On the first day of classes, most Professors will ask students to share their name, class year, major and what they did that summer. I’ve always hated doing this. For one, the information we shared was somewhat superficial and two, no one EVER remembered who you were or what you said, anyways. No one really listened.
The exercise we did in our class surprised me, because it was something I had never done before. To listen to someone’s personal story and then repeat it to the class as if it were your own can be a little daunting. The fear of not getting it right was real. It requires your complete and undivided attention, compassion, empathy and sensitivity, because of the emotions that are tied to them. I am glad we did this activity, because it will, hopefully, help us approach the stories of these incredibly brave Black women in a similar way.
It’s often easy to approach readings and be detached from them, maybe because the subject isn’t “interesting,” or “relatable” or “accessible.” However, it is very important that we don’t do that, because these are not just theories or ideas, but people’s personal stories, experiences and thoughts that have shaped their lives, and others, in profound ways. The activity we did in class, shows not only how different we are in the way we see ourselves in relation to the world, but how similar we are as well. It was a very human experience.
Facing Down the Spooks, was one of the readings that really had my blood boiling, as I am sure others certainly felt the same way. Angela Mae’s experience working as a Professor, simultaneously has made her HIGHLY visible AND invisible, as the only Black woman and educator at that institution. The idea of women of color as being especially invisible is echoed throughout all the reading we had this week—and this isn’t something new. With invisibility there is also silencing. What do you do when you are begin harassed by colleagues to share your personal life? What do you do when you are do not fit the archetype of the “typical” Black woman? What do you do when you are not respected as a scholar or an intellectual? What do you do when people don’t listen to what you need? One thing that Angela Mae makes very clear is how she has constantly had to balance her identity as Black woman and as an intellectual, and while she has gained some access to certain arenas that does not equate to liberation or equality. Not even close…