‘Cause You Got No Class!

Why do you say I’m like a teacher in the summertime?

Because I’ve begun to address the assembled fruits & vegetables in the produce aisle?
Because I give the stink-eye to other people’s out-of-control children?
Because I ate leftover easter candy for breakfast?
Because, to ease the shock of withdrawal, I’m up at all hours substituting my extraordinarily high level of personal interaction-in-the-classroom with the blogosphere?

So, here is my own blog. Not much. Not yet.
There have been a few visits, fewer comments.

I was childishly thrilled to see that thefieldnegro placed my page in the ‘blog he is feeling’ spotlight.

Lots more visits. No comments.

Checking for (and not finding) comments spotlights my need for attention, my need for approval, my lack of class.

So, (I ask, with an appalling lack of shame) what bothers you about our public education system?

Don’t bother with qualifying niceties. Cut to the chase.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm  Comments (12)  

It’s Castigador in Spanish

I try not to sit at the head of any tables.

At my (nearly) exclusively female workplace, in meetings, there is some deference paid to me (my point of view) b/c I’m the man.
Sometimes, by some women.
There is something saccharine about it though. A way taught to behave (or possibly their perception that I expect it?).

And somehow then, a falseness that comes between us. I feel I’m being tolerated – allowed to be this different creature that must be tolerated because I’m different from the assembled sisterhood.
This almost always by the younger. The older ladies seem to recognize the slight and work their gentle bridge-making.
That saccharine moment is the divide, the outcasting, what makes me both want to prove myself, and to shut up/keep my head down.




Of course, I flatter myself believing that anyone gives me any thought at all.

One funny corollary to white male privilege is the “What Is Wrong With You, That You Do This For A Living?” category that I attribute some of my experiences toward. Since moving to a campus in an affluent neighborhood, I have felt it coming from (for the first time in any measurable degree) the community I serve.

How much of that is my own stuff? – knowing my children will be the first in my family who’s daddy can’t pay for their college, and being asked by my students if I’m also going skiing over the winter break (while their moms smile politely and look down-and-to-the-left.  Down & to the left! Everyone! Down and to the left!).

Sometime, the hardest task for me is to remain focused on my goals and not involve myself with the prejudices (goals?) of others, -even when the voice comes from my internal ‘Castigador’ (what are his goals?).

I get distracted by the outcasting, by my need to belong.

Cast a wide net.

Published in: on June 22, 2008 at 9:09 pm  Comments (2)  
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etguas adarkan storminit,

It took a while (in it’s original handwriting) before I broke the code to three pages of allthewordswrittenwithoutspacesbetweenthem. Reading aloud the same sentences over and over, listening for meaning, I sounded like I was practicing lines for a play …full of sound and fury, etc.

Because I told Jose how proud of myself I was that I had been able to break the code, and thus discover how great a writer he was, I was then drowned by his prolific pencil – dooming myself to more 45 minutes per page read-alouds.

Damn, and he learned fast too. In the US for less than a year, he guas an assimilation superhero – thirsty for everything, learning the local culture of the projects at light speed.

So he came in one day using the N-word, (much to his wiser friends’ delight) in the way he had heard it used. Trying it out, and in the eternity of a few seconds, each utterance getting such a positive response from the audience that he uses it again and again, Jamelia and Sameka were rolling with laughter pointing to my flustered panic.

In the hallway:

“Jose, that word does not mean the same thing as hombre.”

“No?” he asks, genuine misunderstanding clouding his expression.

So now I what, teach the word?

Wow that’s a stomping on eggshells thing to do in an elementary classroom.

Having done just that for years now, here’s the thing. I felt freer this year to be far more directive in my approach.

This year I was transferred across the segregation line of prosperity to a school where the PTA raises nearly 100k a year. I moved from a school where there might be one Anglo kid per grade-level, to a school where there might be one African American kid per grade-level.

So, again, here’s the thing. I felt freer to speak of the use of the N-word this year because there weren’t any “black” kids in my class. No fear of making African American kids uncomfortable, I could go at Racism in A-merry-ca (thanks F. for that) with both guns blazing.

I recently watched a movie that included a depiction of a 40’s “juke joint” and it looked so fun, I wanted to go. Sadness – that my “white” presence would be disruptive, no matter what my intention – underscored the director’s segregation theme. Reminded me of the freedom I felt in my classroom.

Self-segregation felt then like a comfort zone, and like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, needed to be examined for it’s escapist qualities. “What am I avoiding?”

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Shame Bucket

What a wild ride!

The intellectual self-stim of reading all of y’all’s work out there has been a roller-coaster. Thanks everyone.

Last night, the roller-coaster took me down down down into some white supremacist bunkers. The drip-drip of slippery stalagtites, and sightless creatures with the teeth of angler fish, snapping at the light.

My terror is that someone may interpret some parts of the shame bucket concept as apologistic for the diseased racist. Don’t do that. That’s not what I’m up to.
The shame bucket you carry is your Achilles heel, your self-debilitator. It has the manipulative power of original sin.

I’ve used the expression for a while, and used it in a comment on a thread in All About Race. Now I want to explain it at length. With all of the various warps and wooves, the shame bucket is the central pattern.

