"Always Watch Where You Sit"

Friday, October 16, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

My office exists in a land time forgot.

I am on the third floor of a building thrown up rapidly as a response to the mass of troops returned from WWII and funneling into the college system.  The necessity of the building, and the rush to bring it into existence, is easy to observe in the uneven oblong rooms and amoeba shaped bathrooms.  Here is how I believe the architect drew this baby up ...

Step one: Build an outer rectangle to fit the full size of the plot of land assigned. 

Step two: Complete the rectangle by raising a three story structure.

Architect: "What's that . . .  Roof shape? You're asking about roof shape?!? What part of 'build a fucking rectangle' don't you understand! Just slap a flat-top on the sucker and add in the floors like you're making horizontal slices in a cake."

Step three: Add floors to 2nd and 3rd stories, "Like horizontal slices in a cake."  Also, add basement level.

Architect: "Now we wait . . . Final student numbers still aren't in . . . "

Architect: "Ok we got the numbers; there are many more than predicted."

Step four: Continuing with Step three's cake analogy, we just found out that this cake needs to feed the whole friggin family, so we have to carve as many pieces as possible into this sonofabitch. Do the dorm rooms the same way. Think Tetris.  Make some long skinny ones and some short and fat ones. These are bedrooms for ex-soldiers, god damn it, they'll be happy just to have a warm bed outside of Europe.

For those doubters . . . this is the actual building. 

Race in the Classroom

Friday, October 9, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I asked a question in my lecture class yesterday.

I asked, "Is racial prejudice disappearing?"

Let's be clear, this was an intentionally ambiguous cue. A prompt that could be interpreted as "is it lessening" or "is it going away." Race, of course, being the major filter through which the question was received.

I figured this picture would draw in a larger audience. 
Immediately, and almost as if it were a automatic response, a Black woman in the front of the class began shaking her head, "no, no, no, no, no."

I asked her if she wished to expand on her position.

Her head continued to shake.

And at that moment, when I asked her if she wanted to share her opinion, we sat on the precipice of the reality of discussing race.

This young woman had to decide whether it was worth it to risk being White Man-splaned race by your professor in a large class of her peers.  The short answer: No. Fucking. Way.

She also had decide if I, a White teacher, was asking her to explain race to my class.

And a few questions later, a White male student near the front asked another question about "the place of White people" in the discussion about race, and I decided that a fundamental truth about this subject needed to be said aloud.

"Let's be clear, it is not Black people's responsibility to explain racism to you. It is not the job of the systematically disenfranchised to educate you about the reality of the world we all inhabit together. That is your job as a human being."

The entire class exhaled.

I should have added that it was also my job as their professor, but I hoped that was self-evident.