korea, or that my mother was white, or that I am therefore biracial, because,
being colorblind, none of those things mattered, the question of race did not
apply to us, it only arose in regards to other people, all of whom happened to be
Black.  None of it mattered to me personally, and yet I was drawn to stories of
people whose "abnormalities gave them great powers to fight tremendous battles
against evil while struggling with the loneliness in their souls at being
outcasts, shunned and feared by the very society they risked their lives to
	In all the years I worked and struggled to believe in colorblindness, the
only people I met whose color I never gave a thought to, never considered, never
even occurred to me to consider, were White.  If I did take notice of a person's
physiology who "happened" to be White, it was to appreciate height, or beauty, or
eye color or ugliness or hands.  I never saw that a person was White.  What's
more, even though I would notice all of these things in people of color, it was
always in conjunction with their color.  I can remember thinking to myself, "what
a beautiful Black woman," but never "what a beautiful White woman."
	Many feminists and people of color criticize educational systems in the US as
oppressive, arguing that schools are racist, sexist, and homophobic, reinforcing
prejudice and stereotypes in their pedagogy and curricula, and that the syllabi
are exclusive of any but White men to any meaningful degree.  Bringing an
impressive array of personal experience and statistical evidence as proof, they
have convinced many White, heterosexual men of the validity of their position.
	Despite this, despite being able to see that many individuals and groups are
disadvantaged and underprivileged, conversation about changing the curriculum
becomes problematic because, as McIntosh points out in her essay, White Privilege
and Male Privilege,: A personal Account of Coming to see Correspondences through
Work in Women's Studies, White heterosexual male denial of over privilege takes
many forms:  
	Some claim that men must be central to the curriculum because they have done
what is most important or distinctive in life or in civilization.  Some recognize
sexism in the curriculum, but deny that it makes male students seem unduly
important in life.  Others agree that certain individual thinkers are blindly
male oriented, but deny there is any systemic tendency in disciplinary frameworks
or epistemology to over-empower men as a group.  Those men who do grant that male
privilege takes institutionalized and embedded forms are still likely to deny
that male hegemony has opened doors for them personally  (3).

	The film The Color of Fear documents an intense conversation between nine men
from diverse backgrounds and their conversation about race.  For most of the
film, David, one of two White men in the group, has great deal of difficulty
accepting the assertions of the men of color, whose experiences of oppression he
dismisses as "unfounded."  Yet, even while he is coming to acknowledge them as
valid, David says: "You say I am special because I am White.  I have never felt
	Why do White, heterosexual men, find it so hard to believe they are so
advantaged even when they accept the overwhelming evidence that pervasive systems
of privilege exist?  Why doesn't being the "standard" or the "model" of history,
literature, culture and masculinity make them feel "special"?  I believe, that
while White men have been encouraged to think of themselves as individuals, they
have been discouraged from truly developing individual patterns of thought.  In
other words, White, heterosexual men have not been taught to be individuals, but
to pattern themselves on images of individuality, as though the two processes are
the same thing.  I believe that the educational systems which have so clearly
disadvantaged women, homosexuals, and men of color for so long, have also not
served the men by and for whom they have been maintained very well.  Even while
perpetuating their place in positions of political, economic, and social power,
these educational and cultural systems have caged the internal lives of White
heterosexual men to an extraordinary degree.
	At this point I find myself at a difficult juncture, because it is very clear
that the patterns of identity are closely interconnected; what it means to be
White is connected to gender is connected to class is connected to sexuality is
connected to culture, to the extent that any discussion of any of these facets is
going to be arbitrary and incomplete.  Recognizing this, I can only do the best
that I can, as I try to explain how specific words have come to be defined in my
experience, and how I see that influencing my future as a person and as a
teacher.  So, I will focus on the words "White" and "man" as the central concern
of my writing, although I will need to draw upon other concerns as I explore.  
	To begin with, I will state positively that it is now clear to me that one of
the root factors leading to the problematization of racial consciousness for
White men is this concept of colorblindness.  It is a false virtue because, far
from creating a vision of equality, it guarantees that I would always identify
African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and others as color, while
ignoring the Whiteness of White people.  The illogical nature of the perspective
and the privilege of advantage it confers on White people should be obvious;
after all, to suppress the fact that a particular person is of a particular
color, one first has to notice that color exists.  Therefore, it is impossible to
be colorblind in this fashion, because you need to see color in order to dismiss
it as unimportant, and once you can decide that one facet of a person is
unimportant, regardless of what that person may think, it is easy to disregard
any other facet you choose as unimportant.
	But the thing is, it is not obvious to most White people, just as it was not
obvious to me for most of my life.  In White Privilege, Peggy McIntosh talks of
how she thinks "that whites are carefully taught not recognized white privilege,
as males are taught not to recognize male privilege" (1).  She goes on to explain
how, in observing how even the most fair-minded and thoughtful men seem unable to
think beyond the idea that there is a natural, biologically driven cause behind
the social domination of men over women, she began to see that these men were
working "from a base of unacknowledged privilege," and that "much of their
oppressiveness was unconscious" (4).  This insight, in conjunction with
conversations with women colleagues of color led Peggy to see a correlating
pattern between race and gender, which she connects to her educational
My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly
advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture.  I was taught to see
myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. 
At school we were not taught to about slavery in any depth; we were not taught to
see slaveholders as damaged people.  Slaves were seen as the only group at risk
of being dehumanized.  My schooling followed the pattern which Elizabeth Minnich
has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral,
normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others,
this is seen as work which will allow "them" to be more like "us."  (4)

