A few days ago I shared a clip from an interview with Jacques Derrida (see here). He is asked to define deconstruction which he is hesitant to do but he does produce this amazing line: Deconstruction is, in part, “to not naturalize what isn’t natural–to not assume that what is conditioned by history, institutions, or society is natural.” This has stayed with me because I think there is value in healthy skepticism.
Derrida was an Algerian Jew who experienced the antisemitic policies of the Vichy government of France. He knew that too often society thinks unnatural things are natural because we are conditioned to believe it. We are hopeless to escape corrupt behaviors within our circle of existence unless we are willing to examine with a critical eye.
Today we honor Rosa Parks who put this theory into action in her own context. Our society said there is a place for people of black skin and a place for people of white skin. When it came to the space called a “bus” whites were preferred with seating close to the front; blacks had to sit in the back. Parks defied this by refusing to command: “go to the back of the bus”. In doing this she began a deconstruction of some of our most ignorant assumptions as a society–namely, that your worth or value somehow corresponds to the color of your skin.
Deconstructing social evils is difficult, but necessary. Sometimes it takes time for us to realize we are participating in a social evil. Sometimes it takes something drastic to show others that they are doing wrong. It is always worth it though. Let us remember not to naturalize what is not natural…an the so-called “superiority” of one ethnicity over another is one of those things that is not natural.
See also: Justin Taylor, “55 Years Ago Today“