Diversity & Media

Spivak and the Subaltern: Youtube Video Points out Hypocrisy

From what I gathered about Spivak’s arguments regarding the subaltern, she is investigating the ways in which Western, dominant identities observe and then reach (often prejudice, racist) conclusions about groups that are deemed “other.” She seemed most interested in the fact that the dominant group finds a way to speak over the subaltern about their experiences/observations, rather than amplify the subaltern’s voice.
I think this is something we often see in “liberal” communities. In the video below, the interviewer goes to UC Berkeley’s campus and asked white students what their thoughts on voter ID laws are. Then, the interview goes to Harlem, where they ask actual black people their thoughts. The overwhelming majority of Berkeley students thought that voter ID laws were racist. But their reasons for thinking the laws were racist, were themselves founded in racist ideas about black people. The students suggest that black people don’t have IDs, or don’t know how to obtain one. Some even suggest that black people don’t know how to find a Secretary of State. In the Harlem portion of the video, this is blatantly pointed out when all of the black people explain they have an ID, would know how to get one if they didn’t, and are well aware of where the Secretary of State is. Though this video isn’t one where the privileged group is speaking over the subaltern, perse, the video proves Spivak’s argument that the dominant group tends to run with assumptions they’ve made about the subaltern (assumptions that are founded in dominant ideological understandings of “other”), and ran with them. Even when the subaltern can easily point out the false nature of their claims.



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