	This idea is supported by Eleanor Kutz and Hephzibah Roskelly in An Unquiet
Pedagogy, and their observations of school culture.  In their analysis of the
connection between language, thought, and culture, they come up against the
question that if all children, no matter their background do indeed grow up
learning complex and extensive linguistic training, if their language experiences
are not deficient but simply divergent, then why do they have problems in school?
 Kutz and Roskelly argue it is because "what they come with is not understood and
not valued by the [formal] system which educates them" (68).  Children who do
well are not simply good students, but have an advantage of living in the culture
which is most closely reflected by the school system.

Like all children, middle-class children learn the language practices of that end
up being privileged in the schools long before they learn to read and write,
bringing with them to school what they've learned at home.  For all these
children, the language practices that surround literacy are learned unconsciously
and early, not through overt, direct instruction (68).

	So, as difficult as it was for Peggy to examine her own privilege, white,
middle-class boys in a system established and maintained by and through a white,
middle-class, male perspective, would naturally perceive their privilege even
less because they are so privileged it is invisible to them.  School reflects
their home life to such a degree as to be virtually seamless.  Growing up in such
a system, it becomes clear, therefore, that one reason White men do not feel
privileged is because others are not privileged.  In monopolizing the space, in
holding such vast privilege, White men have no reference point against which to
measure their power, or see the lack of privilege of others.  
	This, I believe is the heart of White experience.  Invested in an ideology
which, in the name of equality identifies color as a purely superficial
characteristic, White identity maintains a systemic sense of colorblindness
making self-reflection problematic.  Last night I was thinking that I had not
done enough secondary research to support this contention because I had not tried
to find more authors who write about the White experience, and that the bulk of
my evidence came from my own experience, but the truth is, very few White people
write about White experience and identify it as such.  All the work I have done
to trace the theological and scientistic influences on educational thought has
centered on the work and thinking of White men, and been written from a White
perspective, but no one remarks on this fact.  Now I realize that I have not
simply been doing secondary research, but primary research in that my reading has
shown me how people have composed the history of Western thought.  hooks says
that "the person who is most powerful has the privilege of denying their body"
(137).  This is not only true on an individual level, but on the systemic level
of historiography.  In all the talk about Plato and Socrates, Newton, Descartes,
and Laplace, no one mentions that they are all White men.  Of course, all the
people doing the writing are White men, except for Fritjoff Capra, and he does
identify these men as Western.  hooks identifies the problem with this lack of
identification:  "The erasure of the body encourages us to think we are listening
to neutral, objective facts, facts that are not particular to who is sharing the
information" (139).  But of course this is not true.  Every thought we have,
every word we speak, every action we take, everything we look at, is informed by
a rich and complex base of personal experiences which define what we say, what we
do and what we look at.  While the first three are readily accepted, the fourth
is less obvious, but it is arguably the most important in that it is how we
define what we see by how we see it that determines what we think and say and do.
	"The important question about language and about literacy is how it allows us
to place ourselves in relation to the world -- how it supports our process of
îmaking sense' or making meaning"(Kutz, Roskelly 120).  Language and reality are
dynamically interconnected" (Freire 29).  If language and literacy are major
components in the constructing of reality and meaning, then how we learn to be
literate has a tremendous influence on the construction of identity.  Reading and
writing as making sense of the world both require an understanding of and a
connection with the self, as Friere illustrates when he describes his own act of

