Today, I write about E. Christi Cunningham, a Howard University law professor and associate assistant secretary for regulatory affairs at the Department of Labor. Cunningham appears not to have noticed that the United States has a black president, a black attorney general, and a female secretary of state, and stands in diametric opposition to the message of President Obama’s 2008 speech on race, when he claimed it was wrong to conceive America as being “irrevocably bound to a tragic past.” In short, Cunningham is the Department of Labor’s Derrick Bell. Her writing is destructive, divisive, and unhelpful. It’s also rather silly. A few examples of her musings:
First, from the spectacularly titled, “Preserving Normal Heterosexual Male Fantasy: The ‘Severe or Pervasive’ Missed-Interpretation of Sexual Harassment in the Absence of a Tangible Job Consequence,” these nuggets of wisdom:
The courts’ failure to address many forms of sexual harassment is a result of a judicial proximity analysis which limits the reach of the statute to conduct that is outside of a fantasized zone of normal (white) heterosexual male conduct. Thus, the scope of current sex discrimination law is a function of the degree to which the sex discrimination is essential to the ordinary exercise of power underlying the male heterosexual fantasy.
This being that, and that being this,
fantasy means reverie, that which is imaginary, illusory, or, at the very least, subjective. The definition of sex as fantasy demystifies the centrality of illusions of maleness, masculinity, and hetero-patriarchy in sex equality equations. That which is male, masculine, or heterosexual is not only dethroned from the seat of normality by the definition of sex as fantasy, it is disrobed of the veil of objectivity.
Cunningham piqued my interest when she said this during the National Action Network’s conference in Washington, D.C., on April 11:
We need to deal with the criminalization of people of color. . . . Somebody needs to come out and just say this comes from slavery. Nobody wants to talk about that any more. It was never repaired. We can’t forget about it. It’s not just black people, it’s Native Americans, it’s the immigrant population, some immigration population. . . . You have to repair the thing. . . . Here’s where I’m going to get in trouble. We have to step out of this cycle of abuse and stop wondering why we keep finding ourselves in the same situation. We are not in a post-racial world. But we have to imagine. We have to imagine what the world looks like if it’s not directed by the system, the paradigm that slavery created. Slavery created this racial paradigm. We have been living in this racial paradigm, this color paradigm. Is this all we have to work with? Is there nothing else that we can imagine?