“Stage theory… Is BS?” — pt. 11

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.


Bateson’s “Stage theory… Is colonial BS” critique hits target

I didn’t mention a couple of things two weeks ago when we first began talking about ….

 . .

Why such a fuss?

It’s more important now than ever for us to focus on the reality that — until only very recently — White supremacist ideology was foundational/central to American identity… primary, prominent, proud, and publicly pronounced — and, now, again (1/6/21).

For many of us, it is likely somewhat shocking that, — a mere one hundred years ago (in a 1921 essay), — Franz Boas, the ‘Father of American Anthropology,’ talked about miscegenation in terms of the “lightening” of America. We can’t allow that shock to obscure our perception and hinder our discernment. Boas’s position exposed the modernist stadial/colonial epistemology unconsciously operational even in him. We immediately notice that no part of Boas’s plan included any ‘darkening’ of America.



Radical (racial) deconstruction

Two weeks ago I included a brief clip from the Warren Beatty film, Bulworth. In the clip, Jay Bulworth integrates both movements, i.e., lightening and darkening, to procreatively erase skin-based difference.

Boas’s proposal of miscegenation was to lighten dark Americans. At the same time, the KKK was already busy leveraging White supremacist fears of inter-racial marriage and the resulting American “mongrelization” (a White supremacist stadial perspective). —note, “inter-racial” marriage was not finally legalized in all the states until a 1967 SCOTUS ruling

Sadly, recent nativist rhetoric has aroused a latent American identity that is very vulnerable to the manipulation of cynical politicians and political technologies. 

Magic mirror: A Rap On Race



Last week, thanks to Mark Anderson’s book, From Boas to Black Power, we eavesdropped on a conversation that surfaced a very vulnerable historical moment for American identity in the post-civil rights era. The 1970 conversation between Margaret Mead and James Baldwin surfaced a rift in the way Americans perceive American identity that broke along color lines.

Anderson’s Prologue discusses the deep gap between their perspectives. For Baldwin, “…it is not the color of the skin that matters, it is the custom of the country.” In other words, the “color line” made the White station the key. That didn’t mean, though, that Baldwin discounted the ultimate place of anti-Blackness in American White identity.

In Anderson’s telling, Baldwin doesn’t mention the US internment of Japanese people during WW II, let alone our colonial occupation and genocide of indigenous Americans — although, actually, in one remark Baldwin even seems cruelly insensitive to indigenous Americans.  

For Baldwin, Blackness is the (inferior) foil against which American White (anti-Black, or superior) identity is formed.

The stark division we find in the post-civil rights moment has never been reconciled. Now, politicians are cynically leveraging the fracture in American perception regarding our core identity. Things like January 6, 2021, surely don’t happen in a vacuum. 



Life Conditions

A WAMU radio program, 1A, did an episode last week (11/10/21) entitled:Why Schools Are The Next Frontier In America’s Culture Wars.” The conversation revealed some reasons why CRT has become a hyper-proxy for parental concern/outrage.

When asked for an example of a historical conflict on race and class issues in schools, author Natalia Mehlman Petrzela recalled a 1970s program that was a curriculum called, “Man: A Course of Study.” 

“This was a social studies approach — as opposed to a linear historical approach — that, notably, looked to non-Western cultures, and even to the animal kingdom, as a way for American school children to gain insight into their own culture.” [ —clearly an application of Boas and Co.’s work.]

—It touched off a firestorm much like the one we’re seeing today: fears that “this will divide America and make white children feel guilty/hate America.”—

Petrzela continues,

“…the crux of the program was to realize the idea that American culture, American White culture is not naturally superior.”



So, actually applying Boas’s proto-form of antiracism to education in the early 1970s created a firestorm and led to a call for a return to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. In other words, the question raised by Baldwin and Mead’s discussion was swept under the rug and abandoned — unaddressed and unreconciled, thus leaving education with a largely sanitized version of American history.

Until DJT/MAGA and George Floyd, the unreconciled rift remained (mostly quietly) under the rug.

Sadly, especially with respect to race discourse in America, our polarized, post-truth [P-T], and political technologies [PT] context renders our democratic system itself very vulnerable. 



Developmental stadial theory [DST] is the fruit of a modernist mindset that centered the idea of a “naturally occurring” White supremacy.
In terms of modernist DST thought, White Western culture crowns human reality, with other cultures ranking below somewhere on a linear ladder that leads ‘up’ from savage/non-human. This is the undeniable core of stadial theory. 
Ignoring problematic racial notions seems finished. So, it is crucial that we unflinchingly lift up the rug and deal with the legacy trauma and artifacts of White supremacist ideology in America. 


Next week: “‘Stage theory… Is BS?’ — pt. 12.” Come and see. 

[this post ~850 words (~3 min. read)]

Your thoughts? 

What did you hear me say?


New non-stadial graphics:


2 thoughts on ““Stage theory… Is BS?” — pt. 11

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