She turned away/what was she looking at?/she was a sour girl the day that she left me…
I want to rant about something, but I want to be fair to the here and now, so I’m going to rant about an example from the past. I consider myself, to some degree, a “student of people.” I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I was a quiet kid (I’m a quiet adult). I think (too much—often to the point that I feel stupid for over-thinking), and I listen. I’m like some sort of dime store constant ethnographer (the constant ethnographer– wouldn’t that be a cool movie title?).
And I’ve noticed something about the academy. There’s always… well, I’ll just say it… there’s ALWAYS a D-bag. Any group, any class, any function, you will find a D-bag (yes, I know this sounds a little like a Dane Cook joke about Karen, but I borrow from him only to say that if you’re saying “no, there isn’t always a D-bag,” it is, indeed, probably you).
In the time before I was a PhD student, I studied at a few places, learning a few things. In one particular class, there was one fellow student—this student who shall remain genderless (and who I hope cannot identify itself from the context here)—who was in several of my classes. This person was a complete and total jerkwad and needed to be the center of attention. I tried, for the most part, to ignore this person. But one day… things escalated.
We were discussing genre. Genre theory is something I am relatively comfortable discussing (two graduate seminars, three sustained projects and a full 30 page thesis chapter of research make me think I know at least a little about it), and we turned to a discussion of hip-hop/rap. This person, for reasons I will never understand, felt the need to somehow draw directly to Northrop Frye while discussing rap music. I made reference to a Ludacris interview in which Chris (not as Luda) talked about how he didn’t own any of the “rapper” stuff that appears in his videos (the spinning rims, the lowrider Caddy, the outrageous bling, etc.). He talked about how it was all formulaic application of a genre of “thuggishness” (his word). I then said “and Chuck D, though I realize he’s not a theorist, wrote recently that…”
D-bag didn’t let me finish my sentence. Instead the next fifteen minutes were a campaign to point out my embedded racism in calling Chuck D—a career rapper and producer—“not a theorist.” The point I was trying to make was that Chuck D claimed, in 2004, that no “real” rap had been made since 1989 or so, and he cited the internal genre shift away from “socially relevant” songs (starting with “The Message,” and I believe Chuck was calling PE’s own “Can’t Truss It” the last really subversive rap track) to songs about women, sex, drugs and money. After a while I stopped defending myself, and as the only person of color in the room gave in to the label of “intellectual racist.”
Two weeks later, the same student claimed bell hooks wasn’t a real scholar. I jokingly said “because she’s black?” and another explosion occurred.
I should have known better than to trade blows with the one D-bag that has to be in every class or program. I knew better, and had I not at the time been a scared MA student cowering before a crowd of PhD students, I’d have just said “you’re not stupid. You know EXACTLY what I meant.”
Why share that, you might ask as a reader. One reason is because I’m trying to rant, and the whole art of the rant is talking about something that made you mad. But the other reason is that I COULD tell a very similar story about almost every class I’ve taken, but since I don’t want to step on any toes I only mentioned a situation I don’t think anyone who reads this blog would remember (if anyone does, please don’t out the person I’m talking about). But more importantly I say it because I see other quiet(ish) students, and other students at lower “academic level “ suffering at the hands of similar situations. I now know to ignore the D-bag or to cut the D-bag down in due time with one of the many passive aggressive attack modes I’ve fashioned over the years. But for the others…
Don’t worry about the D-bag. There’s loathing, deep in his or her soul. That’s the reason for that behavior. It isn’t that you don’t understand what the D-bag knows, or that your ideas aren’t of merit. Don’t be silenced. Don’t be afraid.
And there is one at every University. Sometimes several.
Don’t let them get you down.
OMG. Am *I* one, too?