No, This Is America: Interrogating Bad Faith Narratives, Epistemologies of Ignorance, Grammars of Violence, and Selective Racial Memories in a Post-Truth, Post-Shame, and Post-Accountable United States
Where is that place where what should not ‘happen to nobody’ happens every day? Why is it that, in so many places found in every corner of the global space, so many human beings face that which ‘no one deserves’?
—Ferreira da Silva (2009, p. 212)
You better understand White people’s fantasies because tomorrow they’ll be legislation
—Jared Sexton, invoked by Frank Wilderson (2020)
I have only one solution: to rise above this absurd drama that others have staged around me
—Fanon (2013, p. 153)
This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ now.
—Childish Gambino, This is America (2018)
Wherever you are reading this from, what is to be said about the land of milk and honey? Ferreira da Silva’s (2009) questions are rhetorical because that place of spectacularized and mundane mass violence, hate, extraction, expendability, inhumanity, and social suffering is here within the United States. What the U.S. is exceptional to is the remarkable ease with which these violations are invoked, tolerated, refashioned, publicly justified, and met afar with condolences and naivete by media pundits and politicians. Within this media-viral era of post-truth, post-shame, and post-accountability, their incredulous refusal to acknowledge the U.S’ documented violent iterations of settler colonialism, antiblackness, white supremacy, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, xenophobia, ableism, and classism and chart the trajectory of its dangerous ideologies, perpetuate the assemblage of violence that has taken so many lives and continues to enshroud the country of its ignorance and perceived innocence. Their refusals purposely misinterpreted these long-established death-dealing formations, boundaries, and enclosures as individual prejudices, irrational fears, and bad ideas that harken to a bygone era in the United States. This litany of violence is not a societal failure or a grave miscalculation that has voided the social contract because gratuitous violence is the normalized sociopolitical conditions of the social contract—the vehicle by which civil society maintains economic expansion, white affect, authority, social order, and racialized and gendered hierarchies. These grammars of violence (Wilderson, 2020) are spatially committed to the systemic devaluation of lives —regardless of your profession, personal accolades, or adherence to respectability politics through interdependent institutional relationships, interactions, and policies. It only cares about putting you in your place—and the threat of violence is ready and real for any person who gets out of their subjugated place.
As such, devastation after devastation, crises after crises, and many minoritized and marginalized people, families, and communities live within a guaranteed state of precarity (Nxumalo, Nayak, & Tuck, 2022). Contrary to what many (white) media pundits, lawmakers, academics, nonprofit leaders, and parents think, feel, or say about this country—this is America—a country where the descendants of white settlers who tried to replace Indigenous populations to become “Native,” fear that they will be replaced—a country where white parents purport that their children are too young to learn about racism, anti-racism, social justice, and other “divisive” and “race-baiting” concepts, but are segregating water fountains in school (Fieldstadt, 2022)—a country where free speech advocates are harnessing juridical-political power to intrude and curtail the democratic ideals of academic freedom—a country where gun violence is unattributed to the public’s accessibility to them, but a cultural affliction stemming from fatherless children and video games (Bradner & Zeleny, 2022) —a country where “child protection” means legislating and criminalizing access to reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, “obscene” race-and gender-based content, and maligning anyone’s belief in those values as “groomers” and “pedophiles”—a country where masking to mitigate the spread of an infectious disease was an extreme measure towards school safety, but the idea of arming teachers is not—a country where the politicization of your suffering, trauma, and death does not deliver justice, much less stop abuse, but is profitable for racist and anti-racists to monetize through lecturing circuits, media punditry, fashion apparel, nonprofit jobs, and voter mobilization (Yancy, 2021). This is America, don’t let them catch you slippin’.
This absurd drama staged around us, a theater of violence that no one deserves, prevents critical conversations in education and society, acknowledging specific racial histories and oppressive structures and a pathway towards collective reckoning and healing. This country’s unwillingness to reconcile with its historical and contemporary societal ethos and its purposeful evasion of truth, choice, and responsibility are mired in bad faith. Bad faith is the thread that binds the fabric of U.S. social relations. As a collective of BIPOC scholars, bearing witness to and addressing the manifestations of bad faith is a compelling priority that is too urgent to ignore. Philosopher Lewis Gordon (1995) defined bad faith as anguishedly fleeing “a displeasing truth for a pleasing falsehood” (p. 8). It is a social phenomenon where truth is expendable, as people choose to deceive themselves and others to maintain their positive self-image and worldview or protect their feelings (Tichavakunda, 2021). With so many people in this country fighting an existential enemy that only exists within their fearful imaginations, bad faith becomes an act of self-preservation in rooted sophistry. Evidence, however rigorous, will not alter the bad faith actors’ belief in their worldview. Therefore, bad faith is grounded on people choosing to evade their agency, worldly responsibilities, and consequences of/towards critical inquiry, truth, and righteous action. As a near-magical group denial, civil society’s collective bad faith is expressed, manifested, perpetuated, and maintained institutionally in societal belief systems and everyday activities (Gordon, 1997). Despite evidence that proves otherwise, there is no shortage of bad faith examples in the United States. Civil society’s epistemological ignorance (Mills, 1997) and its self-evasion of agency, responsibility, and truth are the mechanisms that animate the violent structures of settler colonialism, antiblackness, white supremacy, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, xenophobia, ableism, and classism. This absurd drama will endure if we are entrenched in bad faith.
