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Civil Rights Bus Tour- Day Zero

On Sunday, March 6th, I am leaving on a six day, five night bus tour through the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, and Little Rock. The tour is a part of Max Krochmal and Emily Farris’ co-taught class, “The Civil Rights Movement.” Max, a History professor at Texas Christian University, and Emily, a Political Science professor there, teamed together to form this class, though Max has taught this class and had a bus tour for multiple years now. I signed up for this class a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric and Composition because I have interests in the civil rights history and have researched much of the Chicano/a Civil Rights movement (and the United Farm Workers). As a scholar, I want to know more about the civil rights movement, and I feel my high school experience (as many other high school experiences) did not give me the history I deserved. Since I am interested in public memory, and the civil rights movement is one of the most mythologized social movements and moments in American history, I knew I needed this class. And fortunately for me, TCU generously paid for my tuition and the bus tour costs as well.

First, before we move forward, let’s take a look at our itinerary:

Time Topic/Destination  
Sunday Night Trip beginning & Dinner with Jerry Mitchell, reporter for the Clarion-Ledger  
Monday Morning COFO Headquarters and Jackson State walking tour (John R. Lynch Street Walking Tour (Masonic Temple, Gallery1, Gibbs-Green Plaza, Ayer Hall – Margaret Walker Center, Rose E. McCoy Auditorium)  
Monday Mid-Day Talk with veterans – Mrs. Flonzie Brown Wright, Mr. Hollis Watkins, Mrs. Ineva Mae Pittman, Mr. MacArthur Cotton  
Monday Afternoon Driving Tour in Jackson (Old Jackson Municipal Library, Greyhound Bus Station, State Fairgrounds, Farish Street, Tougaloo College, Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center) and Medgar Evers house  
Tuesday Morning Delta trip stops (Greenwood, Money, Ruleville, Mound Bayou, Cleveland) with Mr. Charles McLaurin  
Tuesday Afternoon Delta trip stops (Indianola, Greenville, Belzoni, Sumner, Drew, Glendora) with Mr. Charles McLaurin  
Wednesday Morning Ole Miss – Oxford Lyceum, Meredith Monument, and meeting with Jarod Roll, Charles Eagles, J.T. Thomas and students  
Wednesday Afternoon Mid-South Peace & Justice Center in Memphis  
Thursday Morning National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel  
Thursday Afternoon AFSCME Panel with Mr. Baxter Leach, Alvin Turner, and Mr. Nickleberry and Heritage tour of Memphis Civil Rights Stops (Mason Temple, Mountaintop Sculpture, Clayborn Temple, Slave Market District, Sit-in locations, Route of Dr. King’s last march)  
Friday Mid-Day Little Rock Central High School and trip ending

We are first heading to Jackson on Sunday and will spend much of Sunday on Jackson State’s campus and around the city. Tuesday we will be touring the Mississippi Delta, and Wednesday we will be on Ole Miss’ campus. The final few days of the trip we head up to Memphis and then pass through Little Rock on our way home Friday. Overall, we plan to visit many of the civil rights museums, historical markers, and sites of intrigue across these parts of the South. Our days will be pretty jam-packed, but I expect it to be informative as well.

As a scholar, I am interested in two different sets of rhetorical relationships between the public/the State and civil rights history. First, I want to learn more about how violence is memorialized/not memorialized at some of these sites. While many of us think of the civil rights movement as being the epitome of “nonviolent protest,” much historical scholarship, and especially local studies scholarship, has demonstrated the importance of violence and self-defense in the movement. Since we are visiting a few sites where violence is publicly remembered, like on the Jackson State and Ole Miss campuses and at the Lorraine Motel, I want to see how these sites record their histories of violence. Do they acknowledge them? Do they keep them in the background? Since these sites obviously benefit from violence, I want to see how they rhetorically position themselves in relation to it.

Secondly, I am interested in the ways that places like the Mississippi Delta promote civil rights tourism in the likes of say, Jazz history tourism. I have heard that the Delta has more colorful, better placed signs for their Jazz history tour than the civil rights tour. I am not sure if this is true or not, or if I will be able to visually see these differences from the road, but I hope to capture how these small towns and the state of Mississippi illustrate their history for visitors.

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While these are not the only things I will be recording on my trip, these are the two research questions I am invested in as the tour begins.Throughout this trip, I will be posting pictures, thoughts, and scholarly intrigues on a nightly basis on my blog. The purpose of this blog is to detail my adventures, my new knowledge, and my emotional experiences at many of these sites. While I am not sure when I can post each night, I hope to go to bed after giving a brief write-up of the day’s activities and events. So follow my blog and keep an eye out for me!

 

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2016 Syllabus: “The Rhetorics and Arguments of Race in the 21st Century”

 

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Course Description: Though many have dubbed the age of Obama as “post-racial,” race still plays an important role in the identity, classification, and context of millions of Americans around our nation today. Arguably, since the struggles of civil rights in the 1960s, race has transformed to a more complicated matter, one which is often hard to define, but is often a constant variable in the news and in many people’s lives. The purpose of our class will be then to investigate race’s evolution as a rhetorical identity and to argue about how it shapes our contemporary society.

