Grist for the Mill

Mon, 3 Apr 1995 12:03:42 EDT

Am posting this to Anthro-l at the request of a dear friend, a scientist,
and anthropologist -- not on the list but who reads our list...

>From: "Julia E. Hammett" <>
>Subject: please forward
>Date: Thu, 30 Mar 1995 16:49:19 -0800 (PST)

>Would you post this ...?

>I've been listening with some interest to the threads of conversation on
>net related to issues of gender and ethnic discriminations and
>incriminations. I now wish to throw my 2 cents into the fray. First let
>me characterize my perceived identity. I am female, scorpio, genetically

>(in order from 1/4 to 1/128) German, Bavarian, Bohemian, Welsh, English,

>and Catawba. Physically I am mesomorphic, red haired, and pale skinned
>with lots of freckles. Distinguished people in my family include
>educators, oil company executives, tribal chiefs, fishermen, baseball
>players, architects and political activists, the most infamous being
>Brown. I have a doctorate from one of the top ten anthropology schools
>the country. I am a widow with two dogs, four cats, a brother with
>a learning disability, and two aging parents.

>When I was in grad school I lobbied hard for a class in Ethics. The
>closest we got were a required course in Teaching Anthropology and a one

>time seminar entitled "Ethnicity and Cultural Boundaries." Both were
>taught by white males. I think what happened in that seminar is relevant

>to the issues at hand.

>Initially there were 5 people enrolled and another 2 or 3 auditing. Most
>female, only one identified herself as a person of color. Day one the
>of color came to class mad. In the next couple of sessions she got
>madder, and stopped coming after the second week. The rest of us felt
>guilty for a crime we didn't understand. During that time she
>herself as "we," "ours," and "my people" and addressed the rest of the
>class as "you people" and "yours." We all understood that what was
>happening had a great deal to do with the seminar topic, but it was a
>great deal more destructive than constructive a forum. Because of this,
>think virtually everyone regretted those first weeks. After she left,
>the class settled down to a fairly innocuous seminar hell bent for
>nowhere but intellectual insights. The major lesson I learned from the
>class was about the profound rage inherent in discussions across ethnic
>and cultural boundaries. When I commented at the time to my best friend,

>a fellow graduate student who happens to be of color, that I wished
>there was a better representative for people of color in the seminar I
>was labelled racist for thinking in those terms. Years later when I
>recalled we recalled the incident and my still best friend added that
>the professor had no right offering the course and that white people had

>no right discussing the matter with people of color. "People of color
>should talk about it by themselves and whites should do the same" she
>told me.

>What happened? In grad school we used the trite and heightist expression

>"coming up short." My whole life I've known that throughout the world
>most people of color wake up each morning knowing what color they are
>considered by their societies and they are not allowed to forget that
>identity. Whereas generally white people think about their skin color a
>great deal less. In grad school I learned that whether or not a white
>person ignores or forgets another person's color, a person of color will

>never forget another one's color or lack thereof. Any paleface
>conscientious enough to want to enter this dialogue will
>soon be shot down. Go home little girl, you don't belong here.

>Grist for the Mill
>(alias Shortstuff)