Thursday, March 17, 2011

[thoughts on Grant Hill's response] [a response in three parts]

duke is a school full of elitist kids. so is penn. and harvard. and yale ... and and and ...

sure. hill's parents are likely wonderful people. great. they work hard. wonderful. so did jalen's mother.

hill's comments, though, of necessity, cannot speak to the reality that animate(d?) jalen's comments in the first place: the structural inequalities that make it difficult or anomalous when someone from the hood makes it into an elite institution like duke ... we can act as if this is not the case. but i think our colleagues - myself included - display the sorta classist, racist, elitist assumptions that animate admissions processes. which is to say: most poor folks [which necessarily includes people of color] will not be going to *any* college, let alone an elite institution like duke. the ones that are from backgrounds like jalen's who *don't* play sports will likely be even more exceptional to the rule. so hill must swerve around and past the sorta institutional inequities that make him possible in a place like duke.

i'm not necessarily standing with rose. but i'm definitely not standing with the sorta politics of respectability narrative that is foundational to hill's piece: this narrative *must* dismiss the historical, material realities of inequality that operate within black communities in order to make a claim about work ethic as not negating the possibilities for blackness. as if blackness and laziness are the norm and that his parents and grandfather widened the notion of blackness to include a "strong work ethic"...


Hill's naming of work ethic is vulgar because he does not believe it and because it acts as moral injunction and general condemnation. If he actually believed that Jalen's mother worked just as hard as his parents, then his claims to work ethic of his family becomes an erroneous way to defend his placement in a place like duke and contradicts his argument. That is, work ethic does not necessarily translate into success. We've all read about inequities that exist by way of class, location, gender. If Jalen's mother worked as hard as his as he claims, then some other thing must account for his parents' and his successes. We typically recognize that as privilege, unearned, self-perpetuating and insidious.

He don't think that work ethic belongs to folks who don't succeed romantically, financially or emotionally in ways that mirror his parents for to do so, he'd have to acknowledge that hard work means little, not when kids are tracked, not when standardized tests are biased and not when the economic system under which we exist *needs* exceptional examples of "success"...

So it just rings hollow to me, his claims. And to be sure, I'm sure we all know that economics plays as much a role in educational opportunities as it does for romantic engagements. Sure. Hill didn't create these inequities but to act as if an institution like duke is neutral rather than founding itself upon these inequities is a mess ...


so ultimately, Hill appears to be interested in asserting his and his family's right to spaces like Duke, not necessarily because everyone has the sorta merit but because he and his family has a particular work ethic. denial to spaces like Duke --and critique of places like Duke from figures such as Jalen; even when in the language (i.e., "uncle toms" is sloppy and not well-deployed)-- would be a particular violation of rights. but he remains unable to think about how the violation that he is so concerned about necessarily must violate other people in the same ways that he sought to rise above: that is, the rights to and freedoms he so desires for Duke because of the claim for hiswork ethic must obscure the fact of labor and class stratification.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Secrets, Secretions / Lowdowns, Leaks

Spring 2012
Duke English

This course will think through the concept of a “secret” and how it functions in literature and everyday discourse, how it is both a technology and an ethics. Given the recent attention to Wikileaks that declares itself a “non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important information to the public,” this course will consider the relationship of knowledge and publics, of the sharing and withholding of information. Just who determines what information is important and how to disseminate that information to the public?

The course will think historically about different revolutionary moments that have taken place by way of secret and secreted information, by “giving the lowdown” and the leaking of knowledge from person to person, from community to community. We will investigate, for example, the relationship between the songs and sounds of Underground Railroad that became the occasion for escape from enslavement in the United States with the most recent prison strike in Georgia, prisoners using contraband cell phones passed along to them by prison guards in order to resist for greater nutrition, pay and health. What of the "down low" as a "phenomenon" that at once names sex, sexuality, race and gender as a fundamental problem in need of control, control by way of detecting secrets and spreading rumor and gossip?