My original understanding of it’s power came while watching some cableTV biography of Jeffery Dahmer (sp?). From childhood, his progression of aberrant behavior spiraled as his self definition rotted. Until he believed he had no choices, that all outcomes were pre-determined based on his self-prejudice, “I am evil.”

I’ve read accounts from WW II Germans who were involved in some of the first mass killings (before the efficiencies of scale were applied). How many of them would vomit before they became, in the words of one, “used to it”.

Capacity for evil built upon recognizing one’s capacity for evil. This self-recognition born of inescapable self-judgement.

You know what you’ve done. You’re bad. Therefore, when given a choice you must take the bad one. That’s what bad people do.

“Forgive me Father, for I have…”

What a tidy way of institutionally dealing with the dangerous human element of self-loathing. ‘Cause these people are not just a danger to themselves.

One of my high school teachers (really, a teacher at my high school – I was never in one of his classes) had a reputation for being very strict. Mr. Brown taught geometry, and everybody loved him. Often, he wore high leather motorcycle boots. Badass cool with twin baby girls dressed in flower-print dresses following him around after-school. To me, he looked like Jimi Hendrix, but taller.

One day, while working on a project in the hallway, I noticed Mr. Brown looming over me (oh no ! What am I getting busted for now? And by Mr. Brown!)

“You know,” he said, “you’ve never been in one of my classes, but I’ve been wanting to tell you how much I admire your work.”

Did I tell you he was also a liar?

It was years before I figured that out. There was no opportunity for him to see any of my “work”. I know that because what little I turned in was mediocre and careless. What little was completed, none was displayed.

Starving for those magic (daddy=subjective love) words, “proud of you”, I found his ersatz bread to be coffee cake. Thumbs-in-my-armpits – chest-stickin’-out proud of myself, because Mr. Brown admired my work.

Like a secret coin held in reserve, I held onto that moment through some crippling times- counting my coin again and again.

Not until I was ready did I allow myself to see what Mr. Brown had done. He was not one to lavish saccharine praise, and his class (my friends complained) was hard. This wasn’t false praise a-la- go along – get along; social promotion. This was honing in on someone who’s self-punisher was in overdrive, and offering him an alternative self-definition; saving a fellow human from debasement (th’ basement ? Like I said, I was there last night).

These lessons roll around in my head and guide my daily work. I’ve begun to allow the shame bucket concept to nibble at my understanding of our racial misunderstandings.

Carmen, in her post on All About Race, asked the question,

Do you believe MOST white people are offended by a “sense of black grievance?”

My answer was that I am not offended. I am ashamed. The bucket is unwieldy, and sloshing all over us both, though. I can’t be forgiven because I didn’t do anything. You can’t forgive me, because I haven’t harmed you.

Memory has indeed put it’s hand upon my breast, and I do know (of) your hatred (everyones, it seems).

Now what? (and don’t tell me kumbaya)

Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 1:01 am  Comments (2)  
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Well, are you? ’cause it’s funny!


so the other day, Dan (AKA Sangmin) asked me if I were Mexican. Because he said he wanted to tell me a funny joke, but if I were Mexican, I might be offended.

I’m drawn to lie to you and write that I took away his recess time for thinking I may be a Mezkin. I’m tempted, ’cause that’s funny to me. But I won’t ’cause I want you to like me.

I’m not here to write about my laundry. Inflammation makes my skin itch and my joints twitch (or is it bitch?). I’m inspired to retort to inflammatory rhetoric, and I have questions. These are the same ones I ask myself in reflective reverie.

I want to learn, because I miss stuff sometimes. Like when I lived in D.C., talking to a co-worker about “Do the Right Thing” – what, nearly twenty years ago?

I confessed that I didn’t really get why S. Lee’s character smashed the window at the end. Forrest suggested that he may have been saving the shop-owner’s life. Thanks F.

Do you wonder if Forrest is white or not? I ask b/c I’m not sure if I should include that detail. Is it important to your visual image? Is segregated D.C. an important detail?

It’s our many little aversions to egalitarianism that I want to pluck at. And it’s you I want to learn from. The way I am among those I trust, that’s what this space offers me.

No pretense for you – no tone of mine is ever intended to be self-righteous. (except, maybe just then)

I’ll probably vote for Obama because he’s kinda black-ish. And I’m not a democrat. I was raised on a mocro-biotic diet, and I subsist on white sugar and nicotine.

Six or one half-dozen the other. All the presidential candidates have terrified me. Terrified me like mobsters from The Godfather somehow. Been that way for years.

I’m just tired of saying, “Yeah, you do have to be white to be president.”

The shame bucket is too heavy to carry forever. That seems to be what inspires white liberal guilt and holocaust denials alike.

Truthfully, I was taken with Obama’s “Union” speech. And yet, I want so much to be taken. Such a contrast to the slowed-down pedantic tones G. Bush Senior. would use (remember?)- It would make me want to take off my galoshes and stow them in my cubbie.

Anyway, Dan. What did I say to Dan? And what was his joke?

Published in: on June 9, 2008 at 4:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hello world!


I’ll leave that as the title,  just so I’ll remember that this is just day-one, minute-one of this chapter in a series of up all night reveries discovering the blogosphere.

I’m gonna do some stuff wrong. I hope for forgiveness.

Honest thoughts included inside – beware.

Thanks to changeseeker, seminalson, and especially thefreeslave for the inspiration to crawl around in here.

Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 3:15 pm  Comments (2)