Thursday, September 28, 2023

class... and caste

I told my favorite class that they were my favorite class today. They have such wonderful insights and analyses so I spend a lot of time when I'm not actively prepping class talking to them in my head and thinking up ancillary material they would appreciate.

For instance, today we read the late, great Kamilah Aisha Moon's poem "Fannie Lou Hamer"  and it really resonated--especially with the education majors who were reminded of all the ongoing school book bans where it seems like people believe racism will go away if we don't talk about it. 

At my PWI, I've always tried to offer different subject positions so people don't defensively feel locked into positions of white supremacy. Whiteness doesn't preclude people from being on the side of justice... You can be anti-racist... you can be Victoria Liuzzo! You can be John Brown!* I got to try that out for myself today while listening to news of the California caste ban. The first part of the show has the amazing Thenmozhi Soundarajan (whose book I should finish soon), and there are defensive protesters in latter half of the segment claiming the legislation isn't needed because caste doesn't exist anymore. (Eyeroll.) And I checked in with myself, and no--I felt no solidarity with the "high-caste" woman who was making that argument; my solidarity is with the people fighting for justice and that's as it ought to be.

Pic: Huck and Max are confused about race. Huck says, "I'm brown like Mama." Max says, "Wait! I thought we were ginger like Dada?"

*Perhaps I should find some examples of people who weren't martyred though.

7 comments:

Sarah said...

Oh that POEM! I teach that very speech in my great speakers class, an the last lines resonate SO MUCH as I think about staring out at the faces in the room at my own PWI.

Nicole said...

Okay, I laughed at your captioning of your photo.
I am so interested in your views on this. It's tricky as a very privileged white woman to not slip into the trap of...oh, what's the word. It's not yet 5am and I'm blanking. White fragility, that's it. I work at looking at the world as diversely as I can, as best I can. And it's tricky as a privileged white woman to talk about racism in a way that doesn't just amplify my own voice. Anyway, I have read a lot about the caste system; I find it fascinating and also desperately sad. In Canada, we have an absolutely horrific past (and present, but we are working on it) with regards to Indigenous peoples. It feels like everywhere there are caste/ class systems.

Gillian said...

Good poem and nice photo.

StephLove said...

Powerful poem.

And your asterisked comment made me laugh in a dark humor sort of way.

NGS said...

Dogs can teach us all the things about acceptance and love. Who cares if you're a Great Dane or a chihuahua? We can all play together!

maya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maya said...

Sarah--I'd love to be in your class! That very nice friend of yours who has a daughter the same age as Dorothy whom I met at a conference that one time also teaches Fannie Lou Hamer and loved the poem when I shared it with her.

Nicole--It's an old family joke :). There are so many kinds of terribleness in the world, and caste is surely one of the worst. Although it is technically outlawed in India, I keep hearing of terrible things (and I mean truly terrible, depraved things) happening all the time. If you're interested, _Ants Among Elephants_ is a heartbreaking read.

Gillian--Thank you :).

StephLove--Me too, friend. XOXO

NGS--Right? I mean... one has to pass the butt-sniff test first, but still. Ha.

reading between the flowers

I think teenager Cass makes a terrific point in  The Bee Sting  when she is irritated with the ubiquitous nature themes in poetry:  “You go ...