Monday, May 18, 2009

Writing And Race

My Essay for the RaceFail Protest:

I teach in NW Arkansas, tucked up against the border of Oklahoma.  We've got lots of Asians from post-Viet Nam years, when refugees got sent to Fort Chaffee; we've got lots of Latino/a folk, first, second, and third generation, now, come to work in Tyson's massive chicken slaughter and packing houses.  Here in the River Valley, we only have a few African-Americans, mainly shipped in to try to make our University's various sporting teams more competitive.  

We mostly have generation upon generation of white American Protestant and the Other here, which used to be Catholics -- though now that they have "Mexicans" to hate, they're going to it.  (True story: Zelda's grandson, who can count to fifty in German, Spanish, and English, went to preschool this year, where his teacher sent him home with a note for being mouthy because he wouldn't count to ten "right."  She interrogated him.  Well, he said, all the other kids were counting in English, he thought he would count in Spanish, since English was getting boring.  Zelda called up the teacher, whose mama she knows, since everyone knows everyone's mama around here, and says like WTF is your issue?  "I'm not teaching in Mexican," the teacher said, not nicely, either.)

Here's my point, and I do have one:

When I'm teaching, whatever I'm teaching, somehow I frequently find myself also teaching about race and/or feminism.

My students sort of expect this by now.  

I do live in a Red State.  The bookstore where I buy most of my books, sadly, has on the checkout counter, right where I check out, little racks with jars of Jesus coins, little silver things like the 30 silver coins Judas sold Christ for, maybe?  I don't know, they've got a cross on one side and a fish on the other, I guess you're meant to buy a handful and give them to evil atheists like me; it's got bookmarks with kittens and other bookmarks with Bible verses; it's got a sticker to stick on your car with ALL the states colored in bright red that says MY COUNTRY: THE REDDER THE BETTER that just make me want to giggle.  It's got teeshirts, with the Monopoloy card showing that guy hopping out of jail, only it says JESUS: THE GET OUT OF HELL FREE CARD.  And it has 5 rows of Christian fiction and various flavors of Bibles, but only one (yes one) book explaining evolution to children (though that was a good one).

Anyway: my point: when I talk about race, and woman, and how being some color other than white, or some sex other than male, hampers your ability to be published in certain fields, this makes some of my students furious.

"Actually," some white guy (usually a young white guy, but not always -- sometimes it's a 40 year old white guy, and often it's a 40 year old white woman), "the truth is,  black people (or women, or Asians) just aren't interested in writing comics (or Science Fiction, or mystery novels, or history scholarship, or being in IT, or whatever it is we're discussing -- black guys and women just don't want to be engineers or write code!  They don't like SF!)"

They know this is true, you see, because, well, they read comics, and everyone they know reads comics, and they've never seen any black people reading comics, so, QED!

As everyone knows, your experience is the universe.

And the fact that you don't see something means it isn't there.

And my experience?  Well, it doesn't count.  Nor do all those other people who are claiming something else.

Plus?  If this is how it has been, this is how it should stay.

In 1960, very few PoC or women were in law school or medical school.

Obviously, this means no women or PoC wanted to be there.

Wonder what changed between then and now?

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