Sunday, December 4, 2016

at the window, looking out and in

Nov 24, 2016

At the top of the darkened auditorium yesterday, I knelt during the national anthem at the assembly.  Eye-level with my son, I saw the world from his perspective for a minute. He doesn’t know the irony of that song yet, and was trying to sing along.  I am trying to see this year as anything other than the beginning of the end.  It’s certainly not the beginning:  the state has been profiting from genocide for centuries, but it feels like death wins in 2016.  Our elders are leaving us. 

I was neither shocked nor surprised at the election results.  It’s taken me weeks to write about it, precisely because I knew all along that the worst case scenario was possible, and is in fact becoming our reality in January.   They’ve been coming up with new ways to win for as long as race was invented, for as long as there’ve been elections.  It hasn’t been this transparent in my lifetime, because billions of dollars has been invested in colorblinding our laws, but the racial and class divide is clearer than ever in America.  

Teaching has not become my occupation by accident.  As an activist, teaching becomes my way to consistently engage with youth, continue the 2nd hour of a 2 hour conversation, to quote Suz Dion.  I believe in our youth and what you are teaching us.  We teach you to resist, to know your history, to advocate, connect and celebrate.  Use your voice.  But you teach me so much about hope, resilience, growing despite all circumstances, connections across difference, and a pedagogy rooted in love. 

My job right now is to know my privilege, use it to bring the race conversation, the DAPL conversation to light.  Talk fracking and climate change, gardening and sustainable life skills for students, whenever, wherever, even if people aren’t listening to me. Listen instead of centering myself.  I am not at home in Michigan, so this is my dinner table conversation.  

I have been quiet about the election results because I knew the depths of racial hatred in the U.S., but didn’t expect it to prevail.  I thought maybe we had learned history’s lesson.  Listened to the Holocaust, watched Palestine, listened to Rwanda, watched Sarajevo.  Listened to Wounded Knee, watched Standing Rock.

But when they come for the Muslims, we will resist.
When they come for the queer, we will resist.
When they come for the Latinx, we will build a wall
of gratitude over theirs, ivy of blessings.
It is me, I am the enemy.
Where are we?

I am thoroughly depressed at the stagnation of humanity, but trying to wake up everyday and take one step.   I am struggling with being a parent right now.  I am wondering about the day people realize they’ve been had, again.  Meanwhile, this hatred is creating ISIS breeding grounds, this unabashed disgust of difference hurts my sensitive soul and genuine desire to see the good in people.  Hundreds of hate crimes, hijabs as red targets, police brutality increasing, tension running terribly high because we don’t want to know the enemy.  We are the enemy.  We create the fear, the violence, the terror and self-inflict our rage.

I am grateful to know that the shapeshifting enemy is more like you and me than they want us to realize.  Tower of babel, separating us by language and nation, color and creed, sexuality and gender.  Why do we let them divide us again?  Where is the together place? 

I ask not to forget the past, but to look into it, into the pain, and be there.  This is what we must reckon with, white America.  See the brutality of what we did and continue to do.   See how our disconnect as white folks lets the brunt of the labor still be borne by the backs who made us rich.  Become true allies to our sisters and brothers who do not reap the privileges we do, by listening to them, protecting them, centering their stories, ideas, actions and providing monetary and moral support wherever we can. 

To my students: What do we do?  This is your time to take the stage and shake your fist at all the mess we have left you.  I am here to guide and support you in getting the resources you need.   We cannot move forward without you, and need your ideas, your spirit, your determination and heart to guide us. 

I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  I have withdrawn in many ways, am reading, writing, listening.  Trying to share the eloquent words of dream hampton, adrienne maree brown, grace lee boggs, shaun king, morrison, baldwin, freire, thinkers and activists I admire, when I have no words to offer. Organizing a speak out, letting my youth take the reins, so that we may move together toward the other world of hope, that is still, always, possible, but feels farther and farther away.   


Unknown said...

This is a beautiful post! I am currently a SEC MAC student at U of M. I am very interested in social justice pedagogy and am hearten to know that there is already an alum out there doing the good work. Thank you for teaching with your mind and your heart!

Have you found a particular assignment that incorporates technology to help students make the connections and take the lead? I am asking because I feel that the modern movements are not only being fought in the streets but also on the Web. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reading, Zachary! I use a lot of hip hop in my classroom, so I definitely use video, audio and for lyrics as we review the way that art reflects our culture, specifically as youth in the Bronx, where hip hop started. We use a couple of the ICS sites that Jeff Stanzler and U of M folks work on, and those are great for engaging kids. I also have used my blog to engage students with the literature we're reading before, as well as comic generators, tumblr, google classroom and pretty much any technology I can.

Right now we're preparing a student speak out for January, in which we're asking students to submit writing about their vision for this country's future and giving them the space to build with each other... so yes, I think that much of organizing and communicating about actions can and should happen online, because the audience you can reach is amplified, but I still believe in the power of getting the community together to determine for itself what actions we must take in order to safeguard our lives, our education, our rights.

Be well and good luck with your finals this semester! -Lauren