Today in class we discussed the different elements in African American Criticism, by categorizing them in terms of three branches: Materialist/Ideology, Literary and Critical Race Theory. The following picture is the diagram including all the ideas and concepts we identified as being associated with African American Criticism:
Within these three branches, and the overall diagram, we see that there is definitely an overlap in ideas and terms, but towards the end of class discussion the question was posed, “What other critical theories do you see or recognize in these themes?” We mentioned several different examples in class, but I found myself really relating African American Criticism to Lesbian, Gay and Queer Criticism based on several terms and ideas.
First of all, much like African American Criticism, LGBTQ criticism can stem from essentialist ideas. For African Americans, the belief is that whites are superior, thus leading to racism or racalist. For LGBTQ, people can either believe that sexuality is determined at birth, biological essentialism, or that it is social constructed. This leads to my next point, that both sexual identity and race are socially constructed.
We discussed in class today how race is a social construction, appropriate gender roles are also constructed in our daily lives by the expectations that we set forth for males and females. As with African Americans, society determines what it means to be African American, and they also create black and white definitions of what it is to be male or female. When it comes to the U.S. Census there is no in-between answers or grey areas for gender identification or sexual orientation, it simply asks male or female, much like in terms of race you are either black or not. People who do not identify with either of the options society gives to them are left out and made into a minority—this affects African Americans as well as the LGBTQ community. The feeling of being left out can lead to another term shared by the two theories: Internalization. Internalization is the dislike or hatred of oneself based on the way society perceives and (mis)treats those belonging to the minority group. Are there other questions on the Census or other questionaires that only offer black and white answers when there are legitimate grey areas to choose from?
I also think that it is possible to make the argument that Interest Convergence plays a role in the discrimination against the LGBTQ community. I know that when it comes to the subject of same-sex marriage and rights that go along with them, people opposed to same sex-sex marriage argue on the basis of inequality. For example if a couple of gay men adopted a baby, and they both were able to take paternal leave from their jobs, some people have a problem with this because neither man actually birthed the baby—if the couple isn’t legally married, some say that both men do not deserve paternity leave. It could also be said that the point of sex is procreation, and that in the interest of same-sex couples, they are not furthering society’s interest like heterosexual couples do in the form of repopulating the planet. Can anyone think of any other examples?
When analyzing African American Criticism, under the literary branch, we noted that the author has a social role/responsibility to identify racism, celebrate their culture and to protest the mistreatment of others. Could it not be argued that those authors in, or those writing about the LGBTQ community are also driven by this same force?
Another term of African American Criticism, Voice of Color, the idea that people of minority groups have a better way of writing about their own injustices because they have authentic firsthand experience- can be skewed to represent LGBTQ groups, perhaps “Voice of Sexual Identities.” While Tyson says not to discredit LGBTQ works by heterosexuals, I do feel that whatever message or meaning is conveyed in an LGBTQ work would have more of an impact on me if it came from someone who actually experienced the oppression and discrimination themselves. This leads me to my next point about identifying the struggle of the LGBTQ community.
In class we talked about the term “Negritude” which states that families of African Americans all over the world experience the same things. I think that it is quite possible that everyone who considers themselves as a part of the LGBTQ community could argue that they to have this shared feeling among their community in all parts of the world. While I support the LGBTQ community I do not identify myself as someone belonging to this community and for this reason, I do not feel comfortable giving this potential unanimous feeling any specific name without having experienced this feeling myself. If there is anyone out there that does have an idea and would feel comfortable naming this idea, I’d welcome any ideas!
We also mentioned in class the idea of intersectionality in which we define a person by multiple identifying factors, while race may be one sect in which we analyze a person, sexual identity or orientation is another determining factor that should always be taken into consideration in a literary analysis.
This point can be linked to several of the other theories discussed in Tyson’s book. For instance we said that internalization could also be linked to Feminist, Postcolonial and Psychoanalytic Criticisms. Ideology/Hegemony can be linked to Marxist and Postcolonial Criticisms. The social construction of race can arguably be demonstrated in Deconstructionist and New Historical Criticisms. Are there any other connections within African American Criticism that you can link to the other theories that we’ve explored in Tyson’s work? Does anyone have any more connections that I’ve missed in terms of LGBTQ Criticism?