Thursday, December 4, 2014

Still Breathing

I will always remember where I was when the towers came down on September 11th.

And I will always remember where I was when the grand jury decided not to indict a second police officer in the killing of an unarmed black man.

Part of me feels like going on today is its own version of #crimingwhilewhite (which--incidentally--is one of the most powerful hashtags I've seen in a long time; I spent the better part of last night watching the conversation unfold on Twitter, watching people talk about whether the conversation itself was a positive expression of solidarity or a reification of privilege).  How do I go to a meeting about a peer academic advising website, or attend a staff meeting during the student walk-out and die-in (as if somehow their protest is not my protest too), or dive into a series of afternoon appointments about registration for courses, at a place that pretends it thinks that all students are equal?

I didn't feel that I could weigh in on the Michael Brown case.  There was too much I didn't know.  But this time?  I watch the video, and I feel sick to my stomach.  How can anyone not let go when someone says "I can't breathe?"

How can we ignore the fact that had he been a white man, Eric Garner would (I have to believe) not be dead?

Jennie's thoughtful post over at Still Life with Crockpot reminds us how socially constructed race is.  How our categorization of people is more about our imagination, and the effects that our imaginations have on our behavior, and the self-fulfilling prophecies of that behavior, than anything based in biology.  I've believed that for a very long time, long enough to try to apply it in graduate school programs, and in my professional life.  But constructed as race is, over time we have created and now maintain a situation in which people don't all get to start with the same resources and advantages and--yes, let's use that word--privilege.

Where, now, can we begin? What is an effective form of protest? As one colleague commented: "Marches, die-ins, clickivism, petition signing, online raging--all therapeutic, certainly, but it hasn't altered the course of history."  So what do I do?

Because I am still breathing.
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  1. Yeah. You said it.

    The whole thing is simply astonishing.

  2. I feel the same way about the decision. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment. That feeling. How can this still be happening?

  3. Growing up, I remember being told that "all men are created equal." Yet you're absolutely right about not being given equal opportunity and access to resources. Yes, there are cultural differences, but I also think to touched on an important point about imaginations and self-filling prophecies.

  4. I have no words. I don't know what to do that would help change things.

  5. I agree with that I felt too distanced to fairly evaluate the Brown case. But this case, well, I can't develop any rational scenario in which the police officer's actions could be defensable. I too feel ill and I am wrestling with what can and should be done.


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