To begin, the role of our class is to first understand race is rhetorical and affects the real world, and then we will begin to create arguments about race. More specifically, we will learn to compose arguments about race’s role in theoretical terms, identity, culture, and consciousness. Our readings will pair with our assignments to generate recent debates and opinions surrounding race (for instance, the Ferguson and Baltimore protests and Confederate Flag debate), and students will work toward analyzing the role of race as a headline, as a topic of pain, as a subject of memory, and as a marker of identity.

Since the rhetorical nature of race often is politically charged and full of “hot takes,” this class will focus on race with a critical but sensitive lens, emphasizing understanding, empathy, and writing about not only personal viewpoints but the views of others as well.  I ask for all students to be respectful of others in this classroom, be open to opposing perspectives, and be willing to challenge your own presumptions about racial topics. While the purpose of this course is not to dictate a single ideology of race, we should be mindful of respectful of all viewpoints in this class. This goes for you and me.

Overall, our class will expand on race’s function in the contemporary world, and we will work together to explore how an understanding of race enriches our knowledge of American culture and society.

This course, like all courses at TCU, has certain outcomes that should be achieved by the end of the semester that are specific to our program and to this specific course. These outcomes are goals to work toward success in this classroom and should be conscious guides in thinking and writing in our classroom:

  1. Students will demonstrate facility with the language and analysis of argument
  • Will be able to employ various analytical tools, including the techniques of Bitzer and Toulmin, to construct arguments
  • Will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of critical race theory’s rhetorical terms in creating an argument within various papers and assignments
  • Will be able to utilize the language of argumentation and critical race theory in constructing individual papers and in analyzing other’s arguments
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to write an argument for a specific rhetorical situation
  • Will be able to write varying arguments for different genres (manifestos, book reviews, legal arguments, public memory arguments)
  1. Students will demonstrate competency in using sources (primary, secondary, electronic) in argument construction
  • Will demonstrate knowledge in finding credible sources that help create an argument in varying assignments
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to critically engage with digital environments
  • Will be able to analyze and argue about digital spaces and content
  • Will effectively use digital media in presenting book reviews and manifestos

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Required Textbooks:

Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, Second Edition. 2012.

 

ISBN-13: 978-0814721353.  $15 on Amazon. $20 through publisher.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0812993547

$15 on Amazon. $24 hardcover through publisher.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1595586438

$11 on Amazon. $15 through website.

Various articles will be provided in class

Other Required Materials: 

 

  • Around $20 for photocopying expenses  
  • A pocket folder to contain your writings
  • A notebook for notes

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Classroom Assignments Breakdown:

Application of CRT Term Paper (3 pages) – 15%

Race and Law Paper (7 pages) – 20%

Race and Public Memory Paper (5 pages) – 20%

Book Review Project (presentation) – 15%

Race Manifesto (5 pages, plus presentation) – 20%

Class Discussion- 10%

Course Requirements

  1. CRT Term Paper –Very early in the semester, we will be analyzing and discussing the language of race in the 21st century, stemming from the emerging field of critical race theory. Our very first conversations and readings in the class will be dissecting rhetorical terms from this theory and applying them to real world situations (outside of legal cases, which will come later in the semester). For our first assignment, then, you will be taking a term we discuss in class involving critical race theory (found in various readings and in an appendix) and will apply this term to a real situation that you see in the world or in the news (spanning over the last few years). You will specifically choose a case study from a news story, real world event, or popular culture to write this paper. Since critical race theory provides a lens for understanding and interpreting race in contemporary society, you will be able to take a term from this theory and better understand its rhetorical and cultural nature. For example, if you choose the term “unconscious racism,” you might apply this to the news stories covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—where white people “stealing” food were labelled as “survivors” and black people “stealing” food were labelled as “looters.” Since CRT will be our lens of interpretation the rest of this semester, this first paper will provide the means to further construct arguments for all other assignments. You will achieve course outcomes #1 and #2 through first learning the language of cultural argument in studying your term and then producing a persuasive paper that demonstrates your knowledge of the definition, function, and rhetorical nature of this term in society.

 

  1. Race and Law Paper– Our second paper of the semester will interrogate the way that laws and understandings/definitions of race intersect. Since the year 2000, there have been many legal cases, even in the Supreme Court, dealing with race, such as anti-discrimination laws, overturning the Voting Rights Act, and cases on affirmative action too. After reading The New Jim Crow and discussing various legal cases/issues on race in class, you will be asked to write a paper in which you investigate the ways various laws, legal cases, and/or (un)lawful situations affect how either the American public interprets race or how the legal system interprets race. The purpose of this assignment will be to better understand how your legal case constructs, enacts, or produces race in America through a lens of critical race theory and critical legal studies. You will be asked to use the language of CRT to analyze your legal situation and to construct arguments. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, and #3 by asking you to construct an argument about a legal case (a specific rhetorical genre) and to utilize several primary and secondary sources to produce your finished assignment.

