This is not make-believe, or as we used to say, for play-play.
I teach real shit to real students in a real classroom. My classroom is a battleground. I talk about issues of stratification, marginalization and subjugation. We read about access and opportunity so students might recognize that the latter cannot exist without the former. We watch documentaries depicting the ‘other’ so that students can use the social as a mirror for the self. I push them to contextualize their experience through the lens of someone else with hopes that tolerance turns to understanding.
This is real life.
This is my life. My presence is political.
I am a twenty-something single, childless black woman in a space never meant to be my own. Questions about hiring processes, affirmative action, targeted opportunities and other banal phrases meant to ask ‘what the f*** is she doing here?’ Well I got news for you. Celie said it first: “Dear God, I’m here!” I made it. I played the game. I earned the right to sit at the table.
My journey was political.
I befriended whom I needed and smiled at just the right time. I laughed at lame jokes and cried when no one was looking. I asked for help when I knew I needed it but was certain not to appear unable. I wrote three drafts but told you I freestyled it because you needed to be impressed. I gave you that. And you gave me…
My body is political. And you made that so. My afro, mocha skin, thin frame, thick lips, tall stature, wide nose…I carry all that into the classroom. Proudly.
This is my positionality. I come from NorthEast where I pushed kids off slides, broke glass bottles over heads and pulled knives on uncles. Did I mention this was before age 7? I skipped gifted and talented because it bored me, but I was smart enough to fall in love with Langston Hughes and learn that life is not a crystal stair. I fought for position at school, on the street, in the house.
My knowledge is political. I understand content to the extent I’ve experienced it. I read and write and talk and write and laugh and think…that I will never get a handle on the interrelatedness of life. I cannot choose when to enact the parts of me that best fit the theory currently in question. I cannot ignore that I am a walking contradiction, an oxymoron of educated black or smart woman or eloquent southerner. All I know I live.
This is real to me. I make it real for them.
So yeah, my pedagogy is political.