I’m old enough to have been through other periods of unrest and civil disobedience as responses to social inequities in our systems. I remember when the Berlin Wall fell, when we started the Gulf War, when the WTO protests in Seattle happened, when students from my college protested against Bush’s visit to Portland by vomiting red, white, and blue colored mashed potatoes, and when 9/11 compelled us to go to war against Iraq. And I remember more recently Occupy Wall Street and the momentum of Black Lives Matter and #metoo a few years ago. The continual discourse (sit downs, shutdowns, *and* riots are part of our public discourse) seems to be cyclical, and it can get tiring to be constantly vigilant and resistant and critical of our public institutions. Institutions, I should say, that have been erected and bolstered over 400 years to suppress and discriminate against anyone who isn’t rich and white, set up to criminalize being Black or indigenous or POC or immigrant or poor or basically anything that doesn’t add a higher ROI to the 1%’s coffers, often using hypermasculinity and the big ol f*cking American Dream as weapons.
These past 11 days, I started out really, really worried and pissed off and anxious. I feared for people’s lives and well-being. I felt anguish that it was getting chaotic, and I was worried that Proud Boys and other domestic terrorists were pushing for a race war that the president would just spin as more reason to suppress African Americans.
But the past few days for me have turned into ones of hope. I think I’m noticing something different than all the other times. In the last few days, while many questionable events have occurred across the US, for the most part, I feel like it’s working, and I’m energized at the prospects for lasting transformation in a way that I’ve never seen before… in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen as a country in a long, long time. This latest call to defund the police (i.e., siphon money that’s used for training our police (with military equipment and tactics) to treat us as enemies away and towards progressive social services instead)–something that has been recommended time and time again over decades–is finally getting some traction rather than inaction.
When I think about what could be the soundtrack to our lives right now, I go old school and think about Public Enemy or Rage Against the Machine, but, you know what? This morning I woke up with “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA in my head, and I think the lyrics are particularly meaningful right now. (But actually, more nerdy than that, it was Erasure’s cover that I was remembering. Here’s the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-d4J3YUQmU 🙂 )
Things are different now, and I’m really, really hoping that we all take a chance on each other.
If you’re in one of my courses this quarter, I hope you know that I’m basically treating all the assignments from the last two weeks as optional. If you turn them in, I’ll gladly read and review them, but, if you can’t get to them, no worries. I think I have enough to extrapolate a grade for you (assuming you were able to keep up or communicate with me throughout the quarter).
Stay safe and sane. F*ck the police. Black lives matter.(and support your Asian American restaurants as we open up restrictions!)
If you need anything, I’m here.
P.S. The latest episode of Last Week Tonight is particularly on point. Watch the last few minutes if nothing else. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf4cea5oObY
P.P.S. I’ve been periodically sending emails out to all of my students from the past 1.5 years and all peer facilitators ever. I fixed some email address recently so if you missed previous ones, an archive of messages sent can be found here: https://markdangerchen.net/2020/06/03/letters-to-my-students/
These messages aren’t normal. I’ve felt compelled to write you all in a way that’s also different than previous years. I don’t think this will be a regular thing moving forward, but I sort of didn’t think that three months ago either… Please let me know if you want me not to include you. Thanks!