This is part 3 of the series-
Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
The Alter of Success
In the real world, society’s macro field is a culmination of the cultural capital becomes the status quo. In everything we see, these are norms and behaviours are reinforced. Whiteness and anything with proximity is good, and everything else is relegated to playing a subservient role.
Those with monetary resources to gain social connections fit in more readily into the existing habitus of success (swapping economic and social capital for cultural capital). For this exchange to happen, people may willfully deny the canon of colour either externally in overt expression of denial of worth or internally through a rejection of one’s roots.
Remember, the three capital and sources of power are interchangeable. If the colour of your cultural capital pot is too dark, not the correct type of complete, you either have to start a new barrel in exchange for either economic and social capital or accept that this society is not for them. This is where dissonance and separation occurs. Here, where students of colour start to exclude part of themselves to engage and or internalise the impact of racism.
‘To thine own self be true’
Polonius exclaims to his son, intending to advise Laertes on behaving at university in act 1 scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I will have to agree if ‘thine’ own self has not had to be battered and moulded in the accepted model.
The world, your teachers and those who are successful constantly tell students that “White knowledge is good, everyone else’s is bad”. Racism in its internalised form turns the victims of oppression (People of Colour) into the perpetrators of further injustice through a process is called defensive othering. Fanon takes this ever deeper and describes sub oppression in White Mask Black Mask. Remember, this exhibition of internalised racism comes straight from societal training. This is the habitus; these are the rules of the game.
Upon the altar of success, students of colour are forced to sacrifice their heritage and identity or their potential success.
The Habitus is Self Protecting and Propagating
Any habitus is self-replicating and self-propagating. Capoeira is a Brasilian martial art forged during the oppression of slavery. Due to the need for the secretive nature of training martial arts under enslavement, certain rules were developed to protect its practitioners (or players) from the ire of the authorities:
1. Capoeira is always played to music.
2. Players practice in a circle (Roda/Wheel).
3. The roda is entered by the berimbau.
4. The music dictates the pace and flow of the game.
5. When and if a chamada (call) is made, there are rules about the next engagement.
From Mestre Israel Costa (Capoeira Renascer, London)
Other than the above, the game is played in any way you’d like: cartwheels left and right, head spins, whatever you can conceive of as long the structure holds.
Over the last century, capoeira has evolved through various schools of thought, Regional, Angola, and contemporary. No matter what capoeiristas produce? It is always variations of the same brand. Like capoeira uses these norms of engagement, Bourdieu refers to these rules as Doxa, ensuring the habitus’ reproduces.
To Create is to be Human
Music, fine art, and dance have existed in every corner of the globe since the dawn of time. To create is to be human. People are excluded from ‘scholarship’ and the beauty of human endeavour because they lack the funds, knowledge of norms and connection. We have come full circle, back to Bourdieu’s three capitals.
Earlier I quoted Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet ‘To thine own self be true’, but you have to be exposed to the actual play to appreciate the nature of the speech. We have a man who is exclaiming the virtue of freedom that his son should live; he is a blatant hypocrite later spying and interfering in the lives of both of his children to the point that his daughter chooses suicide. All the while, his children see him as being an object of ridicule, as they are often seen standing out of his sightline mocking him through physical gestures.
When the social strata or any group are not able to appreciate the culture of art due to the lack of time, money or contacts. It becomes impossible to discuss and learn to understand the work of Rembrandt or Dickens. People not only miss out, but they are unlikely ever to be able to consume and engage.
How does one access any of these pots, never let alone exchange? There is no place for ‘us’, by ‘us’, nor your endeavours; your knowledge, the only thing left to do, is to create. Create your own. Alternative modern cultural capitals are formed in the stead, for example, graffiti instead of fine art, spoken word for poetry and rap (or in the UK grime) for classical music.
‘Cause each and every time you touch the spray paint can
Michelangelo’s soul controls your hand
Grandmaster Mellie Mel and the Furious Five. Cite track
The parallels between the cultural capitals are apparent. To engage in the appreciation of rap, you need to exchange time, money and social connections to learn the requisite knowledge.