 

  1. Race and Public Memory Paper– Over the past year, America has witnessed the #BlackLivesMatter movement reappropriate sites, statues, and symbols of public memory. The Confederate Flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse due to a change in public perception/memory on its rhetorical usage and even monuments to the Confederacy were vandalized and tagged with #BlackLivesMatter in protest of the whitewashing of history. For this paper, you will investigate the rhetorical nature of a site, statue, or symbol of contested racial memory, such as the Confederate Flag or statues to Confederate generals, and will analyze how various racial groups have varying interpretations of the same symbolic structure. Your argument will not lead you to declaring one side is right and one side is not, but rather you will create a case for better understanding the site as an argument within itself. In class, we will discuss types of public memory, its rhetorical strategies, and will analyze various structures. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, #3, and #4 through building an argument about a site of public memory, utilizing rhetorical tools to understand the idea of “public memory,” and incorporating various visual and technological sources to promote your argument of this site.

 

  1. Book Review Project– At the beginning of the semester, I will provide a list of 25 books in the class that cover race and rhetoric in the 21st century. In groups of three (dependent on how many students are in class), you will choose one book to read as a group. In the last half of the semester, I will provide dates for each group to give a presentation of their book to the class. For this assignment, I will ask you to present your book in 15-20 minutes, to cover the book’s aim, audience, reason for writing, and other rhetorical devices, to the classroom. On this date, you will also turn in a three page response in which the group summarizes the book and explains the most intriguing parts of the author’s analysis. We will talk more about this presentation early in the semester, and I will provide the class with a book list and dates for their presentation within the first week of classes. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, and #4 through building an implicit argument about your book (or, rather, understanding the argument of your book), utilizing a set of skills needed the book review genre, and employing visual and technological tools to aid your presentation.

 

  1. Race Manifesto– Your final paper for the semester will be a race manifesto covering any subject/topic/idea that we covered throughout the semester. This will be a final summative project consisting of original research in the field on any racial topic that you choose but must offer the following: 1) An original thesis claim that provides “new” insight into race or race relations in the 21st century; 2) Research that supports such claims; and 3) An explanation for how this helps America better understand race/race relations. I want this topic to be as open-ended as possible, and the basis of your manifesto can come from any research, analysis, or topics that we have talked about in class or from anything outside of our readings as well. Finally, you will also give a brief presentation of your manifesto to the class during our final exam time. We will talk about this project occasionally throughout the semester so you can start taking notes for ideas, but our final few weeks of this semester will be spent directly working on this assignment. This paper and presentation will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, #3, and #4 though building an original argument about the state of race in America with primary and secondary sources, employing specific rhetorical tools for the genre of a manifesto, and utilizing visual and technological tools to aid your presentation.

 

  1. Class Discussion– Class discussion is important in this course for two reasons: 1) Writing well is essentially communicating well, so being able to discuss your ideas and thoughts with others potentially could help your writing. Since this course is workshop/discussion based, we need participation to move our conversations along. 2) Talking about race is hard. We have all seen people get mad and start yelling when race becomes a subject. But our class should be an open place to talk about race, especially when our opinions differ. While I understand many often fear being called a racist and this is what hinders so many racial conversations, you must participate to earn these points and to be a full member of the class.

Coates

Course Calendar (Subject to Change)

Week 1: The Foundations of Race in America

Tuesday, 1/12- Introductions; Class Overview; discussion of race in America

Thursday, 1/14-Introduction to Critical Race Theory; rhetoric and CRT; first assignment; book review sign-up

Week 2: Critical Race Theory, Part 1

Tuesday, 1/19- Readings Due: First two chapters of CRT book (30 pages); discuss basic principles of CRT; connect to rhetoric

Thursday, 1/21- Readings Due: Chapters 3 and 4 of CRT book (29 pages); discuss counterstorytelling and essentialism/antiessentialism as rhetorical acts; discuss structure of paper

Week 3: Critical Race Theory, Part 2

Tuesday, 1/26- Readings Due: Chapters 5 and 7 (50 pages); Discussion of paper progress; Mapping out papers; connecting theory to reality (examples); rhetorical arguments

Thursday, 1/28- WORKSHOP DAY

Week 4: Race and the Legal System

Tuesday, 2/2- CRT Paper Due; Discussion of new assignment; lecture on race and legal system

Thursday, 2/4- Readings Due: “Introduction” and “The Rebirth of Caste” in The New Jim Crow; discuss legal precedent in the history of race; brainstorm paper ideas

Week 5: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

Tuesday, 2/9- Readings Due: “The New Jim Crow” in The New Jim Crow; workshop thesis statements

Thursday, 2/11- Readings Due: Various readings on Ferguson, Baltimore, and #BlackLivesMatter;  discussion on legal resources/databases; structure of paper

Week 6: Finalizing Paper Details

Tuesday, 2/16- Paper progress report, mapping papers

Thursday, 2/18- WORKSHOP DAY, finalizing paper details

Week 7: Contested Sites of Racial Memory

Tuesday, 2/23- Race and Law Paper Due; introduction to Public Memory Assignment; what are public memory and sites of public memory?

