Over the last few weeks, one of the hardest things, for me
to navigate has been deciding when to talk and when to shut
up. This has been an issue in all of my classes.
Yet, it has manifest itself differently because of my familiarity
with the material, my willingness to be vulnerable and ask
questions and my willingness to be passively rather than
In life and in the classroom it is much easier to complain about how
the class is ran rather than to do something about how it is ran.
It's much easier to complain about health care, rather than going
down to your local senators office, with a few of your friends
and getting in their faces about how they are voting.
Its much easier to complain than to elect that new.
Today, I rode for that new.
The classroom is political because whose voice is or isn't heard,
who does or doesn't speak and whether a space is made for historically
marginalized voices all impacts the way that we learn in the classroom.
Today, I entered the classroom with the expressed intent of not only
participating but moving the conversation towards one on focused
on providing a systemic critique, not simply focusing on the individual.
Because we read Killing the Black Body, which is about the Black
female body throughout history, from slavery to forced sterilization,
eugenics, modern reproductive rights arguments, moms addicted
to crack, adoption and surrogate parents, I knew that it was going
to be a class ripe with emotional landmines.
At one point we were discussing the coercive element involved with the
government forcing low income Black women to be sterilized if they
received public assistance.
The notion that reproductive autonomy as a human right simply wasn't
on the table.
Because of my Twitter interaction with Phonte last week about the ways
in which both men and women are socialized to hate women, I have been
emboldened. What I took from that interaction was, to the extent that I can
ask folks questions, I know that I can take them somewhere else.
A classmate, a Black male classmate who self identified as conservative,
mentioned that if a woman is on welfare with several children, then the government
can tell her what to get sterilized. He rested his case on the individual and personal
He went on to say that we are all here, in this classroom, we are given equal
This is material given the fact that the number one predictor of poverty,
in this country, is childbirth.
That rugged individualism runs so thick both in our academic and
mainstream media discourse that not only am no longer surprised
when I hear it, in fact, I anticipate it.
So, in order to get him to think about the system in which these women
lived in I asked him where he was from, and whether he felt that the ways
in which Black men are disproportionally sentenced for crack cocaine
rests on Black men or the system that they were in.
He was consistent, he answered that it was up to the individual, who got
caught up in the system.
I then said, if you are riding for individual responsibility answer me this.
Our country no longer produces products, we live in a service economy.
Walmart is the second largest employer behind the government.
We are a nation of people, where the majority of us, earn minimum wage
or work in service jobs.
Minimum wage guarantees that you will live in poverty.
How do you reconcile the need for individual responsibility with this economic
I didn't tell him was wrong, because doing that is not helpful.
I asked him questions to get him, and other students to think about other
It makes me wonder what it will take, and what will happen when we stop thinking
the individual, and start thinking about the group?
It felt good because I realized what Zora meant by "Speak,
so that you can speak again." I always thought that that statement was
over the top and corny, but today, it has real life meaning in my
What will it take to think about the group, rather than the individual?
Has the classroom been a political space for you?
Why is it so hard to claim my voice?
Is it possible that there is a connection between the writing voice and
the speaking voice?