My first impulse after our presentation ended was to pick it apart. What I wish I had said or done differently or how I left out this important thing. I found myself wanting to talk to each and every person to explain what I wish I could have changed.
A part of this is an openness to continue to learn and improve, but I think a lot of it is tied to the urgency and pressure of representing communities that have been erased, excluded, targeted, and often misrepresented. There’s a fear of perpetuating these patterns and being a part of the harm, trauma, and oppression, as well as an insecurity that if I too am a work in progress, how can I claim that anything that I produce is a finished product?
Another part of it is being an Asian woman taking up space in a society that tells me to be small, un-abrasive, and exponentially humble. We designed our presentation to directly confront and contradict these messages about ourselves, about people who look like us, about others whose oppression is tied to our own.
And yet I wonder if we did enough.
Matters of the mind
This week I am reading Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements by Chris Dixon. The way my professor explained it, the author Chris Dixon traveled across the North America interviewing activists in various movements about their practices and philosophy within leftist, radical politics. The book, published in 2014, constructs the basis for “another politics” by compiling the common threads and best practices derived from these interviews.
What I have enjoyed about this book are the ways the interviews from those on the ground lend credence and practical application, as well as opportunities for critique, of ideas that are usually presented as wholly aspirational and often abstract. For example, while talking about the value of “being nice” and providing “healing spaces” there is also a frank discussion of the limitations of internal healing — that internal work only challenges systems of oppression as much as the internal is a site for oppression, but is not the only location of resistance. Internal healing arguably does little to actually change society. What I found is that through the combination of various voices constructing this idea of “another politics” we get a rich look at both large ideas and the nuances that emerge when they are put into practice.
In my favorite Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and his friends learn to confront a boggart. A boggart takes the shape of its adversary’s worst fear and is banished through a spell and laughter. Under Professor Lupin’s capable tutelage they emerge victorious. The boggart cycles through each student’s immediate, internal fear before they render it riddikulus.
I can only imagine that my professor took a page out of the Harry Potter series when constructing his lesson plan. On the first day of class for Clinical Practice with Groups our professor passed out notecards and told us to answer the question: “When it comes to working with clients in a group setting, what is one situation that terrifies you?”
Last Fall, in my first semester of graduate school, I wrote in a reflection assignment for class about how I planned to manage it all. “It all” meaning a full-time job, what feels like more-than-part-time school, and providing some semblance of an adequate life for myself (involving a number of s-words: sustenance, shelter, sleep, social life?). I said a few nice things about maintaining a regular schedule and blogging as a creative outlet. My professor commented, “What a great idea!”