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July 30, 2009


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love this.

carol downer

Dear Zoe: As much as I agree with your sentiment about how people who watch out for their neighbors and others should be commended, I am puzzled as to why you reacted to this aspect of this incident. Enlighten me; did Professor Gates have something ungrateful to say about the person who reported the incident? Also, I think your choice of the word "civilized" sends a message that I do not think you meant to send. As a feminist and as a non-capitalist, I have very little respect for so-called "civilization". In fact, I associate it with centuries of imperialist powers imposing their ways upon weaker peoples in the name of "civilization", the British having invented the term "civilization". Also, the history of racism against black people contains so many references to black people as "savage" and "sub-human", that I think people of color are braced to react to anyone even remotely implying that they are less advanced socially as racist. I know you. I know you are fervently against racism in all it forms, therefore I am sure this use of words did not imply any value judgment related to race. Please take this comment about the word "civilization" in the spirit of sisterly feedback.

Zoe Nicholson

Hello Carol,
You are showing me, and any readers I am fortunate to have, something that keeps ringing true for me - knowing history is really important. I apply myself to weeding out the racism in my mind and soul - knowing full well that a white girl like me has it embedded conscious or not. The history of language is integral to being sensitive. You explanation of the word civilized is appreciated. I even think some people have no idea about the word lynch - just because they are not educated. One of my protected words is rape - which people diminish by use all the time.

Thank you for reading my writing and raising its value by adding your insight and voice.

Linda Perkins

Zoe, I can't seem to find the word "civilized" in your post. But, I may simply be overlooking it. I hesitate to log in about this Gates issue because I'm truly tired of it and feel like it was so totally overblown. I've been on endless blogs (primarily with Black academics and others) about this issue. The fact is, this woman who made the 911 call WAS vilified and called racist. She was simply being a good citizen. If Gates apologized to her for the harassment she's experienced, it certainly wasn't publicized. It certainly would have been appropriate for him to acknowledge his sorrow at the way she has been treated. I'm in DC at this moment and have been here all week. So, I"m emerged in all of the talk about the Gates event. My take on this event is that it was the battle of two male egos - plain and simple.


Zoe Nicholson

Hi Linda,
what a great time to be in DC. Be sure to see the Museum of Women in the Arts. I have to admit I did use the word civilized in the email I sent out - not in the blog itself. It said - this is how civilized people would have handled it. It was a phrase Gandhi used - so I thought it was not a problem.
I figure I am gonna offend at least one person per post and to expect it. I chalk it up to the fact that I can't know everything or eveyone's sensibilities. Heck I offend myself at least twice as often.
I am not so cynical that I seek to offend but I don't take pride in it either way.
When are you coming home?

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