This week in Scholar Activism we had three professors speak to us. First, John McAdams, then Kelly Wilz, and David Vanness. They all spoke about their experiences as scholar activists and the consequences of being scholar activists. They all had a range of experiences. John had been under threat of losing his job. Kelly had received threatening mail. David, did not have many negative experiences as a scholar activist.
Hearing all these scholars speak on their scholar activism made me think: what qualifies as scholar activism? Who are scholar activists supposed to reach and what is the purpose of scholar activism? Is it just to stay within the realm of academia? Or is it to provide a base for changing policy and structure? Or something else? So then, who is the audience, and who do scholar activists speak to?
An argument that came out last week in scholar activism, as well as this week, is that we have to be able to have discussion, and tolerate all viewpoints. Is this scholar activism? Does scholar activism that perpetuates liberal notions of individual liberties couched in colonialist histories and ideologies have a place at the scholar activist table? Is there such a thing as oppressive activism, or should we just continue to call it colonialism or settlerism? For example: Should we take seriously — and by take seriously, I mean give space (validate/legitimize) to arguments such as: the notion that white males are oppressed and silenced?
One thing that is being said is that we must know and learn many things, from many sides, and draw from multiple sources of knowledges to fully understand concepts and issues. I completely agree with this. What I do not agree with is giving legitimized space to racist, sexist, classist, and elitist ideas. I do not think that oppressive activism deserves anymore space. It only serves to confuse the public and maintain control of the conversation instead of focusing on liberatory scholarly activism. So when it is said that it’s important for people to hear different points of view — -who exactly are they talking about? And who needs to hear what? And what haven’t we heard already, and how haven’t we already been silenced?
I think that reactionary scholar activism allows for power dominant groups to claim oppression and repression. The violence of colonialism and settlerism exists today in so many forms, why do we continue to say that we must hear the oppressors point of view, continue saying that they should have voice to speak all the horrible things they’d like to say? When all the the things they want to say already exist in so many dominant forms within society: education, media, policy, laws and on. Reactionary scholar activism should not have any space within scholar activism because that space already exists at large.
How much more academic violence should oppressed people continue to tolerate? And, although, I understand that liberal dominant ideology about everyone having a voice, regardless of how detrimental and violent they are, will continue — I would respond with some words from Dr. Gloria Anzaldua who wrote, How to tame a wild tongue, in Borderlands/La Frontera — an essential book. In this chapter of her book she talks about the loss of language, and how important language is to identity. “We know how to survive. When other races have given up their tongue, we’ve kept ours. We know what it is to live under the hammer blow of the dominant norteamericano culture. But more than we count the blows, we we count the days the weeks the years and centuries the eons until the white laws and commerce and customs will rot in the deserts they’ve created, lie bleached. Humildes yet proud, quietos yet wild, nosotros los mexicanos Chicanos will walk by the crumbling ashes as we go about our business. Stubborn, persevering, impenetrable as stone, yet possessing a malleability that renders us unbreakable, we, the mestizas and mestizos, will remain.”