Recapturing distant childhood as far back as I can trust my memory, trying to
understand my act of reading the particular world in which I moved, was
absolutely significant for me.  Surrendering to this effort, I re-created and
relived in the text I was writing the experiences I lived at the time when I did
not yet read the words (30).

	So, if we are to understand the relationship between White identity and the
literacy processes which make it invisible to White people, then we must 

return to the body to speak about ourselves as subjects in history.  We are all
subjects in history.  We must return ourselves to a state of embodiment in order
to deconstruct the way power has been traditionally orchestrated in the
classroom, denying subjectivity to some groups and according it to others.  By
recognizing subjectivity and the limits of identity, we disrupt that
objectification that is so necessary in a culture of domination (hooks 139).
(emphasis mine)

	This next section of my essay is drawn from work I have been doing all
semester, and which I have used in other papers.  The difference here is, that in
place of the word "Western" I am using the word "White" as an exploration of
hooks' notion of returning to an embodied history.{1}  White identity is informed
by a connection between literacy and faith running from the earliest Greek myths,
to the Old Testament, to Beowulf, to Chaucer, to Gutenberg, to the Reformation,
and on to today.  It should come as no surprise, then, that conceptions of
identity reflect religious ideology, and yet this seems to me to be one of the
most unexamined relationships in White culture.  As I develop my own
understanding of literacy, and see how it has been informed both by White and
Asian cultures,  I also see a correlation between the invisibility of White as an
identity and White conceptualization of God and divinity.  
	Miles Myers' history of shifting literacies in the U.S. documents the overt
connection White theorists have made between education and moral or spiritual
development.{2}  But a more basic point can be seen in Myers' history about this
connection, and that is how White-American educational theory is informed and
shaped by a cultural history which refers to God as separate from man, and the
Bible as the word of God and therefore sacred in itself, not to be questioned. 
With the Sacred thus relegated to an unknowable and inaccessible exterior source,
never to be found within humanity, but only in a text, it is easy to see how
students have historically been conceived of as "sinners," in need of saving, or
ill, in need of improvement or curing.  For example, from 1776-1864, which Myers
calls the Signature and Recording Literacy Period, Horace Mann's 

notion of curriculum was a joining together of literacy drills and character
development, suggesting that politeness was always inseparable from handwriting
and spelling and that learning to write one's name was inseparable from morality
and spiritual salvationŐOf course, if facility with print did not develop, then
there must have been a failure of character, which could only be corrected by
more silent drill  (49).

	So, while Mann connects literacy and spirituality, he locates them outside
the student, separating the student from the subject, reflecting the initial
divorce of the divine from individual being, of God as separate from man.  God is
not to be found in man, but in the book.  Therefore to be divine, to have any
hope of salvation, is to be like the book, to deny and suppress what is in the
self as evil, the corruption of original sin.  Furthermore, since the mind of God
is unknowable, it is not necessary that you understand what you are reading, only
that you adhere to the form of the text.  Myers cites the Oregon course of study,
where "students copied their script from the bottom of the page up îin order to
see the copy at the top of the page.'  The meaning was the same, no matter what
direction one copied"(49).  Of course, this would make it impossible for the
student to read the text he was copying, but that was unimportant, as long as
they could recite religious passage.
	But even when Biblical conceptions of God and divinity were not overtly
linked to education, the pattern inherent in that ideology remained quite strong
in educational theory, as it is one of the root assumptions of White culture, and
so touches every theory and philosophy developed in it.  For the Humanists, all
of whom were White men, reading theory was based on the hypothesis that certain
faculties of the mind were developed by certain mental activities, and that the
study of subjects like Greek and Latin were the best mechanisms for developing
skills such as oratory, rhetoric and logic.  

