Evil Sorting Hat of Whiteness transcript

Carrie Gillon: Hi, and welcome to the Vocal Fries Podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.

Megan Figueroa: I’m Megan Figueroa.

Carrie: I’m Carrie Gillon.

Megan: You just had a birthday.

Carrie: I did have a birthday.

Megan: Happy birthday.

Carrie: Oh, thank you.

Megan: Was that involuntary noise?

Carrie: Yeah. I’m like “I guess it’s a thing.” I’m caring about it less and less each year.

Megan: Yeah. But anyway, what is happening in Vancouver?

Carrie: Yeah, just as a bit of background, BC municipalities are having their city election soon, and there’s 15 candidates in the city of Vancouver who wanted to have their names printed on the ballots using non-Latin characters. The court just ruled that they can, but only for the election. This is not a ruling that applies to the future, it’s just for right now.

Megan: Meaning they want to have their names printed as their names truly are.

Carrie: Right.

Megan: Yeah. Okay.

Carrie: Yeah. Although there’s a bit of a wrinkle there because there are some people who’ve been given Chinese names and they are not Chinese, and I’m not sure, I don’t think that’s included in this list, but it might be and so there might be a bit of a “hmm.”

Megan: Yeah. Well, the…

Carrie: Yes. The city’s chief election officer had challenged the names that had been submitted by candidates, including a bunch of different parties. At the city level, we have many parties, and they are not at all aligned with the federal or provincial level parties.

Megan: Interesting. Well, I was going to say 15 names. How many people?

Carrie: Well, there are 10 city counselors and 1 mayor. I don’t remember how many are on the park board. We have a separate park board in Vancouver only, not anywhere else. Just Vancouver has its own.

Megan: Oh, you love your parks. You’re like Leslie Knope.

Carrie: Yes, but also, it’s a little bit problematic and probably shouldn’t exist, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Megan: Okay.

Carrie: Then the school board, so there’s a bunch of things being… Oh, the school boards huge.

Megan: Yeah. Right.

Carrie: I don’t know how many people are on that, but there’s a number of slots, and then on top of that, many people vying for each of those slots.

Megan: Right. Okay. But still, I feel cool. Vancouver, they give at least 15 people that don’t just have the Latin script or their name uses the…

Carrie: Okay. But here’s the wrinkle.

Megan: Okay.

Carrie: One of them is Alan Wong, clearly Chinese.

Megan: Okay.

Carrie: Okay. But there’s Melissa De Genova.

Megan: Okay.

Carrie: Iona Bonami, or Bonamis, I’m not sure how to pronounce her last name. As far as I can tell, they do not have ethnicities which would mean that they have some other script. Looks like they would have the Roman script or Latin script.

Megan: Right. Huh? Are they doing it to be assholes, is the question?

Carrie: No, pandering would be.

Megan: Oh, pandering.

Carrie: Yeah. They wanted to have them in either Chinese or Persian because there’s a pretty big Persian enclave here. Yeah, those are the two. Basically, the judge said, “Look, I can’t really fully hear a challenge on this right now. There’s not enough time. Okay, yes, put them on the ballot, but this does not count for the future. We’ll have to have a full decision-making process later.”

Megan: Wow. I just realized. Okay. Yeah, I have never seen a different script on any of my election materials. We have the same problem here.

Carrie: The problem’s different, right? Because here lots of material is printed in Hindi, probably simplified Chinese, maybe also traditional, I’m not sure.

Megan: Right.

Carrie: Persian, Arabic. The election materials are in other scripts. It’s just the ballot. I think this is the first time that they’ve tried.

Megan: Oh, yeah. That’s what I mean. Our ballot is never going to have…

Carrie: Probably not.

Megan: Right or hasn’t to this point and maybe that’ll change, but I’ve never thought about it before.

Carrie: It probably wouldn’t be Arizona that would change at first. It’d probably be more likely a place like California or Washington or somewhere where there are large populations, I think the population in Arizona is pretty small, right?

Megan: Yeah. Oh, but I don’t think that they use accent marks.

Carrie: Right. That’s true. There’s not even accent marks, that’s true.

Megan: Yeah. Which is a very big problem in Arizona, Tucson.

Carrie: It’s true.

Megan: Tucson might change it.

Carrie: Yes.

Megan: We have a great county recorder here. I just realized how offensive that is, because I don’t have one.

Carrie: Right.

Megan: I’m not personally thinking about it.

Carrie: Right.

Megan: But it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I need to think outside of myself here. I’m like, “Wow. Of course, yeah.”

Carrie: Yeah. That’s one of the few things that has to be the case here in Canada because of the French. You have to be able to put on the accents.

Megan: Oh, and you people care about French up there.

Carrie: We have to.

Megan: Yeah, you have to, so you’ve had accent marks. But other things don’t have it, of course. Yeah.

Carrie: Maybe in Nunavut which is Inuit, the vast majority Inuit. I wouldn’t be surprised if up there the ballots were also in the syllabics writing system. There’s at least that location that might already have had other characters.

Megan: Right.

Carrie: But I don’t know for sure. I haven’t looked it up.

Megan: Yeah. Well, okay. Pandering never occurred to me.

