Faces in Fragments

"What we designate as 'racial progress' is not a solution to that problem [(living "beyond the pale of the American Dream")]. It is a regeneration of the problem in a particularly perverse form" (3).

What most white middle class don't understand in terms of race and racism is that getting ahead in America means taking on ways of knowing and being in the world. The struggle to attain this dream demands living in particular ways, caring about particular things, saying certain words in specific ways, acting out predetermined roles, and conversely, not living, caring, saying, or acting in other myriad ways. These ways of being is the world are the "regeneration of the problem in a particularly perverse form" that Bell writes about.

"The fact is, though, that most whites and lots of black folks rely on symbols to support their belief that black people have come a long way since slavery and segregation to the present time. In their view, we not only have laws protecting our rights, but a holiday recognizing one of our greatest leaders” (20).

This section reminds me of someone I know who acts like I’m crying wolf when I talk about how shitty Lafayette is for queer people. They point toward some piece of legislation like DOMA being struck down or some state passing a particular piece of gay rights legislation as if these snippets are evidence of America’s queer progress narrative. The last such conversation I had with this person ended thus:

“Things have gotten better for particular people in specific places, but I don’t think things have changed much for most queer people.”

The symbologist countered, “I think they have.”

I’m pretty sure this person doesn’t know or speak to many queer people and has read virtually nothing about queer history or LGTB rights struggles, but these symbols of such and such law are symbols they can point to to counter my opinion.

Bell reminds me that even these symbols represent acceptance in very specific ways, such as getting married, having children, or joining the military. These ideas connect to the initial quote in this post: acceptance, to the extent that it exists, is based on particular ways of being in the world. Anything else falls outside the purview of the American Dream, and therefore, is justifiably marginalized or actively suppressed.