Thursday, 2/25- Readings Due: “Reappropration of Public Memory” (PDF); and “Sparring with Public Memory” (PDF); discussion of sites chosen for public memory

Week 8: Remembering, Disremembering, and Erasure

Tuesday, 3/1- Analyzing sites of public memory; erasing history; workshopping thesis statements

Thursday, 3/3- Readings Due: “Chicago Contested Memories” and the History of Mike Brown’s memorial (will give various reads in class); explore rhetorical means of contestation

Week 9: SPRING BREAK NO CLASS

Week 10: Whiteness and Fulfilling Place and Memory

Tuesday, 3/15- Readings Due: “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture;” discussion on space and whiteness; analyzing space, structure, and place

Thursday, 3/17- Shaping paper; the rhetoric of memory; secondary sources

Week 11: Whiteness and Fulfilling Place and Memory

Tuesday, 3/22- Readings Due: “Whitewashing the Past;” use of visuals in paper

Thursday, 3/24- Readings Due: “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture: Manifesting Whiteness through Public Memory at Texas A&M University;” finalizing analysis

Week 12: Finalizing Race and Public Memory Paper

Tuesday, 3/29- WORKSHOP DAY

Thursday, 3/31- Race and Public Memory Paper Due; Introduction to Manifesto Paper; Read: Part I Between the World and Me; discuss racial contexts

Week 13: Transitioning Public Memories to Manifestos

Tuesday, 4/5- Book Reviews; Read: Part II Between the World and Me; discuss rhetorical conventions of Coates; thesis statements; rhetorical genre of manifesto

Thursday, 4/7- Book Reviews; rhetorical strategies of manifestos;

Week 14: The Pain of Race and Coates

Tuesday, 4/12- Book Reviews; Read: Cornel West, Race Matters (Excerpt PDF); discuss West’s rhetorical strategies (especially Christian dogma); idea shares

Thursday, 4/14- Mapping papers; structure of paper discussion

Week 15: Prophecy, Christianity, and Deliverance 

Tuesday, 4/19 – Read: Derrick Bell, And we are not saved (Excerpt PDF); discuss Bell’s rhetorical strategies; mapping paper

Thursday, 4/21- DRAFT DAY

Week 16: Final Preparations on Manifesto

Tuesday, 4/26- Final touches on paper; last minute questions/details; workshopping ideas

Thursday, 4/28- STUDY DAY, no class

Week 17: FINALS WEEK

Tuesday Race manifesto presentations will be due at the final exam date provided on the TCU Calendar 

 

CFP for Cultural Rhetorics Conference on Narrative and Memory

Aja Martinez and I are pleased to present the following CFP for the Cultural Rhetorics Conference at Michigan State on September 30-October 2, 2016. Feel free to pass this along to any friends or colleauges who might be interested.

Tentative Title of Proposal: “Narrative, Memory, and Critical Race Theory”

Our proposal seeks panelists interested in rhetorical and racial constructions of genre, narrative, and memory, especially as it connects with the budding field of critical race theory research. With the recent wave of racial angst occurring in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities; on the Mizzou campus; with immigration debates; and in connection with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it becomes important for us as cultural rhetorics scholars to analyze and better understand the way that people of color employ methods of narrative and memory to aid their causes across the world and in America. Specifically, we are interested in ways that critical approaches to genre (such as narrative and memory formations) help individuals seek justice, reconciliation, and retribution in a world of explicit and systemic oppression. We are especially interested in ways that scholars could combine various theoretical approaches in critical race theory, such as storytelling, revisionist histories, and racial consciousness, to new rhetorical approaches to race.

We ask any interested panelists to submit proposals or questions to James Chase Sanchez (j.c.sanchez@tcu.edu or @JChaseSanchez). Individual proposals should be 150-200 words in length.

Thanks for the consideration!

On Forgetting

Forgetting

“On memory and forgetting: “In other words, to use an image from computers, an individual remembers by making a backup file that is different than the original. The act of recall cannot take place without corrupting this original file in some way, because the backup writes over the earlier data. It is a binary with a life of its own, a blemish in a quadrant. This blemish erases the original as soon as memory is activated or even while the ‘file’ is inert.” –Norman M. Klein, The History of Forgetting

“Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through is now like something from the distant past. We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” –Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

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“The pain, or the memory of pain, that here was literally sucked away by something nameless until only a void was left. The knowledge that this question was possible: pain that turns finally into emptiness. The knowledge that the same equation applied to everything, more or less.” –Roberto Bolano, 2666

Diamonds Crossing Train Tracks Photographer: Paul w Sharpe aka Wizard of Wonders™ "Wizard of Wonders™ All Rights Reserved copyright 2010"

