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Saturday, July 07, 2007

So I was telling V that I feel there has been a shift in the work that I'm doing. Whereas the first two books addressed a Fil Am reader, my work in the classroom now addresses my "other" -- the white, middle class, heterosexual, suburban student. I told her stories about two students last semester. One, an older white male student who started out the semester being as arrogant and belligerent as they come at the beginning, defending his whiteness and privilege thru rants against peoples of color. Perhaps unconsciously he was trying to intimidate me and put me in my place. As the semester inched on, R became quiter, attentive, reflective. He moved from the back of the room to the front. Several times he stayed after class to tell me: Please, I want you to know that I am trying very hard to listen and learn. By the end of the semester, he had written the best testimonial any teacher can want from a student :

He wrote: I learned that being white all my life has allowed me to ignore the issues. If I were a person of color the issues would have been in my face all the time…I never thought about that before. The most important lesson I took away from this course was the realization that whites who recognize their privilege in this world, and who are willing to change to make a significant impact on racism and improve their own lives, are on the right path because the system is crumbling around them. As a white person I realized that I needed to recognize the pain and suffering that people of color have endured for my benefit. Change can happen, but the white man has to change his ways of thinking and realize that his privilege is temporary unless he makes a change. The system won’t support the elitists much longer.

Another white female student told me that she is going to get a divorce because, through the readings in the class, she realized that she has allowed herself to be colonized by master narratives that her spouse has faithfully embodied and imposed on her far too long. She wanted to be free.

V was amazed that there are stories like these about white folks who are being transformed. She said that I must go to the Philippines and share these stories at conferences, with other academics, with influential people who have the power to change the (educational) system there. This is what folks back home don't read or hear or talk about Americans, she said. I told her that I do not have the time to promote my work or seek opportunities; that I have always been shy and that it always nearly kills me to put myself out there. . .and so far, by some grace, I have been able to overcome my fears and welcome the little deaths to my ego.

That this is why I long to become a Poet. Poetry allows for obscurity and lucidity at the same time. I think I know what lucidity is but I am not good at obscurity.

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