In colleges, intensive reading was said to have a îspiritual value' because
concentration on such matters as tense and pronunciation was thought to focus the
student on fixed human values; thus the reading of selections from Greek fused
into the student's nature, according to Charles Francis Adams, "the imperceptible
spirit of Greek Literature, which will appear in the results of his [the
student's] subsequent work, just as manure, spread upon a field, appears in the
crop which that field bears" (Myers 47).

	Herbert Kliebard makes the same observation as he describes William Torrey
Harris as, "A particular enthusiast for the study of grammar," who, "waxing
poetic, claimed that the window of grammar "lets in a flood of light for the
explanation for all of the problems which human experience can enunciate"(18).{3}
 But Kliebard goes on to observe:

  As it happened, the ability to think in this context was accomplished primarily
by vigorous exercise of innate faculties of the mind.  Since the function of the
school throughout most of the nineteenth century, was seen as intellectual
development, the vital importance of these traditional subjects was taken for
granted  (20).

	So White theorists considered only studying the words of Greek and Latin male
scholars, forgetting to engage themselves with the questions those scholars
considered: to wrestle with them and come to their own understanding of Good, of
Truth, of Love.  They took for granted that what the Greeks studied was
important, and so did not question it.  

"Thus, the text of signature literacy was an authoritative text which was always
a delivered, fixed, sacrosanct object, not a variable text to be interpreted.  In
this view of reading, an îauthentic' reading, was the îoriginal' reading or îan
affinity with what came first.' not a new or innovative reading" (Myers, 47).  

	The act of theorizing about what the Greeks said and how they said it,
studying their words as a subject separate from studying what the Greeks
themselves studied, led to the concept that teaching Greek was a matter of
teaching white students to recite what had been said, not to consider how the
questions they asked could be answered for one's self.  Kliebard observes,  

...that most of what went on in the schools of the nation was, by and large, not
only dull and lifeless, but utterly devoid of intellectual stimulation.  Mental
discipline as a defense of humanism, noble as that idea may have been, was
translated, more often than not, into monotonous drill and inhumane treatment of
pupils (23)

