By Dr. T
The Crooked Room is a sociological concept that is summarized in the following description:
“In one study, subjects were placed in a crooked chair in a crooked room and then asked to align themselves vertically. Some perceived themselves as straight only in relation to their surroundings. To researchers’ surprise, some people could be tilted as much as 35 degrees and report that they were perfectly straight, simply because they were aligned with images that were equally tilted. But not everyone did this: some managed to get themselves more or less upright regardless of how crooked the surrounding images were…”
Professor Melissa Harris Perry uses this theory as the central focus of her book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, where she explores the particular epistemology Black women face in “white spaces.” Dr. Perry interrogates the uniquely complex identity of race, sex and gender identity that these women of color face. When Black women are confronted with race and gender stereotypes, they are standing in a “crooked room”, and they have to figure out which way is up. When they find themselves being inundated with warped and distorted images of their humanity, some Black women tilt and contort themselves in order to “fit” the distortion rather than stand up straight in a space that is extremely disorienting and uncomfortable. The citizenry of the United States of America is currently being confronted with an alarmingly similar situation as we begin to acclimate ourselves to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and the subsequent transition process that is happening before our eyes.
What was once deemed as common decency, decorum and the highest standards of knowledge and political discourse were completely discounted during this presidential campaign. A complete lack of all the aforementioned seemed to get mass affirmation rather than condemnation. Crude and low-class name calling were applauded, and lack of any fundamental knowledge or veracity on the topics raised or areas wherein the people should expect their leaders to be well versed and on top of the subject were dismissed as irrelevant. Celebrity and entertainment became a powerful aphrodisiac and the electorate was whipped up into a powerful frenzy wherein the cult of personality won the day and the rhetoric of dissension, outrage and racial animus, fear and tribalism prevailed. It was definitely NOT politics “as usual” and to many onlookers, it seemed to absolutely dismantle the American democratic standard of fair play, high morality, and the exceptionalism that this Democracy decries throughout the civilized world.
Now we find ourselves in the crooked room trying to stand up straight. Everything in the room is tilted and the images we see all around us are not only incomprehensible to us and distorted beyond the imagination, but in spite of it all, in that CROOKED Room we are trying to make ourselves “Fit In.” The images we see and the personalities we now face are redefining America’s basic nature and completely deconstructing her character and belief systems exposing an ugly nostalgia squarely putting us in the past. This is NOT normal but rather, a culture that belies our senses and undermines ALL of the things we stand for as Americans and make America the great nation we’ve known her to be. It is an act of both patriotism and extreme courage to Stand Up Straight in that crooked room, as many try to make you believe that the room is straight, the room is normal, and the room is nothing to be opposed to but rather to embrace. No matter how many times they say, “It’s NOT a crooked room! ” and “Why not give him a chance?” We will continue to push back against this “normalization.” Because, by any measure, this year’s presidential win and the problematic cast of unsavory characters gathered round the president-elect are NOT “Normal!” #ThisIsNotNormal, and everyday we will keep making that fact known.