Calling Out Our Roles in Perpetuating Normalized Injustice.
Just two days after the presidential election result, and students in my regularly scheduled classes seemed lifeless and downtrodden, defeated and deflated. They had no questions, no thoughts for discussion, because their world had let them down. Somehow they had thought one vote would do it all, but I told them that it was never just about this election.
The dog whistles coming from Clinton's opponent (and his tacit supporters) were sounding the very racialization, sexist anxiety, and empowered prejudice that has festered in the U.S. since before its founding. It's a fundamentalist voice that hides behind economic anxiety and patriotism, while minoritizing, marginalizing, and dehumanizing many of the very people who seek to make this union more perfect. Hate speech and its accompanying mob violence, vigilante aggression, structural injustices, and covert, normalized language of biological inferiority have never been fully denounced in this country, and that is the true shame of this moment.
Anyone clambering to declare "I am not a racist", has likely been unwilling to examine their participation in and benefit from structural inequity. For those of us who think we couldn't possibly be racist, sexist, ableist, class-ist, or otherwise, how do we treat people who (don't) look or sound like us? How much are our lowered expectations, dismissals, fears, and misunderstandings communicated in words like minority, wife, gay, ugly, unattractive, ghetto, poor, weak, foreign? What behaviors do we need to change, along with our language? How can we encourage each other to change?
My students looked so dejected, some close to tears. But this wasn't the time to tap out, I insisted. Now, more than ever, we needed to learn from this election, and from each other. We need to listen, reach out, and work together for social and structural change. And with that, I began preparing us for a visit to Serenity House, a community house and support center in North Philadelphia, where we would have a conversation with community partners about neighborhood activism and identity.