Have I Lost You, Friend?, Or The Righteousness of Throwing Trash Cans

Mookie

When Mookie stares down Sal’s Pizzeria towards the end of Do The Right Thing, he is perplexed with a single question: what is the right thing? After Mookie’s friend Radio Raheem dies via police brutality, the people take to the streets to find justice. Looking upon Sal’s Pizzeria, a symbolic site of whiteness and “the man,” Mookie has a choice to either start a riot against his boss, a man he gets along with, or disobey his own people, his Black brethren of Brooklyn, who need someone to pay for their crimes. Mookie’s dilemma becomes philosophical: hurt the business of someone who did him no harm because someone (symbolically) must pay as retribution or just try to shake off the storm. Thinking for a brief moment, Mookie throws a trash can into the window at Sal’s, condemning the restaurant and sealing their fate…….

———

Yesterday I took part in a panel at TCU for the Women and Gender Studies department. The panel was titled “Micro and Macro Aggressions: Violence, Identity, and Accessibility Online.” Along with two other scholars from the library and Communications departments, we collectively discussed the roles of access and the violence against people of color and women that occur frequently online. Specifically, I talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and how leaders reappropriate racism to support their own causes and gain followers. The talk, overall, was fascinating and had over 50 students and scholars in attendance.

But I haven’t been able to shake a question a student asked, a question I have asked myself for quite some time. A student at this event asked the panelist about how to call out friends for microaggressions. A microaggression is when someone (typically without intent) says something offensive or essentializes a group of people. For example, asking where the doctor is when a female hospital employee enters the hospital room could be a microaggression because it assumes that all men are doctors and women are nurses. The student, concerned with how to deal with these topics in the real world, asked an important question.

microaggression

“What do we do when our friends say these things?” she asked politely. “I don’t want to lose my friends over them saying certain things but I also don’t want them to be offensive.” The other two panelists jumped into the conversation and began talking about ways to approach friends on the matter. “Use humor to calm the situation,” one panelist said. “That is a really tough question,” the other responded.

I hesitated to answer for a moment because a pain existed within me from my own experiences with this question. What happens when your understanding of the world differs from your friends? What happens with the racially insensitive things yours friends used to say in a joking manner don’t seem funny to you anymore? What happens to your friends when you change? Looking down for a moment, I thought about how to answer, not just for the young woman asking the question, but for me too.

“That really is a tough question to answer because I have experience with this as well,” I began to respond. “I lost many friends because of the nature of my research (investigating how residents in my hometown talk about race and racism), and I have been publicly chastised for my viewpoints.”

I took a moment before I continued because I had to find that truth for myself.

“But I think the best way to answer is to say there is no wrong or right way to handle it. It absolutely a personal choice, and we all have a line that cannot be crossed. I began losing my friends when I changed that line to better reflect who I am as a person and a scholar. I began calling out my friends when they said something racist or sexist, and I lost a few friends because of this. It hurts. It will always hurt. But you can take solace in knowing you are doing the right thing.

The Right Thing. Do I do it? Is being confrontational leading me or my friends to a better future? Maybe not….

The Right Thing? Does Mookie do it? Does throwing the trash can into the pizza place make up for the death of Radio Raheem? Maybe not….

But maybe, just maybe, the trash cans we throw, the risks we take at an attempt for justice, carry much more righteousness than we as individuals ever could. Maybe the right thing exists in simply trying.

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The Historical Truths of Lynching, Racism, and the KKK in Grand Saline

A lot of you have opinions about me and my views of race in contemporary America. I know this. I have been very public about my research on race, Charles Moore, and Grand Saline, and this has caused me to lose friends from my hometown and have people attack me publicly. Though that hurts me on a personal level, I understand it. Many feel that I am defaming my hometown or calling everyone there a racist. Please believe that I am not trying to do that. Rather, I am trying to write about what I know to be true. To some, I must come off as some liberal, ivory-tower researcher who many have dubbed as “knowing nothing about the real world.” I get it. I think I actually know a lot about the real world, but I get it.

I have reached a point in my research that I think it would be a good time to come forth with some of my findings, not as a way to “defame” the town or create more arguments among my friends, but to show some of you what I have found. And I think some of you will actually be surprised. In the sections that follow, I will analyze the three most told legends of Grand Saline regarding the sundown sign, the KKK and Clark’s Ferry, and Poletown. I will try to cite each source from my material for you to investigate on your own, but I urge each each of you to read this all the way through.

So here it goes. Here are the historical truths of race/racism in Grand Saline.

sundown towns

“The Sundown Sign”— James Loewen, a renowned sociologist and historian, has collated some oral evidence to suggest Grand Saline did have sundown signs. He has collected various oral evidence to make this claim on his larger project and labelled the town as such in his book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. His collected evidence can be seen here: http://sundown.afro.illinois.edu/sundowntownsshow.php?id=1213.