Carrie: I don’t remember who it was, but one of the city counselors claimed that she was called Wise Flower in Chinese, whatever that is. I don’t know. Sorry. That’s why she wanted to have it on her ballot. I think that’s what she was saying. But anyway, so she definitely claimed that she had been called Wise Flower and everyone’s like, “What? How did this come up?” Who would be calling? Anyway, it may be the case, but it just seems a really strange nickname to have received, and then to try to put that on the ballot seems disingenuous to me.

Megan: Oh, super disingenuous and of course, it’s another case of a politician or whatever, assuming that people aren’t very smart. These are the things that appeal to people without any further thought to it. Yeah.

Carrie: Yeah. It’s an interesting thing. I’m obviously pro-putting non-Latin characters on the ballot, but also, some people make it harder to support.

Megan: No, I know. Because you can’t just say, but you can’t do it. You can do it, but you can’t do it or some, right? How do you do that? I don’t know.

Carrie: I guess you could do something, it’s hard, but it has to be your actual name. It can’t be a nickname. There’s still a way of transliterating most names into it, I think. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong about that, but in certain scripts you can do it for sure.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: But maybe not Chinese, I don’t know. But anyway…

Megan: Where the other people want their legal name just to be in Chinese script for no reason? Are they claiming nicknames too?

Carrie: I don’t know for sure, actually.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: It’s a good question. I don’t know.

Megan: Wow. I’m guessing it’d be side by side.

Carrie: Yeah, it would all be the same. I think it’d all be on the same line, basically. My guess is it’s probably going to be the Latin first no matter what and then if you have another name in another script, that would probably be second.

Megan: Well, I’m glad Alan Wong is getting this opportunity, but what was the Degrasia or whatever, wise flower? You’re right. What community of Chinese folks in Vancouver are hanging around her, just calling her Wise Flower is what I want to know.

Carrie: Yeah. It feels like a fake name.

Megan: Right.

Carrie: But what do I know? This is not my thing.

Megan: Yeah. You don’t know her or whatever. But it does feel disingenuous.

Carrie: Okay. I looked up. Kennedy Stewart is the current mayor and is running again for mayor.

Megan: Okay.

Carrie: He has one Chinese name, but basically, it’s just a transliteration of his last name. Kennedy.

Megan: Okay.

Carrie: Kěn ní dí, I don’t know, something like that. It doesn’t feel like a plausible Chinese name. It’s just telling you how to pronounce it. But at least there, it’s like, “Well, you know, this is just an English name.”

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: Let’s see. Mike Hurley is in Burnaby, which is the suburb to the East of us. Also has one, let’s see what is his. His basically is actually thoroughly Chinese. So, it’s Hu for Hurley and my Mai Hao or Mike. But those are actually Chinese names and it’s something Lordship and marching Grandly.

Megan: Oh, huh?

Carrie: The mayor of Richmond, which is to the South of Vancouver, and actually my parents know him, they’re friends.

Megan. Oh.

Carrie: He also has a Chinese name. Richmond is maybe the most Chinese suburb of Vancouver. If the Chinese population there didn’t like you, you probably couldn’t get elected. His given name is Malcolm and he goes, so by Ma, which means horse. I’m probably pronouncing that wrong. I know that because of the tones.

Megan: There’s a fourth. Yeah. You could be saying Mother, who knows?

Carrie: Four in Mandarin, nine in Cantonese, I think.

Megan: Oh my gosh.

Carrie: Then his Chinese last name Bauding, which is I guess close to Brody means guaranteed defender.

Megan: Well, that’s convenient. That’s a good politician name.

Carrie: That is pretty good. Yeah.

Megan: Anyways, it’s interesting.

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: Well, I’ll be interested to see where this goes since this will probably or will definitely be what the judge is going to deal with it again or someone’s going to bring it up again to…

Carrie: Yeah, they’re going to have to, and probably right after the election deal with this because, yeah.

Megan: Yeah. Let’s see.

Carrie: At least the need to know. I don’t know, is it free for all?

Megan: Right.

Carrie: Maybe that’s okay. Or is it like, “No, this really does have to be your legal name in some sense, although how, because we don’t have it, it’s not your legal Canadian name?” I don’t know.

Megan: Right. Yeah.

Carrie: Yeah. Anyway, it’s an interesting puzzle and I hope they figure out a way to do it. That’s fair.

Megan: Yeah. That’s fair. That’s genuine.

Carrie: But maybe the only way to do that is just to have a free for all.

Megan: Yeah. Know that people can probably see right through you.

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: Yeah. You’re just pandering.

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: Yeah. Well, super interesting.

Carrie: Happy election season to British Columbia and voting in the municipal elections.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: Anyway, yeah. Today’s episode we talk about, a former guest again.

Megan: Yes. Friend of the pod.

Carrie: About a book, about his brand-new book. It just came out.

Megan: Yeah, so exciting.

Carrie: We hope you enjoy it.

Megan: Enjoy. We have a repeat guest today.

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: We really do. It’s because we love him, a friend of the pod. Dr. JPB Gerald is an educator and theorist seeking justice for the racially, linguistically, and neurologically minoritized and the author of Antisocial Language Teaching English and the Pervasive Pathology of Whiteness. Now, I want to read you the blurb about the book which is fantastic. The center of whiteness and English Language Teaching ELT renders the industry callous, corrupt and cruel, or antisocial using diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder as a rhetorical device.