	Because the theory of values is fixed, so are the curriculum and the
pedagogy.  Coercive, rote memorization used to inculcate "fixed human values" in
students while deliberately and systematically discouraging any attempts to
understand the meaning of the words is inherently contradictory and ultimately
self-defeating.  The roles of White teacher and White student are cemented in
place, and the student becomes only the receiver, a blank slate for the divine
word to be written on.  The teacher becomes the Authority, the dispenser of
wisdom.  Who the student is as an individual is unimportant; the purpose is to
fix the values in the student in a rigid, unchanging sense.  However, in spite of
his role as The White Authority, the teacher is equally unimportant as an
individual, because his individual qualities are irrelevant.  The teacher is not
allowed to bring any individual perspective to bear on the substance of the
lesson any more than the student.  
	As a result, in a White paradigm where the values, the curriculum, and the
pedagogy are fixed, rigid, and discrete, the desired values are not absorbed; far
from creating thoughtful, reflective individuals who ponder the nature of the
universe, White people become rigid, intolerant, and unreflective, as trapped by
their assumptions as those they oppress in the drive to force everyone to conform
to the patterns of thought with which they themselves have been programmed. 
Tracking, slavery, standardization of curriculum, pedagogy and testing, Indian
boarding schools, Jim Crow laws, grades and grading, The Literary Canon, toeing
the line, school uniforms, grooming codes, discouraging the use of "I", the
Japanese Internment of WWII, and the Pledge of Allegiance are just a few examples
of such coercive thinking.  
	Even White science does not escape this pattern.  Indeed, it exacerbates the
tendency to separate things, to dissect them, to create artificial distinctions
in naturally integrated and organic systems.  A scientific theory is only as good
as the observation and the observational technique on which it is based, a point
about observation which is so basic that it is very difficult not to overlook. 
After all, the first time we see a bear we ask "What is that?"  We rarely ask,
"How am I looking at that?" the first time, or the hundredth time we see it.  And
yet it is this question of observation which is at the basis of how we form all
other thought, not just in America, but in Asian cultures as well; the concepts
of comprehension and perception are synonymous in many respects: "I see what you
mean."  When referring to Newton's philosophy, it is described as the Newtonian
or mechanistic view of of nature.  The difference being, in Asian mystical
thought, it is understood that all knowledge flows from personal experience,
whereas in Cartesian methodology, the I is deliberately separated from the world,
and knowledge is based on the abstractions we form to describe the world
according to rationalist logic.
	Newton's view of the universe, combined with Descartes' separation of the I
from the world, gave rise to the premise of scientific objectivity: that the
world can be observed without mentioning the observer, that observation can be a
neutral act.  In White thinking this is the most desirable of perspectives
because it is thought to make an empirical, rational knowledge of nature
possible.{4}  It is pure, based on the irreducible concept of cogito ergo sum,
and therefore, anything observed from the techniques created from this premise
can be taken for purely technical fact, unadulterated by bias or human
fallibility.  And it has worked.  In their efforts to understand the truths of
the universe, to explain and comprehend its nature and movement, men like Newton,
Descartes, and Pierre Simon Laplace were able to develop differential calculus,
unify algebra and geometry, and to accurately account for the motions of the
bodies in the heavens, to the tides of the oceans (Capra 57).  
	But there is an old Taoist saying, "Oh fortune, in which disaster hides!  Oh
disaster, where fortune resides!"  The disaster of the success of the scientific
method of objectivity is that it has been so successful in explaining the
movements of the planets, enhancing technology and industry, and in developing
weaponry all the way up to nuclear bombs, that it is adopted and applied to
situations and contexts without questioning either its appropriateness or its
validity in those contexts.  As a result, those who utilize it do not come to
question themselves, or their own relationship with nature, how they themselves
are a part of it and perceive it.  What's more, it is taught as a way of thinking
without ever giving students the chance to question it for themselves.  Teaching
and accepting the concept of scientific objectivity without question
problematizes one's ability to understand the relationship between rational
knowledge and the process of abstraction, yet it is crucial to understand this
relationship because it is the root function of the scientific observation. 
	In The Tao of Physics, Fritjoff Capra explains that abstracting, or
generating an abstraction is integral to rational knowledge because the infinite
diversity and complexity inherent in nature defies specific classification and
description without the generation of a generalized model which represents
specific things and certain features, and which is then used to represent
reality.  "Thus we construct an intellectual map of reality in which things are
reduced to their general outlines."  In this way it is clear that rational
knowledge is a system of seeing composed of "abstract concepts and symbols,
characterized by the linear, sequential structure which is typical of our
thinking and speaking" (27).  
	Thus, the disaster hiding in this process is that the more successfully such
a generalized understanding describes nature, the more likely it is to be
mistaken for nature itself, the entire process of abstracting overlooked or even
forgotten, even as it used.  In this way, a White dependence on abstraction as
reality is constructed which artificially divides the self from the world, and
makes fluid and harmonious interaction with the world problematic.  More
basically, it makes the examination of self impossible once the abstraction of
