Friday, August 29, 2014

This Semester - and a class on Black History

(Warning / pre-post: The following post includes a photo of lynching (that may be viewed as disturbing by some) as a reminder of the hell that Black people have suffered in the U.S.)

Hello all,

This semester has begun, and as enlightening as it's going to be, it's also going to be quite stressful and difficult. Possibly the most difficult of all my semesters in grad school so far. I'm still thoroughly excited, though!

Along with a couple of classes, I'm going to be reading a whole bunch of books/articles/stuff on my favorite themes (gender/sexuality, Islam/religion, feminisms) and I'm TA'ing a class in a subject I've zero background in. The class is called The Black Power Movement with 500 students enrolled in it - I'm one of the six TAs. Attended yesterday, and Oh My God - the teacher is SO entertaining, so passionate about what he's doing, and so knowledgeable. America tends to ignore the ugly parts of its history, like the genocides of the Natives here and the slavery of African Americans. Our history textbooks barely mention it, and that, too, as if to say, "Well, it happened; deal with it, Black people!" And as the teacher pointed out yesterday, we are so invested in the problems and genocides committed by outsiders that we have a museum commemorating the Holocaust (and I think that's great; don't get me wrong on this), but we have none commemorating slavery. Because that would be acknowledging that it freaking happened!

Considering especially the recent event in Ferguson, MO, I think this class is beyond relevant and important, and it delights my heart that our uni is offering it (because it itself has a very ugly history as well, and we have some of the most obnoxiously racist people eternalized on campus in the form of statues. I KNOW!! Can you believe that?! 2014 and we won't let go ... I'll write about this more at some point, inshaAllah.)

The teacher started the first lecture yesterday (this is unusual for most classes; the first day is usually just going over the syllabus, teacher's expectations, and overview of the class and all). Then again, this is the first time I've ever been in a classroom with that many students. The largest number of students I've been a TA for was 92 or something, and it was an Intro to Islam class. The largest class I've ever registered for was probably in the 60s or 70s back in my first two undergraduate years when I was a pre-med student and taking biology and chemistry classes. (That early in college, virtually every South Asian student "wants" to be a doctor, you see.)

Now, some people might not approve of this idea, but the teacher literally showed a picture of lynching to the class and asked them to analyze it and tell him what they noted. Take a look - but be warned that it may be disturbing to many:

To read more about this image, an Omaha court lynching in 1919, click here. And to see more images of lynching (because I think people should know what actually happened), simply google image the word. Keep in mind that lynching as a form of social violence in the U.S. took place from the late 18th century until well into the 1960s, when black people were supposed to have been emancipated. I'll write more about slavery, black history in the U.S., racism, etc. over the next few months, and I expect to also include some novels and books that depict the history fairly well. Like that amazing novel Native Son by Richard Wright! OH MY GOD. It's brilliantly told, and it's haunting. You HAVE to read that, folks! And To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - everyone knows this book is a classic.

Anyway, so this is just to say I learned so much yesterday in that class alone that I'm already overwhelmed with what else is to come. And then there are the things I'm going to be reading on my own - ahhhh, the alone kills me with excitement! 

Since I'm going to be learning a lot and will have a lot to discuss, I expect to be blogging more about this class than about anything else these next few months. I tend to go crazy when I've things to discuss but no audience to do it with, so let this blog be the qrratu's treasure!

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