I’m still rather occupied with, umm, trying to craft an exit plan from my current situation. Felicitously for me, at this very moment this involves reading a lot of legal theory! I had forgotten how much I loved legal theory. JD Regent surely thinks I am crazy, but nothing appeals to me more than a morning of toast, tea, and a nice journal article.
Awhile back I got into a discussion with some of you in which I was trying to explain why I can’t unqualifiedly sign on to things like the First Amendment. While I wasn’t particularly articulate then, what I was trying to articulate is that I am concerned about the way in which structural inequalities stop some people from speaking out in the first place. Today in working on this project (perhaps related!) I came across an article by Richard Delgado that more or less expressed what I would have liked to have said, though in this article he is speaking of race specifically:
The system of free expression also has a powerful after-the-fact apologetic function. Elite groups use the supposed existence of a marketplace of ideas to justify their own superior position. Imagine a society in which all As were rich and happy, all Bs were moderately comfortable, and all Cs were poor, stigmatized, and reviled. Imagine also that this society scrupulously believes in a free marketplace of ideas. Might not the As benefit greatly from such a system? On looking about them and observing the inequality in the distribution of wealth, longevity, happiness and safety between themselves and others, they might feel guilt. Perhaps their own superior position is undeserved, or at least requires explanation. But the existence of an ostensibly free marketplace of ideas renders that effort unnecessary. Rationalization is easy: our ideas, our culture competed with their more easygoing ones and won. It was a fair fight. Our position must be deserved; the distribution of social goods must be roughly what fairness, merit, and equity call for. It is up to them to change, not us.
A free market of racial depiction resists change for two final reasons. First, the dominant pictures, images, narratives, plots, roles, and stories ascribed to, and constituting the public perception of minorities, are always dominantly negative… Minorities internalize the stories they red, see, and hear every day. Persons of color can easily become demoralized, blame themselves, and not speak up vigorously. The expense of speech also precludes the stigmatized from participating effectively in the marketplace of ideas. They are often poor — indeed, one theory of racism holds that maintenance of economic inequality is its prime function — and hence unlikely to command the means to bring countervailing messages to the eyes and ears of others.
Second, even when minorities do speak they have little credibility. Who would listen to, who would credit, a speaker or writer one associates with watermelon-eating, buffoonery, menial work, intellectual inadequacy, laziness, lasciviousness, and demanding resources beyond his or her deserved share?
What say you commenters? I’m a little too caught up with other stuff to participate fully, but would love to hear your reactions.