Other articles, such as Richard Stewart’s article on Grand Saline and segregation in the Houston Chronicle, analyzes how some of these legends. He writes halfway through the article, “Grand Saline’s reputation for racial intolerance is rooted in stories — denied by many local residents — of lynchings of blacks who stayed in the town past sundown.” He also quotes a few current residents who state the town did actually have these signs. His research can be found here: http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/0ED7B2F41CDEBBC2?p=AWNB

“The KKK in Grand Saline”— There is more historical evidence of the KKK existing in Grand Saline than people give credit to. In a historical project of Jordan’s Saline, the previous name of Grand Saline, Milda Mason, accompanied by researchers Ruby Wallace and Elvis Allen, states that the KKK has a “large encampment of men” outside of town in the late-1800s and terrorized the people of town and that they often controlled much of the culture of town. Her research can be found here: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txvzcgs/vzgsgun.htm.

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Margaret Elizabeth Hill’s book, A History of Van Zandt County, backs up these claims and even states that the KKK killed many men (black and white) during this time. On one occasion, she writes, the KKK “repeatedly shot five Negroes and dumped their bodies in a Canton street.” She states another incident in which the KKK found out that a local white man spoke at black assembly. The KKK captured him and “displayed his head on a pole along the roadside.”

Of course, most historical work on the town agrees the KKK was active in the Reconstruction period of town, but many question the KKK’s influence afterwards, especially leading into the years in the post-Civil Rights 1970s. Both Stewart’s article and Suzanne Gamboa’s 1994 piece on race in Grand Saline, both cite residents who claim they have seen the KKK at Clark’s Ferry or even show that some people in town road around with KKK bumper stickers on their car. From this research in the early-1990s, over twenty years ago, it seems the legends of the KKK have captivated the town for quite some time and was even a part of normative culture of one point (since the town had KKK sympathizers who felt they could put these stickers on the cars and feel safe).

Statesman GS Article 4

“Lynchings at Poletown”— The story of Poletown revolves around legends of Grand Saline residents and the KKK lynching people at these sites. Hill’s book, stated above, reports at least one incident of this. Mason’s research, also shared above, does the same. Much of the stories of lynchings stem from oral legends, told from one another in passing. Several current and former residents of Grand Saline tell me they quite vividly remember the stories of Poletown, but none of them can trace back the origins of these stories.

Out of all the hours of research, searching the internet, digging around archives, and scrolling through newspaper microfilm, I have only been able to find a limited amount of evidence talking about race in Grand Saline that I have stated above. For a town that many would state has a rich history or folklore of race and racism, you would think more research on this subject would exist. But there doesn’t seem to be much.

Statesman GS Article 5

——————–

The truth is we don’t know much truth about racism in Grand Saline. The truth is we may never know much more than we do now. From all the research I have conducted, the interviews, archival work, and newspaper clippings, the history of Grand Saline’s racism does not seem exceptional. They seem to be similar to most towns in the south via pre-Civil Rights. And I can’t help but feel happy to be able to say this.

But a deeper truth lies within Grand Saline, one ultimately darker than their history. If Grand Saline was not exceptionally racist, if the town never took part in these lynchings or hosted KKK meetings, then why do many town residents tell stories of these legends? Why are these legends in the first place? I contend the heart of Grand Saline’s legacy does not exist actually within the truth of their history; rather, it exists within the perception of the town’s residents. And for most of my adolescent years growing up in Grand Saline, I knew the stories of Clark’s Ferry, Poletown, and the sundown town to be true because everyone told them as truth. All of my friends and peers told them as truth. Someone had to tell them these stories as truth. And over the years, likely multiple decades, stories and legends that contain little historical evidence became truth.

As a scholar interested in rhetoric, race, and perception, I would be less intrigued with my hometown if it had a long history of racism. But the perception of the town now as racist, by some residents and by many outsiders, tells me more about how Grand Saline’s folklore persuade people. Sometimes truth doesn’t have to be historical; it can be perceived. And for the residents of Grand Saline and the town’s culture, they have a perception problem, one that still looms in the present. One that will never go away unless they consciously, explicitly attempt to eradicate it.

Michael Hall, the writer for Texas Monthly who wrote a biography on Charles Moore, also searched for history on Grand Saline and race and came up empty handed. He told me in an interview, “Usually when you see smoke, you find fire nearby. But I was not able to find that fire.” Like me, Hall had also heard many legends of Grand Saline and believed the town had a rich history of racism. But little historical evidence shows this. Hall and I both agree on this.

The fire we were searching for disguised itself as history when really it was perception and culture. Thus, as the history of Grand Saline’s racism wanes to lack of findings in recorded evidence, its perception continues on in an unrelenting, burning flame.

smoke

The Face of America’s Police Problem

The picture above is blurry.

But the picture above also shows why America has a police problem: officers would rather threaten youth of color with a gun than treat them like actual people. In this instance, a McKinney police officer was called to a break up a pool party in the small suburb community. The officer can be seen running around keeping certain teenagers detained, and when one young black teenager fails to leave the scene, he over-aggressively tackles her, shoving her face into the ground. The crowd, naturally, decries the intense situation, and when two black teens arrive to help their friend, the cop can be seen pulling out his weapon and pointing it in their direction.