This book examines major issues with the ideologies and institutions behind the discipline of ELT and the diagnosis industry as a dire need for treatment. With the solution being a full decentering of whiteness, a vision for a more just version of ELT is offered as an alternative to the harm caused by present-day incarnation with a unique linkage of discourse on whiteness, language, and ability, this book will be necessary reading for students, academics, and administrators involved in ELT around the world. Thank you so much for being here again.

Carrie: Yeah. Thank you.

Justin Pierce Baldwin Gerald: Oh, no, I really wanted to come back. I told you all because when I was here, I don’t know, it was like September 2020 or something like that.

Carrie: Oh, my God. When we all thought, we were going to get sick and perish.

Justin: Yeah.

Carrie: But you’re just a new dad too. Oh, so much for you. Yeah.

Justin: Which a lot of the books about that, right?

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: About that time. I said when I write this book because they were talking about it, but it would be it wasn’t confirmed yet. I said, “I’m going to come back,” so I wrote the book.

Carrie: Now, you’re here. Yeah, and you a book during COVID. I have been holding up our book during COVID. I just want to say what an undertaking you have done here. Was it some sort of outlet for you that was healthy or cathartic?

Justin: I think as you can tell from what’s actually in the book, there’s definitely a lot of catharsis in there.

Carrie: There is, yeah.

Justin: I don’t have a whole lot of… Sometimes when I’m working out a thought that I want to go in the book, the working out of the thought goes into the book. That I think made it so, if I was working on an idea, it was easy to go and put it on paper. Once I got rolling, then it felt like an achievement. It’s the same with reading, if I’m reading something and sometimes it takes me a little bit to get going, but then there’s a tipping point where you just like, “I’m going to read this whole thing in two minutes.” I felt that way with the writing too. It took a while to get into the flow for a while it was just a series of obligations to just I had it was every Saturday night because there was nowhere to go.

Megan: That’s true.

Justin: Every Saturday night at eight o’clock I was going to be working on the book and have a certain amount of words written as a minimum. I also, at the same time told myself, but don’t just get carried away on those days. Save a little bit of that energy. If I told myself I was going to write 1500, usually 1500 words, I think I put it as a thing. I started with a section that I knew would be easy to write. Then I hid it the first time and they gave me like, “Okay, I can do this.”

Megan: That is really good advice.

Carrie: Right.

Megan: This is really good advice actually, you’re giving. It’s called parking on the downslope.

Justin: Yeah, that’s exactly.

Megan: Or eating the frog first or something, right? No, that’s eating the frog first is a different piece of advice.

Carrie: Okay.

Megan: The exact opposite piece of advice, in fact.

Carrie: Okay.

Justin: Yeah. That’s about doing the hardest thing first, right?

Megan: Right.

Carrie: Right. This is about doing the easiest thing first. Yeah.

Megan: To get the momentum to get into the flow. Yeah.

Justin: Right. I can do this. Then there were certain sections that were harder to write and notably it was the sections where I had to do more research because [inaudible].

Carrie: Of course.

Megan: Yes. Always.

Justin: I should say when I mean hard, I literally just mean harder to get the words out. But there were plenty of sections that moved quickly but were very hard. Do you know?

Carrie: I know. Yes.

Justin: Maybe I should refer to the speed. I would get it done regardless, but there were times when it would take me an hour and it would take the whole rest of the night.

Megan: Right.

Justin: I didn’t let myself go to sleep when it was done. Eventually, I get faster and faster and it was getting to muscle memory. But so there were definitely sections where because I’ve gone back to read it a few times, not because I’m just like, Oh, that looks luxuriating,” in my accomplishment that because I actually…

Megan: But you should.

Justin: I had to, when I get the actual physical copy, I’ll do that.

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: Yes. But you really left yourself on the page. It makes it, obviously, things like that always make things more compelling.

Justin: There was a book that I cited in there briefly called The Limits of Whiteness by Neda Maghbouleh who’s at the University of Toronto, but I think she’s somewhere else for two years academics all over the place. I don’t know. But anyway, her book, and she was on my [inaudible] a couple of years ago. It was written that way, not exactly the same way. Hers was, had more research in it than mine, but I don’t mean to imply that there’s none people, but it’s still, she sounded a person in the book.

Carrie: Yes.

Justin: But it was still technically an academic book. When I talked to her and I talked to her the week before the contract was official, so off the air, we talked about this. It made me think that I actually could write it the way that I would’ve wanted to write it. I was expecting that I would write it however and that when the edits came back I’d have to really change it. I really didn’t change a book with that much edits.

Megan: That’s awesome.

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: There have been journal articles that [inaudible] academic chapter, there are chapters that I wrote in the early 2020s, eight months before the book was contracted that have not been released in the books yet.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: Yeah. Actually, book chapters are the worst because you don’t know if they’re even ever going to get out.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah.

Carrie: But this is coming out because this is real. I also saw I believe that you are now a doctor. Yes?

Megan: Yes.

