Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 1996 Issue »

    Cornel West on Heterosexism and Transformation

    An Interview

    HER Board
    In the fall of 1995, deep in the midst of shaping and developing this Special Issue, several Harvard Educational Review Editorial Board members had the opportunity to hear philosopher and scholar Dr. Cornel West speak at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. They enthusiastically reported back to us that in his talk, West, who is Professor of Afro-American Studies and of the Philosophy of Religion at Harvard, drew explicit and repeated connections between White supremacy, patriarchy, and heterosexism. At the time, we were searching for an article that would illuminate the deep ties between different forms of oppression in the United States. We envisioned an article that would serve as a bridge from the diverse topics represented within this Special Issue to broad systems of power, privilege, and domination. Inspired by Dr. West's articulation of the above issues, as well as by his focus on democratic struggles for liberation, we asked him if he would be willing to be interviewed for our Special Issue.

    Dr. West agreed, but he expressed concern that, as a heterosexual, he not displace "any of the gay, lesbian, or transgender voices." He went on to say:

    For me it is a privilege and really a blessing to be part of the issue, because the issue that you're raising is very important. But as you know, it's important as well that one not come in from the outside, as it were. It is important not to push aside any of the voices that come from inside of the movement itself.

    It was precisely his respectful concern that compelled us to request an interview with Dr. West. In addition, we found it very powerful, particularly in light of our largely heterosexual readership, that a heterosexual activist and scholar would repeatedly take a strong position against heterosexism. When cast in a way that made clear that this was an opportunity to reach out to other heterosexuals and say to them, "If you're serious about being a democrat or a radical, then this piece of our struggle is essential," West readily agreed to participate.

    In this interview with HER Editorial Board members Vitka Eisen and Mary Kenyatta, Cornel West offers a vision of a democratic struggle that is inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. He places heterosexism within the context of capitalism, establishing connections to other forms of oppression. He also reminds us that, as democratic educators, we continually have to examine the ways in which we may internalize, and therefore perpetuate, patriarchy and homophobia in our lives and our teaching. West shares some of his personal struggle facing his own homophobia, and he emphasizes the importance of so-called straight people joining their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the effort to dismantle heterosexism and other systems of oppression.
    (pp. 356-367)

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    Summer 1996 Issue


    By Vitka Eisen and Irene Hall
    Youth Voices
    Stone Butch Celebration
    A Transgender-Inspired Revolution in Academia
    By Wendy Ormiston
    Negotiating Legacies
    Audre Lorde, W. E. B. DuBois, Marlon Riggs, and Me
    By Townsand Price-Spratlen
    A Gay-Themed Lesson in an Ethnic Literature Curriculum
    Tenth Graders' Responses to "Dear Anita"
    By Steven Z. Athanases
    What Difference Does It Make? The Story of a Lesbian Teacher
    By Carla Washburne Rensenbrink
    Toward a Most Thorough Understanding of the World
    Sexual Orientation and Early Childhood Education
    By Virginia Casper, Harriet K. Cuffaro, Steven Schultz, Jonathan G. Silin, and Elaine Wickens
    Race and Sexual Orientation
    The (Im)possibility of These Intersections in Educational Policy
    By Kathryn Snider
    How We Find Ourselves
    Identity Development and Two Spirit People
    By Alex Wilson
    Manly Men and Womanly Women
    Deviance, Gender Role Polarization, and the Shift in Women's School Employment, 1900-1976
    By Jackie M. Blount
    Researching Dissident Subjectivities
    Queering the Grounds of Theory and Practice
    By Kenn Gardner Honeychurch
    Cornel West on Heterosexism and Transformation
    An Interview
    HER Board

    Book Notes

    Open Lives, Safe Schools
    Edited by Donovan R. Walling

    Uncommon Heroes
    Edited by Phillip Sherman and Samuel Bernstein

    Free Your Mind
    By Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman.

    Becoming Visible
    Edited by Kevin Jennings

    Death By Denial
    By Gary Remafedi

    Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?
    By Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.

    One Teacher in Ten
    By Kevin Jennings

    The Gay Teen
    Edited by Gerald Unks

    Tilting the Tower
    Edited by Linda Garber

    School's Out
    by Dan Woog

    The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader
    Edited by Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin

    Joining the Tribe
    By Linnea Due

    How Would You Feel If Your Dad Was Gay?
    By Ann Heron and Meredith Maran; illustrated by Kris Kovick.

    Helping Gay and Lesbian Youth
    Edited by Teresa DeCrescenzo

    Call 1-800-513-0763 to order this issue.