Harmonious Beginnings MTS

Considering Religion and Resistance

Date:                   June 23, 2020

Bibliographical Information:

Nguyen, Martin (2020) “Naming Resistance and Religion in the Teaching of Race and White Supremacy: A Pedagogy of Counter-Signification for Black Lives Matter,” Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice: Vol. 4 : No. 3 , Article 1.
Available at: https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/rpj/vol4/iss3/1

Article Summary:

In the article, Naming Resistance and Religion in the Teaching of Race and White Supremacy, Martin Nguyen discusses the relationship between religion and the Black Lives Matter movement. He discusses the concept of Signification and Counter-Signification, and the importance of naming specific terms and phrases that carry nuanced meaning for various groups of people. The term signification refers to “the ways through which a dominant group subjugates, denigrates and/or marginalizes another group” (p4). It is an eye-opening concept that lays out the tactics used by a dominant group in society to avoid the topic of inequality, steering discussion in another direction and preserving the system that supports their dominant position along with all the privileges. Colin Kaepernick’s protest by kneeling is great example sighted in the article. Critics of Kaepernick’s actions did not want to talk about the injustice done to Black members of society, but rather turned it into a debate about his patriotism. The bulk of the article covers the issue of religion and how it plays a role in white supremacy and the Black Lives Matter movement. Specifically, the connection of white supremacy to Christian supremacy and the implication that Christian equals American. Malcom X, like many of the forefathers in the fight against racial inequality, used the Nation of Islam as the counter-signifier to the white slave master religion of Christianity (p11). Their strength and pride came with a strong Islamic identity and helped to define their path of resistance against racial injustice.

Reflection on the State of the Content:

I was particularly interested in the religious aspect of this article because I struggle with the religious content in music. How do you keep God and state separate in a music class that studies composers whose compositions were based in their religion? As I search for Hip Hop music that is appropriate for a classroom, I find music that is riddled with swearing, gang violence and sexist imagery, but the alternative is Christian Hip Hop, which is another topic I feel is important to steer clear of in a public school. As I consider these ideas broached in the article about religion and its importance in the message of racial equality, I see that maybe religion is a topic I can cover with care and bring a more academic discussion of the roles religion plays in the creation of music. I also found the concept of signification and counter-signification an important distinction to make when discussing the topic; one that will help me to define the issues and discuss them thoroughly. After all, naming the terms and phrases that need to come to light in the era of Black Lives Matter is only half the task- if we don’t discuss them honestly and thoroughly, naming is only an empty gesture. 

2 Comments

  1. blog3009 says:

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    • Lisa Friedrich says:

      Thanks for the feedback! I think it’s an important conversation to have when we teach music and we can find inclusive ways to talk about the subject with our students. Thanks for reading!

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