Get Out: Beyond the Notion of “Acting White” – Schooling as Spirit Possession: Dismantling Interpretations of African American Student Success

Get Out: Beyond the Notion of “Acting White” – Schooling as Spirit Possession: Dismantling Interpretations of African American Student Success

Lawson Bush V (California State University, Los Angeles, USA), Edward C. Bush (Cosumnes River College, USA) and Amiri Mahnzili (California State University, Los Angeles, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1181-7.ch003

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors propose that education, which historically has been mainly under the jurisdiction of religious institutions and has been administered by spiritual leaders and attendants, is a sacred and spiritual transaction. Thus, churches and schools are equivalent and have the same spiritual obligation, which is to create in an individual a new spirit. Given the spiritual nature of education, we see the colonial schooling system as a conduit for spirit infusion that provides the opportunity for not only “acting White” but also for the possibility of becoming White by spirit possession. This line of thought leads to the main objective, which is to dismantle current notions of African American student success that is often positioned as going to or graduating from college rather than getting out of the schooling process altogether.
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Introduction

Jordan Peele’s (2017) horror film “Get Out” presents a gripping commentary on race relations through the eyes of Chris Washington, a Black photographer who spends a weekend meeting the family of his White girlfriend, Rose Armitage. The weekend builds up to an annual party thrown by the Armitage family. Unknown to Chris, the party is in actuality an auction for his body. The Armitages developed the coagula procedure that implants the consciousness, mind, and spirit of a being into the body of another. The family’s coagula, or possession process, involved (a) hypnosis, or putting the subject to sleep (Rose’s mother, Missy, is a psychiatrist and proficient in hypnosis); (b) psychological prep, or pre-op, which allows for the vessel to meet the individual who will be occupying the body; and (c) the actual operation in which consciousness is placed into the vessel to complete the possession process.

While at the party, Chris meets Logan, the only other Black man who is attending the party. Under normal circumstances, seeing another Black face in an all-White environment provides a sense of relief; however, in this case, Logan adds to Chris’s growing sense of paranoia. During their first interaction, Chris expresses the comfort he feels by Logan’s presence. As Logan’s White wife introduces herself to Chris, Logan informs her that Chris expressed the comfort he felt by not being the only Black man at the party. Then, Chris is asked whether being Black in the 21st century is an advantage or a disadvantage. In an attempt to avoid answering the question, Chris tries to pass the question off to Logan, who contrives a response that is so bizarre that Chris thought that no Black man in his right mind could formulate such an answer. In fact, Logan’s response is so unusual that Chris attempts to record him, but the flash from the camera sends Logan into a crazed state and he shouts to Chris to GET OUT! At that moment, Chris thinks that Logan is attacking him, when, in reality, Logan is one of the Armitage’s body-possession victims and was trying to save Chris’s life by offering the only advise that could save his life: GET OUT!

In this paper, we demystify both the esoteric role of education, in general, and the specific function of schooling under the control of colonial powers to move beyond the common critiques of schooling seen in the literature. We propose that education, which historically has been mainly under the jurisdiction of religious institutions and has been administered by spiritual leaders and attendants, is a sacred and spiritual transaction. Thus, in our view, churches and schools are equivalent and have the same spiritual obligation and function, which is to create in an individual a new spirit. Given the spiritual nature of education, we see the colonial schooling system as a mechanism or conduit for spirit infusion that provides the opportunity for not only “acting White” but also for the possibility of becoming White by spirit possession. This line of thought leads to the main objective of the current work, which is to recalibrate, if not dismantle, current notions of African American student success that are often defined or positioned as going to graduating from college.

Our work is informed by various aspects of African American Male Theory (AAMT) (Bush & Bush, 2013a, 2013b) that push our thinking beyond conventional ways of framing African American student success. Specifically, one of the tenets of the theory is that all forms of resistance and opposition demonstrated by African American boys and men in society and schools, such as “sagging” and the use of nonmainstream language, are strengths. Moreover, AAMT calls into question the very notion of resistance and opposition by arguing that a significant amount of what we label as such is a natural and collective way of being and a continuation of African culture and persona that colonial systems and institutions are in opposition to and resist. This nondeficit perspective, coupled with the theory’s ecological systems approach, which includes accounting for the supernatural and collective unconscious, provides us with the tools needed to explore the spiritual dynamics of education and teaching, which provide the foundation to reconstruct notions of African American student success.

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