objectivity is taken for granted.  Emotion, feeling, previous experience,
personal taste, racial identity, all these would go unexamined as they are cast
aside in the name of objectivity, and so their influence, which cannot be denied,
only ignored, becomes invisible and works invisibly to defeat the very purpose of
objectivity, to see the world more clearly.  Interaction with others is similarly
problematized because, being unable to understand how being White informs the way
one looks at the world makes it impossible to understand differences in world
views.  If you understand that your way of looking at the world is not a way but
the way all humans look at the world, because you have learned to unconsciously
and uncritically equate "White" and "human" as equally interchangeable, then the
idea of "another world view" will be ludicrous, or at least incomprehensible.
	These are not easy concepts to grasp, and are aggressively attacked.  It is a
strange thing, but even with all the social power and cultural dominance White
Americans possess collectively, the subject of race is a very threatening subject
individually.  I remember one conversation about race in my classroom, in a
private school where the board of trustees and the administration were 100% White
and always had been, the faculty was 99% white, the student body was 95% percent
white, where the only Black people hired by the school were cafeteria and
cleaning staff,  a White boy angrily declared that there was a serious problem
with racism in America because Blacks can have their own beauty pageants and
their own magazine.  This sounds ludicrous, of course, but even fully mature,
thoughtful White adults have great difficulty reacting calmly when faced with a
view which does not fit into their understanding of race as an unimportant facet
of life, which has no bearing on their sense of identity.
	When I started doing multicultural work at my school, I ran into resistance
that looking back, I can hardly believe. One morning, after giving a speech in
chapel about how being Asian-American has informed my experience as a student, I
was stopped in the hallway outside my classroom by the head of the Classics
Department.  The building was designed two decades before, and on a very limited
budget, and so the hallway was very narrow.  Students pushed past us in a steady
stream on their way to their first class, and this White man, in a loud voice, in
front of all these students, declares that he never noticed I was Asian until I
pointed it out.  In another incident, this time in the faculty lounge, but in an
even louder, angrier voice, accused me of being intolerant, anti-White, and
anti-religion, finally culminating with "and all this business of you changing
your name, by focusing on your Asian half, denying your White heritage, you've
obscured everything in you that I can identify with!"  And he stormed out of the
room.  Ensconced in a school separated from the rest of the city by a gate and a
six foot high fence, forty years of traditional exclusivity, surrounded by
colleagues, students, administrators and trustees the vast majority of whom look
exactly like him, this man still doesn't feel safe enough to let one person be
different.  And such a small difference.  The name Gene is alright, but just add
one syllable, just acknowledge that one bit which has always been denied in White
society, and suddenly I am a threat, and cannot be identified with.  Suddenly, I
no longer fit the definition of how he saw me, and so I was a threat to him.  
	Okay, this is as far as I am able to get in my response to my heuristic
question at this time.  I am painfully aware that it is unfinished, in that I
have not even begun to unpack the word "man" and its related terms, "manliness,"
"manhood," and "manly," and so have not been able to incorporate the ideas and
thoughts of the men I have spoken with on the subject for the purpose of this
draft, but I am actually stuck.  I am having some trouble articulating what all
of this "embodying of history" is in aid of, and I am getting frustrated.  
	Part of this has to do with voice.  I feel perfectly free to speak with
authority on my experiences an Asian-American, but even though I am arguably more
White that Asian, having grown up in White culture and being half White myself,
possessing a great deal of fluency in English but not in Korean, I am still
reluctant to speak about what it means to me to be White with a equal sense of
personal authority.  This is perhaps, a far more eloquent illustration of how
difficult it is to write about "the White experience" than any explanation I
could compose, as well as how hard it is to escape a racist conceptualizing of
Asian experience as more readily categorized and represented than White
experience.  So I will include two other pieces of writing which I composed
during my quest, as they illustrate other aspects of my voice and feelings on
this subject as it relates to me personally.
	So I guess that's the answer.  This essay is far too academic for me to
really talk about what I need to talk about concerning what it means to be White,
as opposed to how I see the cultural roots of White identity.  Also, trying to
explain those things in this format would be to adopt far too authoritarian a
voice, as though I would be dictating to other people how they should see what
being White means, and I absolutely want to avoid that.
	Having said that, I can now say that, while going through all that history
and "embodying it" may seem like I am trying to say that being White is bad, and
that White ways of thinking are bad, that is not the point.  The benefit I see to
"recognizing subjectivity and the limits of identity, [is that] we disrupt that
objectification that is so necessary in a culture of domination" (hooks 139). 
Because, as these next pieces try to express, I believe that White denial has not
simply led to the oppression of others, but to an oppression of self, and that is
only through an acceptance of self that choices in life can be made freely.
	The first piece, the little white lie, deals with the impact a partial
teaching of history has on identity and self identifying, in a White context. 
The second, the white house, is the first draft of an extended metaphor
illustrating my experience growing up colorblind.
Works Cited

