Don’t Anoint Black Women, Listen to Them

Indeed, as the recent Senate election in Alabama demonstrates.

Black Women


Food Fear

“If there’s something we need to cut from our diet, it’s fear,” writes Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The most interesting–and disturbing–point raised by Dr. Carroll is about an American antipathy for science in this case. Even if scientists discredit the notion that “gluten-free” food is necessary for everyone, American consumers don’t care. The indifference to science is part of a general anti-intellectual trend that pervades our culture, perhaps since time-immemorial.

“Subjectivization” and Football?

I found the mention of this densely theoretical term in, of all places, a reflective piece on college football. The question posed in the piece is why do Americans anxiously attach themselves to something they know, at least from its current manifestation, to be ethically suspect. Of late American college football has been plagued by multiple controversies ranging from injuries, to monetary exploitation to sexual assaults by star players.

The answer to that question is “subjectivization”: It’s a term borrowed from French intellectual Michel Foucault. Subjectivization is a practice in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so acquire a sense of their identities.

Ordinary, day-to-day living abounds in instances of subjectivization:

Just as a practicing Christian may create and obtain new forms of self-knowledge through confession, prayer and the observance of Lent, a sports fan can come to understand himself as a particular sort of person — a Southerner, for example, or a “real man” — by adhering to certain rituals, like reading the sports page and watching ESPN every day to gather more and more knowledge about his team, by talking with other fans about that team in the right ways (and proving that he knows more than them), by learning and participating in the songs, chants, dress, tailgate rituals, game-day traditions and home décor choices of its fans.

What of those who resist subjectivization? Or, as Jimmy Ruffin sang in a melancholic mood, “What becomes of the broken hearted?”

I’m convinced they rejoice in secrecy. To abstain from subjectivization is an honorable thing to do. It’s to be proud in one’s autonomy.


Have a Nice Day

American Niceness

A book that is especially relevant in our times.

Niceness, the book notes, Niceness, is a virtue of “surfaces rather than depths.” Of all the qualities that might constitute a national character, it is surely the most passive, the closest to simple indifference. Kindness requires active engagement. Compassion involves some measure of vulnerability. But niceness demands so little. It allows you to turn your back and slip out the door, grabbing your coat and calling out, over your shoulder, the sweet and empty wishes that facilitate so many exits: Sounds good. Take care. Have a nice day.