Sunday Sit-Down #14:

Each Sunday, I’m working my way through my experiences with race. I’ll share stories and memories from throughout my life. I know I’ll encounter moments of growth that I wish I could relive. I’ll also have to think back on choices that I wish I could remake. Come join me each week.

I remember in college
having room in my schedule
for a couple of extra classes
so I signed up for
multi-culti studies

which is where I first learned

about white apologizing
and also what-about-ism
masked as curiosity

and I remember
how hard I worked
to understand criticism of
dominant culture

and I remember I tried so hard
with my Nation of Islam paper
to understand how people could
hate my people
so very much
that I almost explained it away,
rationalized the caricatures
in the Final Call comic strips

but Professor McCarthy said
no
sometimes prejudice is what it is,
regardless of
whether it comes from the disempowered
and I thought

huh

well I guess that’s something new.

And I remember trying to make sure
my student teaching experience
brought questions of diversity past
FOODFOLKSFUN
so we had a debate about immigration
which was actually pretty eye-opening
(as a matter of fact,
so were the swastika doodles
one of my loveys drew in his notebook)

and I also realized
that for most of my kids
the question was not about color of skin
but the freeness of their lunch

(and something tells me
much of that is still the case,
and that if people really figured out
that the shaft is given
to people across the racial rainbow
some folks would
really be in trouble)

so sometimes what they needed was
to keep making their
New Year’s Dragons, their
Kente cloths, their
tissue paper flowers

as long as the love poured free
and so did the morning snacks.

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4 Responses to “Sunday Sit-Down #14:”

  1. Tim Gels Says:

    Your Professor McCarthy was pretty smart, and you are as well. Thank you, again, for your words.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks. For what it’s worth, I’ll be glad, I think, when Sunday Sit-down gets to be prose again. This is a tough challenge!

  2. Tim Gels Says:

    I imagine you will!

    I’ve continued to think about your poem today. It addresses so many different things, all of them still so relevant today.

    15 years ago, I stood in front of my first class of students as someone in his early 40s, having retired from a career in the military some two years earlier. I’d seen a good part of the world, some of the highs and some of the lows, and I’d done it with a lot of people who were different than me. It wasn’t a perfect world, but it was real and honest.

    Of all that your poem covers, I think it’s the way “education” addresses “multi-culti” that resonates with me the most. I can’t help but think we miss the mark by a mile or so, but (bless our hearts, as we say here in the south) we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

    Thank you, again.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks, Tim. It means the world that my writing has continued to resonate. It’s all I can ask for. You’re also right about the “multi-culti” approach. Like you, I think about the students I’ve had throughout the years, including the ones I’ve had to do some learning for, some to their expense. I wish I could get those years back. Bless our hearts indeed (but only if you say it with a SUPER hard R.)

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