Justin: Yeah. It was even ignoring what was happening in the world and all that, it was definitely just in terms of the studies, although I can’t completely separate it because a lot of what I wrote is about that.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: But just an interesting time to get a chance and it was the first time I feel like I had as much agency as a student, which is supposed to be how doctoral programs go, right? But other times I just felt like I was in school because that’s what time to be in school, I guess.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Then even when I went to get my teaching degree, which was a few years after college ended, it’s because I was already working as a teacher and I was like, “Well, I might as well go get…” It never felt like, I just like, “What do I want to think about.”

Megan: Speaking of what you want to think about, you were writing this during your doctoral program. Why did you want to write this book?

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: In the fall of 2020, I was working on just an independent study project that was short, not short, but journal article length. I don’t know if I would’ve put it in a journal. I don’t know if that was my goal, but just in terms of lengths, 7000, 8000 words kind of thing. It was going to be about what I was coming to find the intersection between whiteness and ability, right? That I was just learning about and it was during the time when I was figuring out stuff with my own neurology. I didn’t really have a language component in it.

I was just going to write this essay and while I was writing it, the language, the art, the article that you all had me on here for two years ago, the whiteness and language teaching article I was getting talks and all that. I got interested from a publisher on the language side, but at the same time I was working on this whiteness and ability essay and I was like, “I can’t add more work to this. What if I use what I’m already doing, unless so how can I bring the connection here?” I really thought about it. I was like, “Is this going to seem shoehorned?”

Then I really started to look at it and it actually started to fit. I used that essay’s beginning and then added a bunch of research on that language and put it together as the pitch to the publisher and then they liked it. I was like, “Now, I have to write a book on a dissertation at the same time.” The gray hair on my chin, which you can’t here, but it’s from this. It’s not from a child like this.

Carrie: Is it?

Justin: I have had the child for two and a half years now and there was no gray hair the first year, right? That was the scary and 2020 and so forth.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: The first year and it’s a baby and you’re like, “Ah.”

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: No gray hair. The gray hair. Yeah, because I took some professional pictures in early 2021 because I didn’t have any recent ones and I was giving all these talks. No gray hair, it’s just but now I have. I can get into that later. Now, I had less pressure overall because I finished all the things.

Carrie: Yeah. Great.

Justin: Now, I’m really at this point just waiting for people to read it.

Carrie: Yeah. Speaking of letting people read it, let’s talk about it.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: It’s the same stuff we talked about with you before, but maybe you have a different perspective on it now that you’ve written this book and you’re finished, you’re a doctoral degree. What is centering whiteness and how do we decenter it?

Justin: Yeah, so to go back to the previous article, right? Which was that literally, that was the title. When I wrote that and what I was trying to get at is that there’s an idea that is off and unspoken when people are saying that you need to speak English or use English in this particular way. People will say that it’s just the forms, right? The words sound so forth, the accent, right? But we are pretending that this is not attached to a certain person or people, right?

It’s really the hierarchization where you can use all the additives you want but often associated with white English because you could say standardized. There’s a lot of different things you could say is just place at the top and everyone who’s learning the language to trying to reach that, so to decenter it would not be, to not include the forms that people tend to use, which comes up a lot when you talk about challenging the standards well, what would people learn? It’s like, they would be okay.

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: But it means even playing field, right? Within the language, right? The language is not going to not exist and people are going to want to learn it. If they’re going to be taught the language, what is going to be considered, right, or wrong? What’s going to be considered closer to the expectation? I don’t even think that you cannot teach or I don’t even think that’s just going to get bad to teach certain forms of the language if they’re placed in context. That lacking context is a lot of what the issue is. Sure, you can come up with a version of the language that’s really specific to a culture that is therefore raised in that classroom and that’s great.

But honestly, I don’t even think it would be bad to teach a lot of the English that’s taught if we just placed it in context because that means that it’s not just an unspoken norm at the center, right? We can understand that it’s part of the language and we can accept that or reject it or whatever. But right now, it’s just there in the background or not always the background but in the center. The many things I say in the book there are ways that we don’t have to leave it there

Carrie: Being honest about it, right? That’s a huge way to dissenter it, right? Is to say the unspoken parts.

Justin: Yeah. It’s at the center, but it’s unspoken.

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: Right? And naming it is, but naming it in a useful way, in a way that, because when I get into the standardized English part of the book and talk about why standard English is a harmful term, we should not pretend that a standard has not been created.

Carrie: Right.

Megan: Right.

Justin: It has been. One of the stories I tell the book is when I was in a class and I had two classmates arguing one was saying, “Of course, there’s a standard English, and one was saying, “There is no standard English.” I was saying, I don’t really agree with either of them, right There is no organic perfect English that just came out of the sky. But we cannot pretend that a bunch of people over however many centuries did not make A standard.

Megan: They sure did.

Justin: We just had to…

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah, we just have to include the fact that the people made it as part of the teaching.

Megan: Right. Why they made it? Why were the particular forms chosen? Who were the people speaking those forms at the time and now helping people get rid of the idea that there’s something inherent in the language that makes one form better than the other?

Carrie: Yeah. It has nothing to do with the language bit. It’s the context of who’s using the language. It’s the people.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. I think that unfortunately in the past especially, and maybe it’s still true depending on where you are, we don’t think of a language as being attached to a people unless it’s attached to a people we don’t like.

Megan: Yes.

Carrie: Yeah, exactly. We only pick on the language of, yeah, people we don’t like.