Let me state that again: a police officer drew his weapon and pointed it at two teenagers who were not threatening him because he….wait, what was his motivation again?

Did he feel threatened? The two teenagers had a chance to attack the officer but did not. They cannot be heard yelling vulgarities at him. Any discussion of “feeling threatened” must begin with the officer projecting his fears onto young teenagers of color when he knows he is in the wrong.

Did he feel afraid for his life? The police have a hard job for sure. They place themselves in the line of fire, between intense, emotional, and even life-threatening situations all the time. But the line must be drawn at some point; a cop should not use the “feared for my life” excuse upon a situation that he or she draws a gun. I agree that pulling out a gun should be a last resort, an assessment of the situation which leaves the officer to believe violence could occur and must be stopped, but when the fear of violence is not felt, not seen, not heard, a gun should never be pulled. That simple action causes the constant mistrust between police officers and communities of color, and when events like this take place, we as Americans need to empathize with the civilians because they are the ones truly fearing for their lives since the sight of the gun was aimed in their direction, not the cop’s.

So what did he feel? We can only assume that in this moment, the McKinney police officer felt that pulling his gun was the answer. How has our police culture moved to this moment when unarmed teens who do not threaten an officer makes him pull out a gun and threaten their lives?

The event in McKinney represents a microcosm of the mistrust of police all across America. Until Americans decide that situations like this, when unwarranted violence is unnecessary and deplorable, should be intolerable, they will continue to happen, and the rifts between our communities will continue to grow. We owe it to our fellow people, yes, the humans of color who many dehumanize and “thug”ize, the ones many of you feel scared sitting next to in movie theatres and in public places, to make the police for the people not against the people.

Here is a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl92emFF3Ww&feature=youtu.be

#RSA16 Panel Proposal: “The Rhetoric of Lynching: America’s Reflection of Itself”

The conference proposal for #RSA16 (the Rhetoric Society in America conference) in Atlanta calls for rhetoric and change, or rather how rhetoric promotes change.

For this conference, I am interested in the rhetoric of lynching. When I say “lynching,” I do not mean it in a strictly historical sense because there have been notable lynchings even within the past year (a recent incident in South Carolina comes to mind). Also, many could argue that recent deaths, such as Mike Brown’s, represent a new form of lynching in the 21st century. Rather, I am interested in how various papers can talk about the cultural phenomenon of lynching–the act of people coming together to kill a person publicly. While I do see this in a racial context, I am open to any proposal that investigates lynchings in a historical, cultural, racial, etc context. Specifically, I am calling for papers that analyze how the history/presence of lynching still pervades culture and how public deaths today might reflect the public lynchings of Jim Crow. I think the overall panel proposal would argue that the act of lynching changes America’s perception of itself, in some sense. (We will work out the details for the panel proposal later haha).

For my own part, I will be analyzing cultural memory and the lack of a history on Latin@ lynchings, arguing that the lack of a Latin@ lynching history demonstrates society’s need for a black-white binary.

I am asking for a 200-250 word abstract by July 1st at midnight. Please email those to me at j.c.sanchez@tcu.edu. I will proofread and edit these proposals and will inform people on the panel’s progress soon after July 1st (since the deadline for RSA is July 15th). If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me or tweet me at @JChaseSanchez. I look forward to seeing this wonderful panel come together!

Kennesaw State Happened to me too

Today, Kennesaw State University made news when a black student was refused advising from a white advisor. She accused the student of “harassing” her by waiting patiently in the lobby. Links of this event and video can be found all over the internet right now. Black Twitter, as awesome as they usually are, called out the racial undertones present in the video and made this event a public ordeal. Though no explicit racial remarks were made, many on Black Twitter promoted the hashtag #ItsNotJustKSU for them to express moments when they were denied services by advisors and mentors, relating these similar events to a racial oppression many of them feel in their own education. A similar occasion transpired for me at the University of Texas at Tyler when I was studying for my BA. The moment altered my view of education, power dynamics, and cultural capital.

To begin, I loved my undergraduate experience because of the major progress I made between my freshman year and my senior year. I entered college in the Fall of 2006 and had absolutely no tenacity nor work ethic. I partied my first two years of college and my grades reflected this lack of effort. I transferred from Tyler Junior College into the University and Texas at Tyler with a 2.8 GPA in the Fall of 2007. I decided to become an English major when I made this transition and began taking classes that fulfilled my major.

My transition into upper-division English reflected my lack of primary education. Being raised in small, rural area, I never had the advanced readings and learned the complexities of language that many of my peers had in my junior-level English classes. When I proofread their work, I became ashamed in my own. Specifically, in my Literature and Critical Theory course, I recall making many Cs and even a few Ds on papers. To become a better writer, I knew I must become a better learner; thus in my junior year of college, I promised myself to make better grades.

