Back from the seminar with ringing in my ears. Today,
a special session in learning to be offended. The teacher
is an empowered victim, an obese libertarian who spends
her afternoons at the Palm Springs hotel pool in a lace bikini.
In her youth, one hears, she sued the San Francisco Ballet.
She won a space in a spring production playing the part of a fat swan.
In college she took the chancellor to court to gain admission to the men’s
locker room. She made the men shower in their jockey straps.
Now she has diabetes and wheezes when she climbs stairs. She
has taken up as a topic The Smiling Face of Whiteness. She made us
buy her book and a set of tapes read by a transsexual prisoner at Folsom
whose claim to fame is that she once sucked off Johnny Cash.
Whiteness, she contends, is a kind of one-dimensional way of being
in the world. This, no doubt, contrasts with the multi-dimensional Eskimo.
I felt instantaneously resentful, in contrast to her position that whites
endlessly forgive their own transgressions. I forgive nothing.
Curricula emphasize terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi. It’s as
discouraging, she points out, as being too fat to model. Schools
perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks
and other Europeans. She asks us to consider the proposition that 2+2 = 5.
Aspiring math teachers of color must learn to develop a sense of “political
conocimiento,” which means answers from whites are always wrong. She
quotes from a Vanderbilt University professor who writes that the field
of mathematics is a “white and heteronormatively masculinized space.”
“Things cannot be known objectively; they must be known subjectively.”
There are no right or wrong answers. Don’t accept your white teacher’s
corrections. When he says you’re in error, look him in the eye and tell him
that is just his opinion. (If his eyes twinkle, sue him for sexual harassment.)
Only when whiteness ends, can forgiveness begin. So many minorities
“have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms.…”
We are tired, she insists, of being judged by whether we can reason abstractly.
White thinking leads to white ways of being. Now repeat: 2 +2 = 5.
[David Lohrey is from Memphis, where he grew up, and now lives in Tokyo, where he teaches and writes for local travel magazines. He graduated from UC Berkeley and then moved to LA where he lived for over 20 years.
Internationally, his poetry can be found in Otoliths, Stony Thursday Anthology, Sentinel Quarterly, and Tuck Magazine. In the US, recent poems have appeared in Poetry Circle, FRiGG, Obsidian, and Apogee Journal. His fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Dodging the Rain, and Literally Stories.
David’s The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th-century literature, was published in 2016, while his first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was released in September 2017. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Collective.]