Though we did not conclude our discussion on alternative epistemologies, the last point made during the class discussion really made me think. I agree with Mills’ perspective that traditional epistemologies are based on a universal subject/observer that can be characterized by the “superior” group of society; white males. This creates a very narrow understanding and perspective on knowledge. If we examine traditional school curriculum and what is taught in the majority of schools, it is very much so limited to what has been canonized or deemed important by the superior group of society. With this, so many perspectives have been ignored or labeled not important or irrelevant. Not until alternative epistemologies are accepted and seen as credible will other perspectives be respected. No single viewpoint can be generalized as the experience of all people. This is true within social groups as is most definitely true across groups. I personally think that it is ridiculous that in order to study “black history” or to read “black literature” there have to be separate classes labeled “African American History” or “African American Literature”. This is true of contributions made by other minority groups. This to me is saying that these perspectives are so unique and unrelated to society that they must be studied separately from all other literature and history.
While I think that the fact that courses similar to these are offered in schools is a sign of advancement in itself, I would be surprised to see the day when minority authored literature is merged with “American literature” or canonized. If you look back at history books that claim to document American history, you will see that minority groups and their contributions have been traditionally ignored. While recognizing alternative epistemologies exist is a necessary step, the way of thinking of these perspectives as “alternative” to the norm will assure that they continue to be separate and the option of ignoring it will remain on the table.
In our society it is not too much of a stretch to consider the white perspective as the perspective and experience for society as a whole, but a minority perspective will never be generalized. It will always be the alternative to the norm. An interesting point was made during the class discussion that oppressed groups have a broader epistemology than that of the dominant group. I wonder what can be achieved by combining these truths rather than seeing one as the norm and the other as an alternative. And with that I would ask how likely the dominant group is to see the oppressed groups truths as actual truth, rather than an exception or alternative perspective to its own truth?