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"Between Pain and Despair": Notes Towards Day 20 (Thurs, Nov. 10)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. (2:30) start again by greeting one another,
taking a few moments to gather ourselves into this space,
breathing deeply about the election results that we are all facing.

as I said to each of you I saw y'day,
I am in shock, feeling frightened of what will be,
in mourning for what has been lost (or just made more visible),
and also glad to be working w/ others in the field of education now;
I feel re-committed to this work.

Terry Tempest Williams:

It is morning. I am mourning.
And the river is before me.

I am a writer without words who is struggling to find them.

I am holding the balm of beauty, this river, this desert, so vulnerable, all of us.

I am trying to shape my despair into some form of action, but for now, I am standing on the cold edge of grief.

We are staring at a belligerent rejection of change by our fellow Americans who believe they have voted for change.

The seismic shock of a new political landscape is settling.

For now, I do not feel like unity is what is called for.

Resistance is our courage.

Love will become us.

The land holds us still.

Let us pause and listen and gather our strength with grace and move forward like water in all its manifestation: flat water, white water, rapids and eddies, and flood this country with an integrity of purpose and patience and persistence capable of cracking stone.

I am a writer without words who continues to believe in the vitality of the struggle.

Let us hold each other close
and be kind.

Let us gather together and break bread.

Let us trust that what is required of us next will become clear in time.

What has been hidden is now exposed.

This river, this mourning, this moment --- May we be brave enough to feel it deeply.

my plan for today is to to try to work with some of
your responses to Coates' book, as well as some
related thoughts I've gathered about double consciousness,
and a passage from our upcoming novel, Adichie's Americanah

* @ 4 today: info session about "Unsettling Literacy"

III. (2:40): am feeling the need for silence
(which I know can be agitating for some,
but for me is always calming...)
so have planned two silent activities for today:

let's begin with some more silent writing:
start drafting a letter--as Coates wrote to his son,
as Baldwin wrote to his nephew: who do you want/
need to write to? about the election? about education?
about your sense of the future? about what you've been
learning from Coates....?

am not expecting any of us will share this;
and hoping that some of you may actually
want to mail it....?

IV. (2:50): silent discussion
based on postings
by both hannahs, creighton, and gabby;
some material I gathered about "double consciousness," and
a passage from Americanah, about the night Obama was elected:

"Americans believe in the reality of 'race' as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism--the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them--inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men" (p. 7).

...later on...Coates talks about not seeing slavery as a mass of people who were enslaved, but rather imagining one person living through slavery. Making history personal in this way is important not only for doing justice to those who have suffered, but also for remembering that those who caused that suffering were real, individual people, intentionally choosing to oppress other people. Thus we can understand that it is racism is not a naturally-occurring event; it is both preventable and always possible.


Coates writes that he is "convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free...To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans" (143). This seems especially relevant and striking to me, on today, of all days. He writes, "Should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them," acknowledging that people of color, and especially Black Americans, are inevitably going to be caught in the collateral damage inflicted by white America whenever the full force of its racist past is called back into focus in the present (150).


i'm sitting in the middle of tgh, thinking about what we talked about in class
thinking about families and knowledge and protection and yet the fact
that when black children come into the world they are endangered....
i am thinking of the stories my grandmother told me of why she came to this country
packed in with boxes and baggage, huddled with her sister in the darkness of a boat
puzzled by the culture of america, by the bathrooms that read "white" and "colored",
by the way in which she was denied work despite the fact that she was fully qualified
i have not ever heard my grandmother complain
i am thinking about the way my mother, and all her siblings, stopped speaking chinese as children
lost the language, like baby teeth, along the way to school
if they could not fit in at least their tongues could
it was a part of growing up
i am struck by the amount of sacrifices that it has taken so many
to get to... this?
i am thinking about this election
and about my family, and about families all over this country
and i am trying not to cry

Something that resonated with me from Coates's book was his trip to was only in France, where I didn't have to worry about being too American, for my family, or too Trinidadian, for the Americans, that I was allowed to live without labels. Je suis une étudiante americane mais ma mère est de Trinidad. My French is limited and people are curious, so they ask me more questions. I can be my own person, using my own descriptors rather than preset categories. That was liberating. I can only have that in a second language...that may also be what Bình feels. As well as Coates. Labels limit us.
"the Negro is…born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields himIt is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost....He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face--W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903, pp. 2-3.

[African American philosophy professor George] Yancy incites his white students to "develop a form of double consciousness, one that enables them to see the world differently, and to see themselves differently through the experiences of black people and people of color....the strategy is to have [his] white students see the white world through...[black] eyes, a perspective that will challenge whiteness....Yancy wants white see their whiteness through the lenses of people of color in such a way that the privilege that they take for granted as part of their meritocracy could reveal itself to them as something unjustly bestowed.....he wants this be an epiphany that would remove the veil on the myths of whiteness--Jean-Paul Konda Ntusi, "White Double Consciousness," Dissertation, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 2015.

It felt to her like a bereavement, that she could not vote. Her application for citizenship had been approved but the oath-taking was still weeks away.....
soon they were all seated, on the couch and the dining chairs, eyes on the television.....A graphic flashed on the television screen...and the living room became an altar of disbelieving joy.
Her phone beeped with a text from [her nephew] Dike.
I can't believe it. My president is black like me. She read the text a few times, her eyes filling with tears.
On television, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama and their two young daughters were walking onto a stage. They were carried by the wind, bathed in incandescent light, victorious and smiling.
“Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blues states. We have been and always will be the United States of America.”
Barack Obama’s voice rose and fell, his face solemn, and around him the large and resplendent crowd of the hopeful. Ifemelu watched, mesmerized. And there was, at that moment, nothing that was more beautiful to her than America—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah, 2013, pp. 360-361.

V. (3:15?): gather around a sheet you'd like to talk about...?
or close?