Five Words From … White Supremacy is All Around by Dr. Akilah Cadet

Welcome to the latest installment of “Five words from …” our series which highlights interesting words from interesting books!
Cover showing a Black woman in a long striped skirt, using a cane

In White Supremacy is All Around: Notes from a Black Disabled Woman in a White World, Dr. Akilah Cadet shares her life and teachings to show the shadow structures in the United States (and beyond) that continue to give white, non-disabled, cis people advantages at the cost of others. Embracing the adage “when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression,” she provides an actionable framework to label and dismantle white supremacy.

“An accomplice is someone who uses their privilege to dismantle racism, oppression, and white supremacy … An accomplice uses their privilege as a road map to know how to show up for others. They are unafraid of what their fellow white peers will say as they embrace being the odd one out.”

Dr. Cadet illustrates the difference between an accomplice and an ally. For her, being an ally is a fair-weather state of being. An accomplice is the person creating daily habits and actions to call out oppression, with or without self-promotion.

“A term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality means the inner sections of our identities, who and what we are.”

“Where ethnicity, class, gender, and characteristics intersect.”

Depending on the situation, a white woman can choose to be seen as white or a woman. Being a Black, disabled woman, Dr. Cadet’s experiences are shaped by being unable to separate these identities; she is not given the opportunity to self-label when living in white dominant culture.

For more on intersectionality, see Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality and Intersectionality, explained: meet Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term.

“The intent was not to harm but the outcome was just that.”
“‘That wasn’t my intent’ is an excuse to not do what you said you would do or evade accountability for harm or impact.”

When someone says something that offends another person, Dr. Cadet explains that the speaker’s intent may not have been to harm—but if it did, the speaker still needs to acknowledge accountability for unknowingly causing harm. When speakers refuse to recognize the impact of their words, it may be a way for them to hide behind bias and miss an opportunity to be an accomplice.

white centering
“When white people change the narrative of the story, situation, and harm caused to them–not the BIPOC person.”

Dr. Cadet meets a white woman who openly says the N-word during a presentation on the wine industry. Though Dr. Cadet asks her not to use it, the white woman still does. When confronted about it later, the white lady called the situation a “deeply emotional experience for me,” negating the experience and emotions of Dr. Cadet and instead placing herself and her feelings as the center of the story.

white supremacy
“White supremacy is a structure, system, process, policy approach, benefit and VIP club only for white people. It is the overt and covert racism that Black people experience, the feeling white people have of being superior and feeling like the best. Simultaneously, it is the feeling of resistance when being held accountable.”

Dr. Cadet acknowledges that people born into white privilege can have difficulty seeing and stepping away from it. No one loves the feeling of realizing they may have been wrong about something, or had advantages they weren’t fully aware of; Dr. Cadet stresses that the ability to learn and unlearn personal and systemic bias is key for those with various forms of privilege.

Got a book you’d like to see given the “five words from” treatment? Nominate it through this form, or email us!

The Audio Cyclopedia

vacuum tube schematicI used to work at the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography, in a basement office within sight of where Alvin was built. The basement held another, less-heralded marvel: the free table. Whenever a lab was overhauled or a grad student moved on, they’d cull their detritus and dump it on the free table. Part of the pinko ethos that infects academia, no doubt, but a wonderful thing.

Usual fare ran toward outdated WordPerfect manuals, but you would sometimes find a collection of neatly piled Pyrex labware with a note saying “slightly contaminated.” Or a broken oscilloscope. Or five cartons of Hollerith cards. Pretty great to a technostalgic pack rat.

I especially loved finding specialized reference books. They’re usually de facto dictionaries, but the words are in situ, being put to good use as they’re being defined. One of my favorite free table gimmes was just such a book: The Audio Cyclopedia*, by Howard M. Tremaine. Probably bought in the seventies by someone working on sonar or recording whale songs, it’s a 1,700 page compendium of recording technology, in excruciating detail and with a weird Jeopardy! pose-everything-as-a-question prose style.

It is an absolutely tremendous source of of technicalese and audio industry terms of art, so yesterday I finally started a list I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time: Audio Argot, inspired by the Audio Cyclopedia. Please contribute, it’s an open list. Anything audio related fits the bill, I think—words needn’t come specifically from the Cyclopedia, but for those that do I’ll add a citation. Here’s the list.

* It seems to still be in demand. My scavenged copy is the 2nd edition, first published in 1969; the first edition was published in 1959 and it is not cheap.

Books split over the new year

Can you find the will to finish reading a book if doing so would carry the undertaking across the changing of the year? Some people can’t. PossibleUnderscore writes, “When reading a book, I cannot read it from the end of December into the New Year. I can’t read it over the transition of the years. I feel it tears the book in two so that it is, effectively, hanging in oblivion, not having been read in either time. To me, it’s a disorder that must be avoided at ALL costs.”

So today’s list of the day is “Books torn asunder by New Year’s Eve.”

Wordnik word of the day: frisket

Today’s word of the day is frisket. We chose it because it’s fun to say, even though the meaning is a bit of printer’s jargon. It rhymes with biscuit and brisket. The Century Dictionary defines frisket as “a thin framework of iron hinged to the top of the tympan of a hand-press. For use, a sheet of paper is stretched and pasted over the frisket, and from this paper spaces are cut out to permit contact between the type and the sheet to be printed, which it serves to hold in place when the frisket is folded down upon the tympan, and to keep clean in the parts not printed.” If you want to learn more about old-fashioned printing, we recommend Practical Printing: A Handbook of the Art of Typography by John Southward.

A galley press.Image from Practical Printing: A Handbook of the Art of Typography by John Southward.