Alex Dang, a bilingual slam artist was featured on Ted Talks for his choice to go into poetry as a method discovering his personal voice. Poets & Writers featured it on their facebook page and the response signaled to why I feel that ethnic studies is important.
I know, I know. Never read the comments on an article, but the first two comments on the top of the thread word “how do you say blah blah blah in chink?” and “fuck dang’s opinion.”
The first one was a clear reason–so many people tell me that we live in a post-race America because we have a black president. Fuck that. People just don’t want to talk about race. I’ve had students call me racist because I talk openly about race, racism, and privilege. I am frank about how all three exist. It frustrates me when people say, “well you’re being reverse racist.” Such a thing doesn’t exist.
Imagine you work in a giant corporate office. You walk up to the top floor and scream at the boss, “YOU’RE FIRED.” Nothing will happen. Why? Because you have no power in that situation. The boss can say, “you’re fired” and bam you’re carrying a box full of your stuff and you’re being escorted out of the building.
That’s how racism works. Because the boss has the institutionalized power, what they say goes. Those who are not of color have institutionalized and structured power. As so straight people and cis-gendered people–mostly male identified/bodied. For someone who is not in power to do “reverse racist” is laughable. People of color can be racist/prejudiced. But the institutionalized power that comes from it? Can be debated. We are taught to distrust people of color. We are taught racism right off the bat.
However, when we talk about it? We’re told not to, by those who are in power. So I teach ethnic studies to get people to actually *talk* about the issues that have to be talked about. I feel that a lot of what’s wrong with the US right now stems from colonialism and institutionalized prejudice.
So I close with this:
Why don’t we talk about it? What is one issue about racism that you want to discuss within America?