Capra, Fritjoff. 1983. The Tao of Physics. Boston: Shambhala.  

Freire, Paulo and Donaldo Macedo. 1987.  Literacy: Reading the Word and the 
	World.  Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

hooks, bell.  1994.  Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of 
	Freedom.  New York: Routledge.

Kliebard, Herbert M.  1984.  "The Decline of Humanistic Studies in the 
	American School Curriculum," in Forging the American Curriculum. 
	New York: Routledge.

Kutz, Eleanor and Hephzibah Roskelly. 1991.  An Unquiet Pedagogy.  
	Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

MacIntosh, Peggy.  1988.  "White privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal
	Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's 
	Studies."  Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on 

Myers, Miles.  1996.  Changing Our Minds: Negotiating English and Literacy.
	Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

	I believe that I have answered two of the questions posed for the Addendum in
the revised draft of the original question.  At that point, I said, 
	"I see this line of inquiry as being another facet of my overall exploration
of how such concerns as race, gender, culture, class, sexual orientation are
conceived of and influence education in this country.  Understanding that such an
inquiry can never be definitive, but ongoing,  I hope that the process will
enable me to better understand how my own experience relates to others so that I
may create in my classroom a safer, more effective space for students to develop
their own patterns of thought.  I see this as part of what Friere would call
developing "political clarity" so that I may be more effective in teaching for
social justice.  As a teacher, my sense of social responsibility flows from what
I wanted all my life as a student: to be.  I wanted to be in a way that, with
rare exceptions, the books, the teachers, and the schools never let me be, freely
and safely.  Now I find the best way I can be is to help my students and my
colleagues create the same opportunity for themselves.  My dissatisfaction with
my own teaching has shown me I must learn my own courage, my own mind, my own
being, my own political clarity, because I will never find the perfectly safe
place to stand, unless I contribute to its creation."
	What I would add to this now would be to say that my quest has taken me on
some very unexpected trips into my past, and that I feel the process has given me
a very good start in exploring Lao-Tzu's concept of the Pursuit of Learning.

The pursuit of learning results in daily increase,
Hearing the Way leads to daily decrease.
Decrease and again decrease,
    until you reach nonaction.
Through nonaction,
    no action will be left undone.

Should one desire to gain all under heaven,
One should remain forever free of involvements.
Just as surely as one becomes involved,
One is unfit for gaining all under heaven.

	I read this as saying that learning facts, rules, lumps of knowledge,
accumulating pieces of information does not serve one well.  But decreasing,
being uncertain, unquiet, critical of both the system and of my place in the
system, reducing it to what it actually is, allows me to be, rather than to have
to act.  The more I involve myself in concerns like grammatical correctness,
superficial conformity to established forms, and standardized tests, the less fit
I am to connect with my students, and gain an understanding of what they need,
and so I am less fit to help them.
	As for the teaching of language itself, I am deeply confused by it.  Language
has become a mystery to me, a swirling, grey mist composed of millions of
variables and concerns that make less sense the closer I get to them, but if I
stand still, patterns begin to emerge.  Just diving into the words white and man
was the work of weeks, and I never even got to finish writing about what I have
been able to unpack about what being a man means to me.  The two words are so
closely interrelated, its as though each drop in the swirling mist is actually
every other drop.  Learning to deal with them seems to require equal parts
chasing after individual drops, and sitting back and just breathing them in.
	I hope to continue writing on the Man aspect of my subject, just to see where
it goes.  I imagine it will be very important to my Master's Comp., but I can't
see how, at this point.
	As for how I would use the HQ concept in my own teaching, I imagine that I
would have to provide a good deal more supportive structure, while trying to
balance a concern for self-direction.  I don't know exactly how I would do that
until I saw the situation.


{1} I have already made the replacements in the rest of this paragraph, and the
emotional impact on me is considerable.  I am not sure what to make of this yet,
but I will try to insert relevant commentary as I continue.

{2}  It is interesting to note that, while Myers identifies the importance of
diversity and race in the construction of his theories, he does not interrogate
his own perspective or situate it in any personal sense.  He is, of course, a
White man from a high SES.  Nor does he identify the main theorists in his
history as White, even though they all were.  it is exactly this sort of
"disembodiment" which hooks is referring to as leading to the false impression
that we are learning "neutral, objective facts" (139).

{3}  Like Myers, Kliebard is another White man who neither identifies his own
racial and cultural perspective, or that of the White men he examines.

{4} Previously, at this point in the essay, I was drawing on the work of Frijoff
Capra who, as I mentioned, does distinguish between "Asian" mysticism and
"Western" science.  Replacing the word "Western" with "White," I realize now that
one of the impacts this has on me is to personalize history.  It is not some
disembodied, abstract, "Western Culture" alone which developed this way of
viewing the world, it was the product of individuals who lived and breathed and
sweated and toiled over their work, people who may have had the best of
intentions, but whose work had repercussions they could not possibly conceive,
both for good and ill.

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