Justin: Right. It’s disembodied unless it’s a bad body

Megan: Then it’s really bodied. Yes.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: If we think of other people’s intelligence or bodies or whatever it is, as the reason why they do things that we don’t like, then we’re missing the plot.

Carrie: Yep.

Megan: Yes, and recruiting into ableism and eugenic. Let’s talk about that because I think that this is a big difference between your article and this book in how much you mentioned disability critical studies with discrete. Can you tell us about what you mean by the pathology of whiteness?

Justin: Yeah, so that is really the main difference between the article and the book made aside from the length, it’s that the two main differences are there’s a bunch about me and there’s a bunch about ability and disability, right? The way that I’m using pathology and pathologization, which let me tell you as many talks that I’ve given, I’m trying to say that word a lot.

Carrie: I don’t know.

Justin: I just like a function.

Megan: [inaudible]

Justin: Yeah. Also, hierarchization.

Carrie: Oh, yeah.

Justin: It’s all vowels.

Megan: Too many vowels.

Carrie: Yep.

Justin: Anyway, when I was looking at, and the specifics of why I chose antisocial is by chance it was in the Tucker Carlson Quote, it’s in the book as to why it’s called that, it’s in a Tucker Carlson Quote and it seems like, it’s the way people think of the worst people. When I was looking at that, I was just reading DSM because my wife has it because she was a social worker originally. I’m just looking at what these criteria actually say. They’re so vague, I understand that therefore it’s up to her interpretation. But then how are you going to try to codify the interpretation, you know what I’m saying?

I understand certain that be written down, but you’re leaving it so open to a person’s judgment, which sure, that’s important, but that this judgment isn’t being questioned for these issues of power and so forth. The way that people can be classified as disordered, right? As not working correctly. But then when you start to think about what order means and who determines what order is, right? The book does not claim to say that no one needs support for issues, right? I have had issues and needed support for them.

I’m not saying that, but when you think about who has been seen as not acting the right way, when you think about how those ideas about the right way were constructed, what it means to fit into society, what is society, right? Who’s running this society? You can see how people, especially if they can’t work correctly, right? Are going to be seen as not worth the support and deserving of their place. Yeah. That’s a lot of it’s not just that they are over there, but that they deserve to be over there.

Carrie: Can we actually just mention what he actually says just to contextualize this antisocial bit? He says BLM and Antifa, crazed ideologues, grifters, criminals, and antisocial thugs with no stake in society and nothing better to do than hurt people and destroy things.

Justin: To be clear, he is [crosstalk]

Carrie: Not you. Sorry. Yeah.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: There’s a lot in there. The thugs part is obvious to anyone who’s ever listened to the show before, but, so I don’t really go into that. It’s well, we know what you’re doing,

Carrie: Yes.

Megan: Yes. It’s easy to stop.

Justin: That book’s been written, but to me, antisocial stuck out me because I have seen it. I don’t know if I can prove this, but I hope, I feel like I’ve seen that as shorthand for really bad behavior more often recently. Not sure why, maybe I’ve been paying attention, but before I wrote the book, I’ve just been all of a sudden, I’m just seeing antisocial now and I don’t just mean looking up true crime because, yeah, okay. But just regularly.

Carrie: Right. Yeah. A quick aside about true crime though, the Satanic Panic, would describe what was happening is making kids antisocial. The antisocial was a big part of the West Memphis Three and Damien Echols being antisocial and all that. It’s a thing. I guess I forgot about that when you proceed you brought up Echols, I remembered it, but I the rest of the Satanic Panic, I didn’t connect anti-socialness with it, so that’s interesting.

Justin: Yeah. With the antisocial thing. Yeah. I thought that was being used as shorthand and I realized it’s also what the actual clinical diagnosis for life science sociopath is because that’s not, you can’t go to the doctor and they say you’re a sociopath, but it’ll be this.

Carrie: No, it’s not in the DSI.

Justin: Yeah. It’ll be this or something else or supposed to be the worst or the worst. You look at it so vague and I realize that I thought of the fury in his quote or the fury that people get from watching, but he doesn’t sign angry. He sounds like he’s confused. I don’t know why he talks like that.

Carrie: He always. Yeah, he’s got that look on his face.

Justin: Yeah.

Carrie: I don’t get it. I don’t understand why it’s appealing to his viewers. I do not understand.

Justin: Yeah.

Carrie: But intonation Seth Meyers is a really great impersonation of it and he really gets down that, he’s asking a question or something, or confused at all times.

Justin: He’s just asking questions about these antisocial thoughts. But yeah, so I thought about that and then I started to think about, how so many groups of people have been classified as deficient or defective to get back to the Eugene conversation. There’ve always been people who had impairments, right? Just since there’ve been people, right? Whether that’s physical, mental, or whatever it is, right? That’s just people but we didn’t think of it in the way that we think of it until, well, now you can’t do this job, or now you can’t do this.

It was all about what you couldn’t do as opposed to just whatever it is that you actually were. Now, most of the book I’m talking about, emotional and mental things is part of the book ties into my mentioning, my own ADHD diagnosis and how that shaped my interest in looking at what it means to be disordered, right? Officially disordered. I don’t know that I was rejecting the word disorder as such. But just like English, I was trying to put the word into its context to say that it’s not just this organic thing. Sure, the way my brain works is some organic thing, but the fact that it is a disorder is not an organic thing.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: Right.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: It’s constantly…

Carrie: Because in a totally different society it wouldn’t even exist. It wouldn’t be a thing, right?

