I’m frustrated and I’ve chosen to do something about it. And yes, I’m dragging you along. Allow me to explain:
Everywhere I look on the internet, there are five-point guidelines for how to do any number of things: seduce (and keep) a man, stop being racist, find the career of your dreams, fund your start-up, and so on. Because I have an intimate awareness of just how stretched thin I can feel sometimes, I appreciate the efforts to synthesize and summarize; unfortunately, much of the internet reading I do leaves me feeling confused, annoyed, and talked-down to. I know from experience that life is much more complicated than a five-point guide-blog can respond to in 1,000-1,500 words or less. And yet, I feel as though there must be some way to maintain a sense of nuance, humility, and patience even within our world of compressed time. This is the challenge I’m presenting to myself, and you all will be the evaluators of my success or failure.
I’m almost positive that most people who start off reading this blog will be friends and acquaintances of mine, but let me indulge by letting the strangers out there know a little bit about who I am and what’s important to me. If forced to pick my top three identifications, I’d choose the following: Californian, introvert, and intuitive. I’ve worked as a para-educational professional for twelve years in schools, non-profits, and community groups. My social, professional, and academic spheres have brought me into contact with many different kinds of people. Techies who don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them who are also critical of the groupthink in Silicon Valley. Community organizers who protest displacement of vulnerable families and communities. Non-profit attorneys. Homeless neighbors, many of them LGBTQ youth. Survival sex workers. Human rights scholars. Hungry public school students. Teenage leaders. People in rural, conservative parts of the country who are just trying to get by, and the people there who are working harder for change than I could ever imagine. I’ve taught immigrant, Spanish-speaking children how to read and I’ve facilitated anti-oppression workshops with graduate students and I count myself as lucky to be a ‘translator’ of sorts, moving in and out of worlds and learning from everyone all the time.
Perhaps you are wondering whether or not I’m writing for you, how my experiences and insights might be helpful, interesting, or whether or not my perspective will enrage you at some points. To be clear, I’m writing for my peers: millennials with college degrees who freely access the English-speaking Internet, and hopefully people who want to consider different approaches to age-old problems like racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and so much more. Most of us came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, and though there is nothing inherently special about us, we have inherited many special problems without having been given the tools to address them: failures of multicultural education, police violence, immigration reform, corporate and finance capitalism, the entrance of LGBTQ awareness into the mainstream, and more. We live in a world of hierarchies, trying desperately to assess where to best place resources, attention, etc. We ask ourselves: who is the most oppressed? This question is often too difficult to answer, even despite the onslaught of statistics and research. Maybe it is also not even the most useful question to ask, as it often requires pitting horror against horror.
I’m currently a doctoral student in a school of education in the Bay Area of California and spend most of my time reading, thinking, and writing (both independently and in community) about issues of educational equity for minority students of many kinds, urban/rural divides, U.S. privilege, history and philosophy, and modern secular culture. I’ve spent the past eight years focusing on building alliances across difference in the interest of fostering beneficial relationships of solidarity in these trying political times. I read a lot. Books, news, reports, blogs. I want to share my reflections from these readings and offer questions for people to think through, always remembering that the thoughts I offer here are not conclusive. They are openings for discussion and I invite feedback at my blog email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m in the thinking-business, not the truth-business. The truth is always perspectival, and I know that mine is specific and limited. It is also less interesting to me to put forward a hard vision and more interesting to learn how to proceed with care and humility.
While the subtitle of this blog reads “Culture, Politics, and Current Events,” I do have to provide a caveat: my version of what constitutes a “current event” may be different than yours. I like to take my time, chew things over, and attempt to avoid the seductive knee-jerk moralism that saturates Internet blogs. While I understand that reading and witnessing traumatic events mediated through the news can often make us feel that these urgent problems warrant an urgent response, I also know how dangerous it can be to put thoughts and words out in the public sphere without being cautious. I never know what young eyes will fall on those words and I feel a sense of responsibility to practice rigorous and creative reflection on current social events, moments in time that emerge out of the immensity of history and culture.
Hopefully, you will find my writing and thinking useful, both for day-to-day life, and also for those acute moments of social upheaval when all of our assumptions and habits are thrown back at us and we are forced to confront the ways we relate to those who are different than we are. I’ve chosen to name this blog “Outside In” for a few simple reasons. On a level of amusement, I enjoyed the subtle turn-of-phrase as a child because of how this simple re-wording made people stop and think about what I’d just said before realizing I was describing a similar concept in a different way (often when folding laundry). This phrase also makes me question ideas of what is inside/outside – how do we draw lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’? Finally, I appreciate bringing ideas, stories, and histories to people who don’t consider those narratives to be within their experience or interest, only to have them find out that many interconnections of legacy bind people and places together, often in ways that fall outside the realm of dominant (or even resistance) history. I want us to call into the center of our thought things we might not usually care about, in order to question ourselves, our communities, and our worlds.
Be on the lookout for my next post on Thursday, August 13, 2015, which I’m writing under the working title “Rules of Engagement: Online Writing for In-Person Dialogue”