I opine

Well-Intentioned But Misguided

Posted in education, ethics, gender, politics by jaeminuf on September 7, 2008

When I returned from my first year at Bryn Mawr College, I was a bit of a firebrand. Full of zeal, passionately committed to righting wrongs, to disabusing grossly mistaken notions less enlightened folks held, and so on. (Yes, cringe all you’d like… It’s totally deserved.)

One of the issues of note for me was the politics of naming. Of ensuring that we did not continue to perpetrate violence by denying people their right to self-definition. So, holier than thou I was, thumping on my soapbox (yep, this tendency is obviously not new) that it’s not merely about being politically correct (which to me meant wanting pat, easy answers so that those who were so hung up on being pc would not have to really reflect upon their own complicity in the perpetration of violence) but about putting an end to violence psychically, socioeconomically, culturally, that it was about radical change, and so on.

So, here I was, a zealous eighteen year old telling my very kind thirtysomething neighbor (who was trying to raise her son on her own after a divorce all the whilst trying to pursue a meaningful career that’d utilize the top knotch education she’d received at William and Mary) how horrible it was that people continued to say “indians” to refer to Native Americans, that this name reiterates the violence of Euro-American hegemony. At that moment, my good neighbor tried to get me to step back and question whether I might be shooting myself in the foot by being so aggressively dogmatic in “enlightening” and “raising the consciousness” of my neighbors. And to question whether I was not in my own way doing violence to Native Americans by reducing them to being nothing but dignified victims of Western hegemony, by allowing myself to regard them primarily in terms of their victimization. And to ask myself if every single person who was of indigenous descent would choose to self-identify as Native American, that might it not be that Native American was yet another externally imposed label, one that says more about those other Americans who are not Native? If I remember correctly, I think she tried to tell me that, if anything, it was a more common practice amongst those I was calling Native American to identify themselves by their tribal affiliations.

I didn’t catch it then. In fact, (more…)

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The Wrong Kind of Hungry

Posted in class, economy, education, ethics by jaeminuf on September 1, 2008

School Lunch Line

While school districts struggle with financial problems, record numbers of students turning up for classes this fall are homeless or poor enough to qualify for free meals. – Hard Times Hitting Students and SchoolsNYTimes.com

This is America, folks. Homeless kids who go to school so that they can have at least one meal, the premise being that kids can’t learn if they’re too hungry to think. While I am thankful that we are conscientious enough to ensure both that we’ve implemented one such public assistance program and that schools provide at least that, reading this makes me shake my head at the idea of the US being a first world nation.