Justin: Right. It would just be Justin or whatever it is.

Megan: Yeah. Right. Overlapping speech, so thinking about ADHD, which I have as well, one of the clinical markers is that I’ve been reading this stuff is children with ADHD will do a lot of cross-over talk or not really no conversational boundaries. I’m like, “That’s Mexican Americans too.”

Justin: Yeah.

Megan: I’m like, “Wait a second.” This is what’s in the literature or what people are going off of and it’s like, “What’s wrong with these things and when did we decide that it wasn’t quote-unquote normal?”

Justin: Yeah, because one of the criteria for antisocial is that they can’t hold down the job. Again, obviously, just not having a job does not mean like, “Oh you got you to know” obviously.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: Even in the DSM you’re supposed to have at least five out of the seven with almost any of the things, right? But still, if you could go from not antisocial to antisocial because of your inability to hold down a job, I don’t know that because there’s a lot of reasons why you might not be able to hold down a job.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: I understand what they’re trying to say, which is that they can’t get along with their coworkers or I get what they’re trying to say, but the top line is not that.

Carrie: Right.

Megan: Right.

Justin: The top line is just a statistic or something like that and who often had trouble holding down jobs. I can see why a psych person might be mad at me for the rhetorical device I’m using because I’m not using it very precisely. But I’m using it to start discussions about things and also question the DSM anyway, so I don’t really care.

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: Yeah. No, I thought you did a beautiful job of that. Then how does the pathologization of language serve whiteness and white supremacy?

Justin: Well, all these things. The whole point is that these things, at least in my view of the argument of making that they’re tied together as the book, in the beginning, try to make clear, I don’t think anyone is surprised you would hope that whiteness depends upon diminishing blackness, right? It’s not news, right? I think it’s a little bit of news to tie that to ability because people just may not have been thinking about that. But that’s the whole of what is about, right? It’s bringing those two things together. Basically, if you knew anything about disability justice, you knew that, but a lot of people don’t. That’ll be a revelation to some folks. That’s not my research.

That’s me recounting research to get to my point, right? But then think about what do we mean when we say able, right? What do we mean when we say intelligent, right? What do we mean? A lot of the time that really is tied to the way that we communicate. You say, I remember, and I’m not trying to criticize this person, but when we were visiting daycares before he was born, right? We were talking with the proprietors whatever. We didn’t up go to any of these because of everything that happened, got new daycare a year and a half later. But anyway, and one woman said that this one baby was very smart because he talked a lot, right?

I also know that’s why they said I was smart and if you are talking a lot, but what you’re saying isn’t right, it’s very easy for that potential benefit of being seen as smart from your language should not be a benefit because you’re not saying the right thing. You’re not saying things in the right way. If you are, if you look at the definition of an English learner, right? It’s just English, not necessarily the language spoken at the home. Even if you speak everything the way you’re supposed to say it, right? Or quote was supposed to say it, you could come to school saying everything, but if you’re not saying English the right way, that’s still not going to see you as intelligent or see you as intelligent as they may have seen you otherwise.

I think honesty language is one of the axes of oppression that I mean you all know is what it shows about that is often under-discussed outside of the language community. I think it’s under-discussed for a reason because we depend on it. I think that to question the power involved in our own language is hard for people because then they’re just, people don’t like changing their words and changing the way they think about their words and that sort of thing.

See how people react to this. But I also think it’s necessary for the continuation of whiteness, white supremacy, and so forth because the way that people communicate is a big part of the project. They have to change the way people communicate to dominate them, right? You think about all the different versions of imperialism that involve crushing languages. That’s not just a byproduct of moving people around, that’s part of it. You’re not making sure people can’t communicate with one another

Megan: Yeah. For uprising, right?

Justin: Yeah, exactly.

Carrie: Or making it so that their culture is not transmitted as effectively, so they’re no longer a cohesive unit so you can steal their land more easily.

Justin: Yep.

Carrie: Yes.

Justin: All of these ideologies really are sorting tools.

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: They’re like, “How can we place people according to the things that we think about them collected.”

Carrie: The evil sorting hat.

Justin: Yeah.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Exactly.

Megan: Of whiteness.

Justin: Yeah. It changes too, right? One of the things I tried to say in the beginning, and again, this is more what I’m getting into the argument is just what it means to be white changes all the time, right?

Carrie: Yes. Oh my gosh.

Megan: Oh, my gosh. Yes.

Carrie: Exactly.

Justin: If there wasn’t a blackness or there wasn’t a wrong way to speak English or there wasn’t a disability to be better then what would it be? What would be left? What is it without its domination? I think that it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective and continue to be nearly as effective as a system if it weren’t for the way language used is used within it and used to uphold it. There’s been a lot of talk about how to challenge racism the last couple of years and sure. Obviously, language was originally in my field, so that’s the angle I came at, came at it from whatever.

