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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: December 30, 1998
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recent Hockenberry and Codes

Hockenberry and Codes of Silence

Hockenberry's Moving Violations. Story of his life as a quadraplegic from the age of 19, following a car accident. His is the example I chose to use in the old course on Oppression and Revolution about the discrimination, institutional as well as personal, against those with disabilities. He is a journalist and tells a good story.

Specifically, he speaks of how those who belong to any identifiable group (of color or of disability or of gender or of age) share an understanding of how the outside world treats them. They have developed codes that embody the "rules" or "expectations" they have of how others will treat them. But they regard outsiders as hostile, and so they do not share these codes with them. Instead, they watch and wait until the outsider meets these "expectations," and then confirm that that proves he/she is an outsider.

We all do this. Consider the hooker who believes all men are "tricks." Ultimately the male will do something on the "code of expectations" and the hooker will confirm, "See, all men are tricks." Women do this with men. "He's a man. What can you expect?" Men do this with women. "She's a woman. What can you expect?" All groups have such codes.

Hockenberry deplores the non-sharing of codes, suggesting that this contributes to stereotyping and discrimination. Only by sharing our perceptions can we remove the adversarial affect of members vs. non-members.