You know you are hearing a genius at work when a brother can connect Santa Claus with Colonialism, Imperialism, and the arrogant myopia that is whiteness and Eurocentrism.
I strive for precision in my language when I write about and discuss racism, politics, and white supremacy. Sometimes I succeed. More often than not I fail.
It is easy to do get locked into jargon's seductive gaze. Many academics like the shorthand. It sounds smart, sophisticated, and sexy (at least to our ears). But when pressed, many scholar-professionals-teachers cannot offer a simple, rich, detailed explanation of the concepts at hand. Nor can they explain why these concepts matter to students or the general public.
Dr. Naim Akbar's deconstruction of white supremacy possesses none of these common failings. By comparison, his lecture is a wonderful example of what academics and teachers should strive for as he offers clarity, precision and theory without any slight of hand. Folks, there is no academic kayfabe or trickery here.
There is a also a double irony in Dr. Akbar's comments. I have long thought that dilettantes and the semi-qualified have co-opted the language of white privilege without doing the hard and foundational work necessary to really understand this concept. Simply put, many liberal white racists have started to play the white privilege game. Not surprisingly, many of these same folks couldn't tell you about anything more than sister Peggy McIntosh's Invisible Knapsack of Whiteness. They certainly couldn't tell you about Theodore Allen, Andrew Saxton, or W.E.B. DuBois and his Souls of White Folk. Lord knows they have never heard of A Rage for Order.
The practical consequence of this backdoor entry into critical race studies is that many of these well-intentioned souls end up (re)centering whiteness as their normative lens. Once and again, white folks remain the center of the universe even as they are ostensibly moved from being the "universal I" to the level of mere "object."
A question for teachers, allies, students, friends, and fellow travelers. What is the lecture or talk you can give with effortless ease and with profound clarity and directness as measured not in your own estimation, but by that of your audience? What is your worst? The one where jargon seems unavoidable and your failure of communication (and students' reception) is made painfully evident as you read their papers come midterm and finals?
For those on the other side of the table, what is the most informative and powerful lecture or seminar you have experienced? One that you still think about to this day?