Perhaps it’s just my imagination, but dry season this year doesn’t seem as dry or as long as last year’s.
The school-to-prison pipeline, to my mind, is the most insidious arm of this country’s prison-industrial complex. Under the guise of protecting our children, we push many of them out of school and into prisons, limit their opportunities, fail to and/or undereducate them, all while feeding our addiction to mass incarceration and retribution that is not justice at all. That the students who find themselves funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline are predominantly black is further proof that the United States system of racist oppression chugs along through the rhetoric of colorblindness.
you want to eat meout. right. what does it taste likeyou want to eat me right outof these jeans & into somethinga little cheaper. more digestible.more bite-sized. more thank youcome: i am greasyfor you. i slick my hair with msgevery morning. i’m bad for you.got some red-light district betweenyour teeth. what does ittaste like: a takeout boxbetween my legs.plastic bag lady. flimsy white forkto snap in half. dispose of me.taste like dried squid. lips puffywith salt. lips brimmingwith foreign so call mepork. curly-tailed obscenitybeen playing in the mud. dirty meat.worms in your stomach. give youa fever. dead meat. butchered girlchopped up & cradledin styrofoam. you candid cannibal.you want me bite-sizedno eyes clogging your throat.but i’ve been watchingfrom the slaughterhouse. ever sinceyou named me edible. tossed ina cookie at the end. lucky man.go & take what’s yours.name yourself archaeologist butlisten carefullyto the squelches inyour teeth & hear my sow squealscream murder betweenmolars. watch salt awakenwrithe, synapse.watch me kickback to life. watch me tentacles& teeth. watch meresurrected electric.what does ittaste like: revengesquirming alive in your mouthstrangling you quietfrom the inside out.
Madonna - Miles Away
I asked my students to write an essay in English about how they’re feeling today. One kid wrote about how terrible he feels because his cat ran away.
Chuks hit the nail on the head. My existential mopings and focus on “greatness” are coming from the fact that I’m done with Teach for China, yet I’ve still got a few more months to go in the program. I know what I want for my future, but I can’t actively construct it yet, not until I get to Australia. I can’t do anything right now to create certainty in a sea of uncertainty and because of that I feel trapped. I’ve been comparing myself to people who I think are actively shaping their destinies and who aren’t trapped in the way that I am.
I’m never in a good place when I feel trapped.
Liberal political commitments do not make one’s race politics above reproach, because such arguments traffic in the fallacy that racism only happens if it is intentional.
But good white liberals have a long history of unintentional racism. I think of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the famed Moynihan Report that advanced the Tangle of Pathology thesis about the absence of black patriarchs and the dominance of black matriarchs. That report has done untold damage to black communities, but Moynihan, a liberal senator, meant well. The report was supposed to compel the creation of a broader social safety net and the creation of employment opportunities to help black families. But it mostly created a national narrative of black pathology.
Stellar intent doesn’t excuse shoddy execution.
In the last conversations I had with the vice president of student life and with the provost of the university, they separately told me that I was going to do Great Things. They named four others who they thought would also go onto do Great Things. Our graduating class was one to remember because of us five. Not all graduating classes produced people who would go onto do Great Things; our graduating class was the strongest in a decade, perhaps longer. After being on the job as long as they had, they could tell who would blossom into a major player in society. Despite the fact that I had been a major pain-in-their-asses for a better part of the year, the aptitude I showed meant something.
One of the five mentioned is graduating Harvard Law in a few months. Another is working on Capitol Hill as part of a senator’s media team. Yet another is an engineer at Google X. The last of the other four, one of my closest friends from university, is working in Citigroup’s Asia Pacific division. She has just been hand-picked by the CEO for his team as they figure out how to restructure Citigroup’s Asia Pacific management scheme, and he has hinted at wanting to begin the long process of grooming her for his position. All of them are also part of that secret society of People Who Will Go On to Do Great Things and Become Major Mover and Shakers in Society. All of them proved their potential greatness all four years of university. Then there’s me. I’m the only one of the five who was a dark horse that seemingly came from nowhere to have a brilliant final year when in truth, my community had been slowly and quietly grooming me the previous three years. I’m the only one who’s a wild, unpredictable loose cannon: a free spirit. I’m the only one who’s not on a clear path to fulfilling my predicted greatness. The others are aware of and half-believe in the fortunes told about their futures; I am aware but I cannot bring myself to believe at all. It is too odd and too weird. Yet I cannot help watching them and comparing myself to them. The only comfort I take in all of this is that they too feel like messes and are unsure of their places.
For the first time in my life, I’m worried about “greatness.” I’m worried about whether or not what I’m doing is “good enough.” I’ve been the type to go with the flow up until now, but I don’t want to float and let life pass me by. I’m not sure why this has been on my mind; I don’t think “greatness” means anything in the grand scheme. So why is it bothering me? Is it because I’m afraid of not living life to the fullest and if I don’t achieve my predicted “greatness” I’ve somehow missed the boat?
I’ve been talking a lot to one of my closest friends from university. (Thank you WeChat!) In talking with her I’ve become more and more self-conscious about my future. She is on a clear path to greatness. She’s also in the same secret society of People Who Will Be Major Players in Society as that guy who won the other Outstanding Activist award. That guy is also on a clear path to greatness. The two of them, and my other university friends who also have “Rising Greatness” stamped on their foreheads, have made me very, very self-conscious about my future in ways that people in Teach for China going onto “great things” never will.
These talks and feelings are an out-of-body experience for me. When I was graduating, peers, professors, and university administrators kept telling me that I was a bright star, that I was someone they were watching and excited to watch, and that I would go on to do Great Things. I smiled and didn’t take it seriously. Prior to that year, I was a nobody on campus. I had just finished a year of high-profile work on campus, so of course they would say that. I also knew that the work I did on campus would live on in the changes to the structures but be forgotten by the people within a couple years. The out-of-body feelings now come from the fact that what people say and expect of me don’t match what I’ve done in the past couple of years. I’ve been sitting on my ass and haven’t been doing anything worthy of being identified as “great.” I’ve been a mediocre teacher, at best. I’ve been writing into this hole in the internet as a means of processing my experiences. I’m moving to Australia on a whim and doing who-knows-what. Yet my peers and those sitting at the top of major structures maintain that I am someone to watch out for.
If I had more ego and believed in my potential or if I were more secure in my existential nihilism and could block out the pressure, I wouldn’t be as confused and conflicted as I am now. I don’t think anything I do will amount to much, but I also feel the pressure. I’m not secure enough in either direction to not have this bother me.