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My praxis (feb 28th): teaching or pushing?

FrigginSushi's picture

My first praxis meeting was this past Friday the 28th. Every Monday me and the other co-facilitators meet to create a lesson plan for the students and on Fridays we go and lead the after school program. My praxis is located just on the outside of Philadelphia. We, the facilitators and I, first went to one of the classrooms to try to rally up the students who normally attend this program. The conversation we walked in on between the students and the teacher was a conversation on why white people think that their hair is better than black people. From this first impression, I already got the sense that there are racialized tensions in the school I was coming into.

During the program, we had 7 students attend: 2 boys and 5 girls. Our main activity for the day was about how we make assumptions about people based on their appearance. We gave them printed picture of people from all walks of life and called out statements like “choose the person you are most likely to hire”. The question that left me most uneasy was the response we got for “choose the person you believe is a part of the LGBT community”. One of the students, Judith, said that the male she picked was displaying feminine qualities. One of the facilitators questioned her asking “well are they feminine qualities or are these just attributes that society believes are feminine”, hinting at the social construction of femininity. Judith was adamant about that the qualities that the person she picked were in fact feminine, missing the point completely.

I think the trouble I had about this question was it showed that a lot of the students had a bit of hostility towards gender and sexuality (despite me being told that they’ve had lesson in the program in the past regarding those subjects), and I wasn’t sure how to address it. I want to take everyone’s viewpoints into consideration and understand that a lot of these students are Christian so this could be the reason etc., but at the same time I felt it was my duty to teach them that this kind of mentality is not okay. The balance between how do I respect their opinions while teaching them another viewpoint (that I strongly believe in), makes me feel like I’m forcing an idea onto them. I’m not sure how to work around this.


jccohen's picture

interplay of perspectives



Your cultural autobiography zeroes in on the complex interplay of others’ and our own assumptions and inferences regarding who we are, often via markers like name and eye and skin colors, as well as relational mediums such as language.  You work deeply with the paradoxical power of skin color in our racialized society, where both Moyenda and you – from opposite ends of the spectrum in some senses – contend as young people (and differently as you grow older) with this notion of ‘exotic’ otherness as both enticing and deeply problematic.   You probe the internal contradictions of self/other, body/identity in your lines, ‘I rejected my “Latinoness” because I could not be more Latina’ and later,  ‘I feel like I’ve never really embodied what it is to be Latina, so instead of joining them, I fought against them by fighting against myself.’  And I wonder:  What does it mean to take up the French language, the Asian culture club, the AP crew…how does all this become implicated in who you are/can be?  I think here of Kromidas’ claim for children growing up now and redefining what it means to ‘be’ who you are – what claims are legitimate through relationship, longing, blood and not-blood…


A turning point in your story is your growing understanding of being in a ‘delicate position of privilege’; interestingly, this seems to be fostering for you a different understanding of the dimensionality of identity.  You raise Cole’s piece, and I want to connect this to his key question about power and what we do with it.  Likewise, I appreciate the way you bring in Hall here, and would like to hear more about what his theorizing about communities in ‘translation’ suggests about what we do with who we are/becoming.  I am moved by your claiming of a location that’s very particular, from which you speak as a person not fully formed but in continual motion.  So:  what does all of this suggest about how/what/with whom we speak and what we do from our complicatedly cultural identities?  What responsibilities does all this carry for each of us?


Note:  Language plays a complicated role in your piece – and you’re not the only one who wrote about this; see, for example, pieces by salopez and stonewall.