But I think that any successful challenge to racism is going to involve a deep understanding of language in its place there. I don’t just want in some way through the writing I’m doing and the talking and all of that to challenge these systems within language teaching. I want to use the power of language to challenge it outside of language teaching because I’m not even a language teacher anymore. Doing it inside of language teaching is going to be for everyone else to do.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: Yeah. Actually, that’s one of the questions we had was, what can people inside of language teaching do, and then out those of us who are outside of the language teaching sphere, what can we do?

Justin: Yeah. It’s the climax book, so I don’t want to give it away.

Carrie: Okay.

Megan: Don’t.

Justin: No. I’m going to summarize. Yeah, exactly. I go through all of the arguments of why the center of whiteness is harmful and then I talk about the research I did for my dissertation and also for the book. I just used a different chunk of the research where I was interviewing white teachers who I taught about whiteness and they went back to their institutions, mostly universities, but not all to try to do stuff.

They told me what they were planning to do beforehand and then I interviewed them and was like, “So what happened?” Now, admittedly I was in a rush, so it might have been better to wait longer to see what happened because these things take a while. I actually did get an update from one of the people in the book who told me that the thing that the projects he tried to do had fallen apart, but it actually happened a year later.

Megan: Oh, interesting.

Justin: Yeah. I’m just encouraging them to keep data. But anyway, the point being, what I learned from those interviews and from the others from my dissertation is the overall lesson. I think this is hard for people to keep a word, hear these words and understand it intellectually, but not understand it. It’s in their bones until they do it. That’s specifically it’s a lifelong full life endeavor. The seven specific pieces of advice are in the book part because I don’t like making lists at all, but I understand it’s easy to organize information that way. It’s seven items, however, each item is months of work. It’s not like it’s changing this entire thing about the system. It’s not like go, you can go home and send seven emails that you’re done.

It’s a list, there’s no numbers, but there are seven of them. I’m leaving that in the book. But what they’re all concerned with is the final conclusions of my dissertation, which I can talk about because I don’t care. I’m something hiding it from anybody is the fact that it’s hard for people to really understand how much of your life you have to devote to trying to challenge these issues if you don’t want to remain consistently perpetuating. We all are to some extent, but there are…

Carrie: Right.

Megan: Complicit.

Carrie: We are complicit.

Justin: We’re all complicit. But you could be more and less complicit.

Megan: Yes. Exactly.

Justin: You can make choices with some of the participants, not the ones in the book, but people told me that they all tried to do X and the project did what it did or didn’t do. That’s not the important part. I know that it’s hard to change institutions, but I can’t do that before I interviewed them, right? It was what they told me about their lives outside of work that was interesting to me. It was how not just from my class, I’m not taking the credit for changing their lives or anything like that, but after, at least after, say it was because, but after my class.

It was after they realized the different relationships that they had to have, they thought about the relationships that their children might have to have with their grandparents and maybe that would have to be they found things out about their parents that they hadn’t. It’s not fun, I think that I’m not saying one shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to a protest or something like that, that’s a great thing to do. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do that. It says explicitly in the book, keep doing that. But what protests over…

Carrie: What’s next?

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. What’s next? If you’re the person organizing the protest, I’m not talking about you, but if you were a person, you don’t need to read, you listen to me. Whatever, you already know what you’re doing. But the people who are just on some sidelines, but they’re sympathetic, which is mostly who I’m writing to, right? People who are sympathetic, but…

Megan: That’s a lot of people. A lot of people are like that.

Justin: Yeah. That’s my audience is that group of people. I’m not arguing with people completely on the other side of me. I’m not like the people who already, obviously the people like you all who agree with me, great. But that’s fine. You all [inaudible] my help. But the people who broadly agree, probably have things in it. I don’t agree with it, but they agree with the thrust of it but are just like, I don’t even know. That’s to me, the real crisis is that group of people because I get it. Because I was that person for a while and I got so much to do, I do what I can. As I said early, say early in the book, I used to think just being blackface in that classroom, I think it wasn’t a different article, but whatever I’m being blackface in that classroom was different enough.

I don’t have to do more, but what actually set me on this path, and then we can talk about this aspect of the book after I say this if you want, was when I was a regular classroom language teacher eight years ago, something like that. I was in my master’s program would put on, and we would come together and talk about teaching afterward after I graduated and I was at school. I used to organize it with the director of the program and one of the people did a presentation that was about her life as an adjunct, right? Now, I had adjuncting jobs and I knew that they were terrible.

The jobs that I had. I was not thinking that they would not be terrible. I just knew I was like, “This is just going to be bad. This is going to be a bad situation.” What I saw her do was present her extremely stressful professional situation as a really fun thing. I’m just like, “Do you believe that or do you have to believe that in order to do it?”

Carrie: Right.

Justin: I don’t blame anyone for just making the peace with.

Carrie: Yes.

Justin: What situation they’re in because otherwise you can sink into a quicksand, and I get it, right? I’ve had jobs like that. As I said, I was an adjunct, but I said, “I thought about that for a while because I was so confused. I was like, why is this being presented?” She wasn’t making fun of herself. She wasn’t comedy. She was just talking about how I balance four jobs. I’m like, “What the…?

Not only is that common in the field, right? Not only is the lack of income in that way common in the field, which is a problem, but that’s a problem in a lot of fields. What I found interesting was the cheerfulness about it, the attitude about it, and again, not just keeping yourself together, but we were all supposed to just accept the way the field was and be happy about it and be like, it’s so rewarding to do this volunteer job and I’m just like, “I would like to have a rent to pay.

