Brittany Cooper, an Associate Professor of “Women’s and Gender Studies” and “African Studies” at Rutgers (really) just hit it big via NPR and a TED Talk discussing, get this, her belief that “time is racist”.
Admittedly, her theory goes much wider and deeper than her insulting intro, which centers on what she calls “CP time”. But let’s begin there:
In the African-American communities from which I come, we have a long-standing multigenerational joke about what we call ‘CP Time or Colored People Time.’ Now, we no longer refer to African-Americans as colored. But this long-standing joke about our perpetual lateness to church, to cookouts, to family events and even to our own funerals remains. I personally am a stickler for time. It’s almost as if my mother, when I was growing up, said, ‘We will not be those black people.’
So, according to her, African-Americans know themselves to be so prone to lateness that they have their own sense of time. It is, of course, a sense of time that runs contrary to the white-dominated, capitalist-centered America of today -- or ever.
And if this was her whole point, that would be silly enough. After all, the concepts of time and time schedules are as old as history, run through every culture on every continent where historical data or artifacts have been discovered, and have been important for human survival.
So when those non-whites created “America’s Stonehenge” to mark the celestial patterns of the sun and the seasons in New Hampshire, it didn’t have a thing to do with white privilege. Likewise, the standardization of time zones was, as noted in “I Must Speak Out”, edited by Carl Watner, developed to facilitate easier travel on trains, so that people could make their connections after they had moved long distances east or west. There was no dominant racial conspiracy, and no “white patriarchy” behind it, just a need to serve consumer demand.
Of course, criticizing Professor Cooper solely for her intro would be superficial and ill-conceived.
Her thesis is not just that African-American conceptions of time are naturally different, putting them at a disadvantage in a white-constructed world that smiles on punctuality. Her point is that this difference is just a symptom of a larger problem: that African-Americans have never been considered part of history, and are being erased from history through a lack of political attention to inner-city needs.
Her overall point is:
White people own time.
Which is its own form of racially-based categorization, but let’s check her argument.
Cooper says racism appears in how “we” narrate history, and “shove” the present into the past.
The US was never ‘pre-raced’. So to claim that we’re ‘post-race’ when we have yet to grapple with the impact of race on black people, Latinos, or the indigenous is disingenuous.
Professor Cooper’s narrative – which, of course, she tells us is “our” narrative – about history being white-dominated means that many of the terrible things that happened to minorities in the past get overlooked.
… (W)e treat time as though it is timeless, as though it has always been this way, and so it doesn’t have a political history bound up with the plunder of indigenous lands, the genocide of indigenous people, and the stealing of Africans from their homeland.
The very fact that she is a professor of “African Studies” at one of the most expensive universities in the US is just one reality that belies her claim. The fact that “African Studies” departments exist in virtually every major college in the US is another small indication that, perhaps, contemporary Americans are well aware of a history that included slavery of Africans. The fact that one of the most popular television series and novel team-ups in American history, a production and book called “Roots”, by Alex Hailey (though he settled a plagiarism suit, putting his full credit power in question) was embraced by “white-dominated America” might also be an indication that folks are quite aware of the fact that Africans were slaves in the US until the latter part of the 19th Century.
But if we’re talking about narratives here, then why doesn’t she, who controlled the narrative in that TED-filled auditorium, note the dark history of black Africans capturing and selling other black Africans into the slave trade? Why doesn’t she note the multiple Native American Indian tribes that enslaved Africans? Those would be “indigenous people”, there, Prof.
How about the Irish who were enslaved by the Brits? The multiple “indigenous” people who were enslaved by the Romans? How far back shall we go, and whose history is victimized by whom, Professor?
As for the present, Professor Cooper also blames “white dominance” over time/history for excluding terrible wrongs from today’s narrative.
It’s all about “white oppression”.
Those in power (read: white capitalists, which is untrue) dictate the pace of the workday. They dictate how much money our time is actually worth.
Well, considering the fact that the consumer is at the end of every market transaction, the only thing standing between the consumer and the business people and employees is the government, which has been dominated for decades by politicians who have imposed just those minimum wage laws and bureaucratic hurdles that have been used to hobble low-skill, often minority, workers. Some time spent with economics professors like Walter Williams might serve you well, Professor Cooper. You might discover the racist history of minimum wage laws, and how destructive they have been.
She also blames “white dominant” America for pushing black people out of traditionally black neighborhoods in Atlanta and DC, as those areas have undergone “gentrification”. But, of course, she doesn’t mention that those cities have been under the political control of elitist, often race-baiting African-American politicians for decades.
She even implies that white-dominated America is responsible for the shortened lifespans of inner-city African-Americans, quoting George Lipsitz, of UC Santa Barbara by saying:
Children born in D.C.’s predominantly white suburbs will live 20 years longer than children raised in D.C.’s downtown neighborhoods.
Does she mention what role violent crime plays in cutting back the life expectancy of those in D.C’s “downtown”? Does she mention the fact that the violent crime rates in the two areas are vastly different, and that black-on-black homicides are the most dominant form of homicides in D.C.? Does she mention that same-race homicides dominate every race’s murder stats, be it Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, or African?
Who’s controlling the narrative, Professor?
And who just wasted a lot of peoples’ time with a haphazard, biased, somnambulistic TED Talk to push for more political “correction” of racial “injustice”?
No need to dig for that one.
NPR has given her plenty of publicity.