Saturday, December 31, 2005
The Impostors This morning I had breakfast with a woman who said that she sat in a classroom and had a teacher tell her she would never go to college. I threw back my head and laughed. I asked, "Do you ever feel like someday they're going to find you out? Do you worry that someone will look at you and know you don't belong?" "You mean, do I feel like an imposter? Of course." "Oh, god, me, too!" It's funny, sometimes, to run into someone who can articulate what you're feeling. I spend a lot of time with people who think they are so aware of and sensitive to differences between people and who make me feel like a freak. Obviously, not intentionally, but the gulf between me and them is so vast and they refuse to acknowledge that there's any gap at all and it makes me feel bad. It feels patronizing--this kind of liberalism that promotes diversity as some abstract goal without working to actually make room for people in here, so that the people in here who don't belong still never find a way to fit in and yet the do-gooders never have to be aware of it. I feel very lucky when I stumble across someone else who also feels like a big fake. No, I'm not "fake" in the way someone from the barrio is "fake." I don't have any idea what her life is like. But I know what it means to feel like the very way you inhabit yourself marks you as never being able to fit in. What we have in common is not anything more profound than not being like the rest of the folks here. And yet, the delicious irony is that we are the very people they study, they very types of people they think they feel a kinship to and, not only don't they know how to know us in particular, why certainly don't know how to relate to the rest of our folks. It's funny to me to listen to conservatives bitch about some kind of liberal agenda in higher education. Because here I am at one of the largest meetings of "liberal" academics in the country and everyone is mostly white, mostly nerdy, mostly middle class, mostly just like they've always been, but with more women. What I'm saying is that it's hilarious that conservatives are made about what liberals are saying on college campuses because it's only talk!!! There's nothing actually going on here that is that upsetting to the status quo. In fact, I'd argue, that this white, male dominated power structure is even more insidious and deeply rooted than most because it disguises itself behind a rhetoric of inclusion. It talks such a good game that most folks never have to be aware that it's all talk--that these are just folks performing a type of "tolerance" and "diversity" that looks good and means very little.