Carrie: Yes.

Justin: I would to be able to pay for it. I don’t mean I wasn’t trying to be greedy about it. I had various non-profit jobs after that. I still had a non-profit job, but I had the typical non-profit job because the language I was running a language teaching program, and yeah. I really wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was able to pay rent, and because after she said, I was like, “I’m not doing this anymore in this book and I only do want to talk about capitalist exploitation and so forth a little bit. It’s not a lot of the book,

But I really want the field to have to think about itself. Everyone in the field wants to reform the field and this way, well, I go to a conference, and here’s a new tech tip and I’m like, “Okay.” When I see this talk and it was the most popular talk at TED talks 2017 was like, “How to use TED Talks in class.” I’m like, “It’s not hard, you should just put it on screen.”

Carrie: Yeah.

Megan: Wow.

Justin: What is the presentation? Is the presentation just a bunch of TED talks? What’s happening here?

Carrie: Wow.

Justin: I’m sympathetic and I said there’s a whole chapter about the fact that people are being exploited in their workplaces. Not just this field, but it’s very much this field. I do understand if people are just being kicked in the head all day and they just can’t, but that’s not everyone, there’s enough people who understand that this is messed up and have more than zero power.

Carrie: Right.

Justin: But not 100% of the power is equal a hundred percent of the power is benefiting from it. But people who have more than zero power could be using that power to shift the way these things are taught and thought about and spoken about and presented and everything.

Megan: Well, your book is certainly one really good resource that people are going to have within ELT, and they better fucking buy it because, yes. It’s just well done and people need to hear this stuff.

Justin: I feel lucky in the sense that I can’t believe that this happened. A whole lot of things had to happen for this to happen and that’s true of everything. But I was not planning to do this when I did it. At the time, and I guess I can reveal this now, I was really in a bad way when I got this book deal. It had nothing to do with the book. But I almost lost my job in 2020 and I did not therefore many people were way worse off than I was but still stressful.

Carrie: Right. Yeah, with a new baby. Yeah.

Megan: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah, I was worried about healthcare for him. I didn’t lose a job, but I had to change things up and really do things differently in a way that made, so I had to spend less time with him for a couple of months to do stuff and I saved that job and then the book deal happened and all of it only happened because I wrote an article that was published the same week as all this stuff in 2020.

Carrie: Yeah.

Justin: Then people wanted to talk to me and the publisher saw something I did and then she approached me and then I ended up writing it really fast and so it’s coming out eight months before it was supposed to come out.

Carrie: That’s awesome.

Megan: Yeah. Yes. Look at this, with all that you did, you have gifted the world with this, which I think will be muchly cited.

Carrie: Yeah, I think so too. Thank you so much for coming on and talking about it with us.

Megan: Yeah, thank you so much.

Justin: Yeah, it’s folks like you where the people who I need to convince to do stuff are the main audience for the book obviously, and the people who fully disagree, whatever. Then the people who I already rock with, you all weren’t the main targets for the book, but you all were the people I wanted to be sure would enjoy the book.

Megan: Well, I did. I was like, “He is, get it. Look at his point. Oh, he’s going, he’s still going. He still goes. This is that.”

Justin: Yeah. I did not have enough energy to stop myself from saying everything that I wanted to say.

Megan: Oh, it was good.

Carrie: Yeah, It’s really good. I do think that people know the structure like that. You talk about the disorder and then you talk about the symptoms and then the treatment. I think that’s really clever and I think it’s also so very helpful for people to unpack their own shit because we all have it and we all need to unpack it. I think you did a good job of helping people.

Megan: Absolutely. A plus rhetorical device.

Carrie: Yeah. It’s amazing.

Megan: That’s great.

Justin: Yeah, the reviewer looked at it too.

Megan: Oh, I bet. We always leave our listeners with one final message. Don’t be an asshole.

Carrie: Don’t be an asshole. All right. We have new patrons to thank for this one. Yeah.

Megan: Yay.

Carrie: Thank you, Jeanette Letreat, I think.

Megan: I’m so glad you’re the one that reads the names.

Carrie: Oh, I still think I manual that one. Thank you, Neil Goldfarb.

Megan: Yay.

Carrie: Thank you, Brendan Ray.

Megan: Yay. We really appreciate it. We really, really do. If you want to just celebrate Carrie. Patreon is a great way to do it.

Carrie: Yes. patreon.com/vocalfriespod. If you join us at the $5 a month level or above, you get bonus episodes.

Megan: It’s true. There’s so many and they’re fun.

Carrie: They are fun. Yeah.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: What did we talk about last time?

Megan: You talked to me about the courts or the judge using Corpus Linguistics to decide to lift mask mandates.

Carrie: Right. Yes.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: It was an interest, definitely interesting topic and also infuriating.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: If you enjoy interesting and infuriating conversations.

Megan: Yeah.

Carrie: If you’re listening to this, you probably do.

Megan: Right.

Carrie: The Vocal Fries podcast is produced by me. Carrie Gillen for Halftone audio, theme music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at Vocal Fries pod. You can email us at vocalfriespod@gmail.com and our website is vocalfriespod.com.


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