Tichavakunda (2021) asked the pointed question, “how does one engage the irrational, persuade the illogical, or debate the incorrigible?” (p.1). As a quandary permeating education and society, their question remains with us. We take up this question within the context of education to ask more questions, as minoritized, marginalized, and even white children’s educational outcomes, well-being, and social worlds are affected. With routine marginalization, deriding, and erasure of ethnic studies within K-12 instruction, coupled with white fears, narratives, imaginations, and legislation politicizing and censoring the most difficult truths, what do children explicitly and implicitly learn (Eisner, 2002) about their role and belonging within the world? What are they not allowed to learn? (Milner, 2017) What can they infer about their own mattering and social worlds bearing witness to the banality of violence? As educators, what does social justice and accountability look like within institutions that do not exist or function within the interests of the oppressed? What does transformative political education and liberation look like outside of bad faith logics that foreclose our imaginative political capacities?
Despite a concerted effort to convince that nothing can be done in lieu of these crises, don’t get caught slippin’ on that grand narrative. As guest editors of this special journal issue in Professing Education, we collectively invite you to illuminate the manifestations of bad faith in the U.S. and explicate how what constitutes antiblackness, setter colonization, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, xenophobia, ableism, and classism are informed, operationalized, and machinated by bad faith. Additionally, we seek to understand how to counter these logics in the 21st-century digital age. As such, we want to be quite intentional about who this special issue is for and/or about with our three declarations. Our first declaration is that this special issue to not seeking altruistic and performative calls of racial consciousness-raising, empty declarations of solidarity, or the white introspection of white feelings (Love, 2020). To suspend the damage (Tuck, 2009), our second declaration is that our project is centered on dissonance as a corrective mode of truth-telling (Lozenski, 2016) to illuminate the contradictions, hegemonic betrayals, and hollow neoliberal ideologies predicated on bad faith. The third and final declaration is that this political project is not aiming to seek if the U.S. participates in bad faith but is examining the how and why motivations of bad faith. Towards that end, we invite you to attempt to dismiss this absurd drama that surrounds us. The status quo must not remain.
The Guest Editors welcome and encourage submissions from emerging faculty of color, as well as graduate students whose work primarily lies at the intersections of Teacher Education and/or: Black Studies, Indigenous Studies, Ethnic Studies, Curriculum Studies, Critical Disability Studies, Cultural Studies, Queer Studies, Environmental Studies, Communication, and Rhetorical Studies, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Thought, and Popular Culture.
Specific subtopics may include, but are not limited to:
• The exploration of bad faith, ignorance, and selective memory regarding objectivity and the definition of “truth” within K-12 textbooks and curriculum
• The juxtaposition of free speech, academic freedom, anti-intellectualism, cancel culture, and the censorship of critical conversations about race, gender, and sexuality in the classroom
• The politicization of Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Studies within education through the manufactured fear and moral panic of civil society
• The proliferation and amplification of (mis/dis)information and political labeling through mass media and extremist online social movements
• “Podcast culture,” objective debates, and alleged “expertise” in the pursuit of truth
• The Great Replacement Theory, political violence, and feigning victimhood
• The convergence of bad faith, violence, (Black) misery, racial capitalism, and advocacy democracy
• Bad faith, white mythology, post-racialism, and the “narrative arc of redemption” (Wilderson, 2020)
• School shootings, school safety, capitalism, and the “hardening” of schools through increased technologies of surveillance and policing
• Suspending the damage of bad faith, ignorance, and racial gaslighting in education and society
• Ecological precarity, racial capitalism, and individualized discourses of “saving the planet”
Proposals should be a word document containing the following: (a) tentative manuscript title, (b) author(s)’ names, affiliation(s), and email(s), and (c) a proposal (~500 words) of the planned contribution that includes: a summary of the key issues regarding bad faith narratives, epistemologies of ignorance, grammars of violence, and selective racial memories in U.S. schooling and society or questions the paper will address and its relevance to the special issue. Note: Authors who do not submit a brief proposal by the March 31, 2023, deadline may still submit a full manuscript by the July 31, 2023, deadline (however, we cannot guarantee full consideration of these submissions). Please email your proposal to Amir Gilmore at email@example.com.
Manuscripts should generally be 4,000-7000 words (all inclusive) in length, 12-point Times New Roman, double-spaced, APA-style, with 1-inch margins. Manuscripts should be written for educational scholars, stakeholders, and people with the general oversight and responsibilities of/within educational leadership, teacher education, curriculum management, and/or the general public with a vested interest in the matterings, survivance, and educational outcomes of minoritized people. Further, we also value and encourage creative forms of writing. The Guest Editors and the editorial team will preliminarily review manuscripts submitted to this special issue. Those deemed suitable for journal publication will be sent anonymously to external peer reviewers. In support of the Society’s goal of stimulating and sustaining dialogue among its members, all accepted authors must be members of the Society of Professors of Education or join before publication.
Tentative Manuscript Timeline:
Proposal Submission Deadline: March 31, 2023
Special Editor’s Response: April 10, 2023
Submission Deadline for Full Manuscripts: July 31, 2023
First decisions regarding submitted manuscripts: August 31, 2023
Revised manuscript submission deadline: October 2, 2023
Publication: December 2023/ January 2024
If you have any queries or questions about submission, please email the guest editors: Amir Gilmore (firstname.lastname@example.org), Stephany RunningHawk Johnson (email@example.com), Jeremiah Sataraka (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Veneice Guillory-Lacy (email@example.com). Thank you again for your interest, and we look forward to receiving your proposal!