My grades improved quickly. I made mostly As and a few Bs, and as I finished the courses prior to my senior year, I raised my GPA from 2.8 to a 3.4. These grades, of course, are not great, but I believe anyone can see the major improvement. At this time, I decided I wanted to enter graduate school and eventually earn my doctorate in English. Thus, I made an appointment with my advisor to talk about my senior year and being smart with my graduate studies pursuits.

I entered my advisor’s office (I will keep him nameless here), and we began chatting. He usually kept a sarcastic but funny tone and was known by students as being kind of a “dick.” (I truly have no other word to use than this one; my peers called him a “dick” on many occasions). But his persona appeared funny and light-hearted, so I enjoyed many of our conversations. On this particular day, we conversed about my senior year and the courses I needed to fulfill in the fall semester. Slowly, I brought up the idea of graduate school, hoping he would be proud of a young student wanting to try their hand at graduate studies and follow a similar career path. His one sentence response to my idea disrupted this fantasy.

“Chase,” he slowly expressed while leaning in closer to me, “people like you wanting to become a professor are who people like me laugh at.”

That sentence, uttered to me over six year ago, remains verbatim. I recollect these words exactly because a part of me changed that day. My professors once inspired me, making me want to become an educator and to help students become better thinkers and writers. But he stripped this naïve notion from me.

My face swelled with anger. I did everything in my power to not yell at him. To not scream. To not tell him that I was better than what he perceived of me. And once our session ended I called my mom and cried.

What prompted this occasion? Why would an advisor tell me I could not do something and basically laugh in my face? What gave him the right?

His remarks probably did not come from some inner hatred towards my skin color, but I believe it did stem from my cultural positioning within race, place, and class. I appeared undereducated, a Brown body who typically does not represent academia in many circles. My single mom raised me in a very low-middle class/low class lifestyle. I never fought for things I needed, but like many kids in my area, I did not benefit from wealth. Also, being that I was from rural, East Texas, a place not known for its educational standards, I am sure my advisor thought I had no chance to get past UT Tyler. Though he did not need to represent some false, bootstrap myth to me, his statement could have been more encouraging, more empowering. He could have inspired me. As a Brown English student with a terrible lexicon, he thought my choices in life seemed more ready for a desk job or a banker (as he told me many times). To this white male professor, I, undoubtedly, seemed beneath him.

Needless to say, I am now in my fourth-year of doctoral school in Rhetoric and Composition and should be finishing my dissertation next year. I raised myself out of the stereotype he presented me, and I honestly utilize my words now to spite him. Every year of grad school, when the times get tough, I recollect how his words sliced me, and that motivates me every single time. No doubt, I had professors who encouraged me (a big shout out to Dr. Sloan, Dr. Wu, Dr. Pooler, and Dr. Ross), but his one statement wounded me on an identity level, in a way I could never imagine.

But I cannot help but reflect back now and think of how many students in my position maybe gave up, felt discouraged, never rebounded, thought they were failures. The embodied pain I felt encourages me to always do better by the students. They are not nuisances or problems; they are the reason why we are here.

Looking back over the case at Kennesaw State University, I have no doubt that similar occasions happen to students of color and students from marginalized positions daily across this country. People with power often look at them with doubt, wondering if they are only here because of affirmative action, believing they are a problem rather than a gift. I promised myself years ago I would never do that to students, and I hope you promise yourselves the same thing.

The case at Kennesaw is not exceptional. If you talk to people of color, you will hear similar stories of how they were dismissed by people who should be uplifting them. If we ever want true change in our politics of academia, we will need to position more culturally-aware people to wield power. Until we do so, advisors like mine and like the student’s at Kennesaw will keep telling people like us “no.”

 

Ask me about Race!

In an effort to create a more open dialogue on race in my social media feeds and public persona, I have decided to spend this summer working with you, readers. More specifically, I want to answer your questions about race! Typically, my Facebook feed fills with name-calling and shouting with little use of understanding and empathy from people interacting with my racial challenges and statements. My Twitter feed has better activity, but I mostly only follow other scholars interested in racial studies (which leaves us with little debate). Therefore, I want to create a more intimate forum for some of us to interact.

I plan to use my blog this summer for this purpose. During the day hours, I will spend most of my time researching and writing my dissertation (I am about 2/3 through the first chapter!), but at nights I want to spend time with this blog. Being a typical academic, most nights leave me feeling useless, as I always want to spend my time more productively. So I figure I could spend the time with each of you, haha.

Okay, so here is the setup: I am going to make this blog post public tonight, May 12th. If you want to leave a question about race you can do so in the comment section below the blog (which will allow you to remain anonymous). Or you can send me a question via my Facebook, Messenger, or Twitter feed (@JChaseSanchez). Whatever seems most comfortable for you will be fine for me.

I will only answer questions that are serious (sorry trolls), and if I get enough questions, I would like to spend time answering them once a week. I will use research to answer these questions and will always cite sources, and lastly, I will provide suggested reading for anyone who wants to keep reading about the subject.

Okay, the forum is open. I hope to hear some great questions from you soon. And if you have any logistical questions, please let me know.

–James Chase Sanchez