‘Eric B. is President’
by Eric B. and Rakim 1986
For scores of people of that generation, that song was an anthem. We see a mix of rhymes, internal and multi-syllabic; Let’s look closer so you may appreciate through a basic knowledge of music.
I don’t bug out or chill or be acting ill
No tricks in ’86 it’s time to build
Rakim later drops this verse.
But he’s kicking it ’cause it aint no half stepping
The party is live, the rhyme cant be kept inside
It needs erupting just like a volcano
It aint everyday style or the same old rhyme.
Those of you who are confused about why I am showing you a relatively simple verse are likely missing the required cultural capital to access beauty. Rap consists of rhymes by also rhythms controlled by bars.
‘The party is live, the rhyme cant be kept inside’
Rakim crosses the bar line. The bar ends on the ‘in…’, and the ‘side’ is the next bar’s first beat. Now reread the line and tell me that it isn’t poetic, intelligent, now watch the song and beautifully actioned.
Iambic Pentameter and other rhythms make the base of rap and of literature. It is ironic that Shakespeare is revered for his rhyme and rhythm, but the Notorious BIG is not even recognised as an artist and wordsmith.
Hypnotise – Notorious BIG
Escargot, my car go one-sixty, swiftly (Come on)
Wreck it, buy a new one
Your crew run-run-run, your crew run-run
Notorious BIG accents the ES in escargot, this likely a reference to the Mercedes S Class (which had a speedo max of 160) which he destroyed that year. In the video, he is still using a cane from the injury. In the final line Mr Wallace creates a motive from the Crystal’s Da Doo Ron Ron (1963).
I could go on but the point here is not explain the art but to appreciate it has status with worth. To engage you need to exchange capital to inhabit those spaces. To appreciate Christopher Wallace’s or Rakim’s skill which may be some of ‘the best that has been thought or said’, there needs to be a level of understanding of hip-hop’s habitus. It is a must that you give one more chance at building a corresponding coloured pot of institutional cultural capital, albeit an alternative cultural institution but an institution all the same.
In the same way, in our world of whiteness, this cultural capital can be exchanged from social connections and investing time and money in to learn the norms. It seems OfSTED use and interpretation of Bourdieu’s cultural capital extend to all cultures, even those it appears to seek to diminish.
I am not suggesting we destroy the classics or anything that already exists in the curriculum. I am advocating for a shift in thinking when it comes to the curriculum. The denigration of alternative cultures’ capital is problematic, but more than that, it denies students the richness of global knowledge.
Do you appreciate knowledge and or is it solely the knowledge you’re trained to appreciate?
Fighting for your Right to ‘Habitate’ – Resistance, Rebellion and Removal
As a person of colour, the habitus can also hold you to stereotype, which negatively impacts you and the world around you. Any resistance is meet with
Chadwick Boseman when addressing a graduating class of his alma matter (Howard University) describes a interaction with the executive who had hired him.
“I decided to ask them some simple questions about the background of my character, questions that I felt were pertinent to the plot. Question number one, where’s my father?
“The exact answer he left when you were younger, of course.”
“Okay, question number two in the script alluded to my mother not being equipped to operate as a good parent, so why exactly would my little brother not have to go into foster care?”
“Matter of fact, we said, well, of course, she’s on heroin.”
“That would be real, I guess.”
“But I don’t want to assume that’s what it was. If we’re around here, assuming that the black characters in this show are criminals or drugs and dead beat parents, and that will probably be stereotypical, that word stereotypical. When one of the execs pulled out my resume and began studying it, the other exec was smart, trying to live up to what they had promised me only a few moments before.
If there’s anything you need, just let us know, she said. As you have seen, things move really fast around here. But we are more more than happy to connect you with the writers if you have suggestions. Yeah, I said that that would be great. I say because I’m just trying to do my homework on this. I didn’t I didn’t know if you guys had decided on all the facts, but maybe there are some things we could come up with, some talent or gift that we could build.
Maybe he’s really good at math or something. He has to be active. I’m doing my best not to play. This is acting like a victim.
I left the office and shot the episode. I come in to shoot on that day, probably the best one I did out of the three, because I got what was bothering me off my chest. I was let go from that job on the next day, a phone call from my agent. They decided to go another way yet.