this past saturday was the teachers for social justice conference.

rewind a little for me to tell you that, um, i quit my job. you know, the one i’d been glowing about not too long ago. i still love the agency, but in terms of skills and interests, the position wound up not being a good match for me. i spent some time feeling elated and free after quitting and then there was a deep crash in motivation and self-confidence. i found a job rather quickly, and i’ll probably be starting that on friday, but the climb out of mild depression is not as swift as i would like. i’m fine, but it’s weird going from Having a Purpose to Um… What Should I Be Doing With Myself?

but the teachers for social justice conference was a help in that.

funnily enough, both of the workshops that i went to had something to do with transformation in the title. it absolutely wasn’t intentional, but you know, that’s always been one of my interests. the first was on transformative life skills. the job i’m starting soon is as a paraprofessional (which means a classroom assistant, usually with special education students), and the workshop seemed like it might give me some good tools to use with students one on one, especially those with attention issues and stuff. it was all about breathing and centering and stuff like that, so it kind of was about being a quaker. it was interesting how the workshop was both about helping kids find ways to calm down and about helping us educators be calm. (they did a great impression of educators frantically trying to get kids to calm down. “settle down! SETTLE DOWN!!!”)

the other workshop was “Message to Transformative Teachers: The Process and Potential of a Culturally Empowering Pedagogy.” i picked it out of a ton of inspiring looking workshops, and honestly, the number of wonderful buzzwords in a lot of the descriptions became sort of a blur to me, and i couldn’t tell if i was going to this workshop because i understood what it was about or because i didn’t. but it was pretty amazing. i took tons of notes and part of me is tempted to put them all up here. but the gist of the whole thing was how we need to really understand where youth are coming from and not blame them for being who they are. it was particularly for working with high school aged youth of color. i don’t work with high school aged youth, but the workshop still felt applicable. the presenter, patrick camangian, was hugely inspiring and great to listen to.

the thing that’s stuck with me most is just the offhand comment that he made about how “thuglife” is actually an acronym. i had no idea. i guess it comes from tupac, and it stands for “the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.” it’s pretty amazing. it’s been going over and over in my head a lot since then, informing my thoughts on the systems and institutions in this society.

yesterday, i had to get a tb test, and i went to the public health clinic that i usually go to. i tend to go to the transgender night, but this is the second time i’ve had to do a walk-in during regular hours. i arrived 1 hour after they opened, the number that was showing on the board was 66, i pulled number 79. i sat for 2 hours and watched as the number crawled up to 69.

this place is ugly, doesn’t seem totally clean, and the bathrooms smell really bad. the people who work there are tired and grouchy. the people who go to the clinic are primarily people of color, and since it’s a public health clinic, they are all pretty darn poor.

after two hours i stepped outside and called around to other clinics that had been referred to me for this process. i finally became convinced that the “adult and travel immunization clinic” would actually work for my work tb test, and wow, it was actually the same building. the front door this time instead of the sketchy back alley entrance. it’s clean, there’s carpet, there’s music playing, the receptionist smiled at me, and i got seen in half an hour. the people around me were mostly white, and seemed mostly middle class.

in the first clinic, a man came in and not finding a place to sit, sat on the trash can.

today i was talking to a friend and she said, “do you think infants get hated often?” and i said, “maybe not directly, but institutions are constantly telling them and their families that they are garbage.”

after i got my tb test yesterday, i took the bus home. a man and woman got on the bus carrying full trashbags. i think they were full of cans. i was reading, but soon i noticed that an african-american woman was yelling at them. something about how they had insulted the way that she smelled, but it’s them that smelled. the woman with the bag and the african-american woman threatened each other. the woman with the bags got up and started yelling, “i’m not afraid. i’m not afraid.” she seemed chicana or native american. i got off a stop early because it was crowded and i was freaked out. as i was walking home, i saw basically everybody get off at the next stop, and the man punching the window of the back door of the bus, yelling “you better get off that bus right now” the glass was broken, and spit came flying out.

the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.

me saying that has elements of appropriation, and it’s definitely been used with more violent rage than i’m comfortable with, but it’s true and it’s big.

what am i going to do about it, i’m not sure yet. i really want to, though.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. We haven’t seen each other in a long-ass time but thanks to the internet I can see when you’ve updated your blog!

    You quit your job?!

    And… Good luck at your new one! I hope you like it better.

    One can drive oneself mad with all the appropriation stuff. I mean there’s running around dressing up like Tupac making a mockery of him and then there’s quoting him and trying to make good change in the world while still being yourself. I dunno. I think I’ve loosened up over the past few months.

  2. yay internet!!! we should be more in touch.

    i did quit my job. it’s pretty funny. i feel really flakey about it and like it was actually the best thing for me to do. like the voices in my head that imagine they are the reasonable, responsible rest of the world, think i’m a giant flake. but deep down, i know it was right.

    it’s just scary, being inspired but only knowing a tiny bit of the information, and knowing you could screw it up royally.

  3. I was talking about guilt and one of my coworkers said if we remove ego from everything, there is no guilt left. It came up when my already-very-activist coworkers were talking about volunteering for the Obama campaign. And I was inspired by them but didn’t want to myself, and I reached a point where I’m okay with that. She said ego is what tells us “it is all up to me!” when really it’s not. It’s a double-edged sword, a lazy person could use that as an excuse for complacency, but I think for some of us, it’s a good reality check.

  4. Sometimes I think that the most radical thing I do in the world is carry myself with respect toward everyone. Real respect, not faux respect.

    Sometimes I get down on myself for not more evidently living my peace testimony. But I notice Spirit doesn’t get down on me for that. I think Spirit wants me right where I am, in my small rural public school, making eye contact with the kids in my class who have been bounced in and out of foster care, or whose parents are angry and alcoholic or drug addicted, or who have otherwise been subjected to that kind of hate that can soak in through an infant’s pores from the world at large.

    I make eye contact, and sometimes, Spirit gives me the grace to really connect with someone who is suffering from a respect deficiency. We talk about books, or we talk about television, or we talk about favorite places in the woods or what it was like being in high school in the 1970s. It doesn’t really matter. Because what my soul is saying to their soul is something like, “I see you. I see your worth and your uniqueness. I really, really see you today.” And their soul is saying right back, “Yes! You do! You see me today! And I’m grateful and glad to the bone about it, and please try not to forget that I’m in here the next time I disrupt your class or vandalize a book or something, because I honestly do care, and you honestly are helping.”

    I’m lucky. My school is small enough and supportive enough that I get to see a goodly fraction of kids actually healing in the four years they’re with us. Maybe not in blindingly, movie-of-the-week ways, and not every kid. But I’ve seen kids go from being kids I’ve seriously been concerned might one day bring a gun to school to kids with friends, and relationships with adults, and a future. Kids who have to couch surf at night because their families have essentially given up on them… but we didn’t.

    And they’re going to MAKE IT, goddammit.

    That’s my peace testimony. I’m only a tiny part of what goes right for those kids, and most of the time, it’s vocabulary homework and getting kids to stay in their seat long enough to learn something. But every now and then, I can feel God working through us in my school. And that is… so good.

    I hope being a para works out for you, cubbie. Welcome to the team. 🙂


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