What is the discourse about knowledge and power when secrets are secreted? What is the relationship between leaks and solution, flows and poetics? We will think about how networks are constructed and how the first forms of “social media” were objects like songs, whispers and hushes. We will read from several genres including Slave Narrative, Graphic Novels, Speculative Fiction and comments sections on blogs and news website. Students will be required to write a weekly blog entry response to the course reading material as well as prepare a major final writing research project on one a particular topic of interest selected in consultation with the professor.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

moth's powder (12.anotherthursday.04)

from: a

to: moth's powder


Subject: ...

dear moth's powder,

we were so deep, weren't we? i keep looking through all the conversations we've had because, well, you won't talk. i think this is when i knew i could love you:

moth’s powder (10:10pm): yo

a (10:10pm): yo...wassup

moth’s powder (10:11pm): nothin...sittin here thinkin...tired and ready to go home

a (10:13pm): you're not home yet? where are you?

moth’s powder (10:13pm): still on campus. had choir rehearsal tonight and now i have to study for an exam.

a (10:14pm): womp womp womp

moth’s powder (10:14pm): haha

a (10:15pm): what did you all sing?

moth’s powder (10:17pm): you know, you can still play for us. we really need someone who is good...

a (10:17pm): what did you all sing?

moth’s powder (10:18pm): we sang that song

a (10:18pm): you know how i feel about church

moth’s powder (10:19pm): by ricky dillard, the new fast one

a (10:20pm): church just makes me feel really out of control i think. and i don't know...i grew up and my father. he was just funny about that sorta stuff.

a (10:21pm): oh, ricky dillard. cool!

moth’s powder (10:21pm): what's your father gotta do with it?

moth’s powder (10:23pm): yeah, we could use you. jamison doesn't know what he's really doing. he's just learning. he's really not that good.

a (10:25pm): yeah. my father. when my brother and i were younger, our father would never allow us to sing with the jurisdictional state choir

moth’s powder (10:26pm): what's that? you know i'm baptist. must be some cogic

a (10:28pm): the state choir was sorta like a statewide "community" choir where people from the churches in our jurisdiction in the state would gather to sing during our annual meetings and convocations

moth’s powder (10:28pm): oh

a (10:31pm): yeah...and so the reason our father was so against the idea was because, according to him, there were far too many gay men in the choir

a (10:32pm): they were too "funny" and he ain't want that to rub off on me and my brother. well.

moth’s powder (10:32pm): fail!

moth’s powder (10:37pm): wait...are you still there?

a (10:41pm): haha. yeah. my bad. yeah. i guess we could say that his desires - at least for me - were were a fail.

moth’s powder (10:43pm): haha. true. the same for me, sorta. i never wanted to sing a lot when i was growing up. i was already short and skinny and nerdy.

a (10:46pm): YES! well, not the skinny part but yes!!!

moth’s powder (10:48pm): yeah. and i just knew that the gays were going to hell. i knew that the gays sang. so i didn't want to do that

a (10:49pm): me too. it's weird. i was the same exact way

a (10:52pm): like, but what still is hella interesting to me the way my father linked the choir with being gay. and i ain't wanna be that

moth’s powder (10:52pm): true

a (10:52pm): but

a (10:54pm): and even though i loved music ...

moth’s powder (10:54pm): what?

a (10:59pm): it's like, my brother and i would "play church" and he would always be the preacher and i'd always - always - be the choir director and the choir and the soloist and the musician. pretty much, i loved everything about music and would write down lyrics of all sorts of songs just so i could learn them but after my father's resistance to singing with the state choir, i became much more hesitant to sing anything myself

moth’s powder (11:03pm): i didn't have a choice. they kept pushing me to do things at my church. sing, direct, play the piano. all of it. i didn't want to do it but i did. make sense?

a (11:04pm):: yeah. something like that. i'm so weirded out by how similar we are. or, how much we have in common. shit is such a turn

moth’s powder (11:05pm): it's a turn on that we're alike? so you really want to date yourself? narcissistic ass! haha...j/k

a (11:06pm): no no no! no. it's just...i rarely meet someone who gets gets me, gets me. and i think you do. i mean...

a (11:08pm): i did not, at that time, want to be gay so i stopped everything that would presumably make me gay.

a (11:11pm): so i curiously began "catching colds" right before any time i was supposed to sing. and instead of standing in front of the choir to direct, i acted aloof as hell but would talk shit about just about anyone who directed because "i can do it better than them..."

moth’s powder (11:12pm): that's deep. and kinda stupid...but deep. we fight this too much. but you thought that being musical would make you gay?

a (11:15pm): i don't know. there's a book that i had to read a couple of weeks ago that talks about how even the phrase "being musical" was a code for being a homo in the early 20th century

moth’s powder (11:15pm): stop lyin...

a (11:16pm): but i'm dead ass. the book was talking about how a dude wrote his mother a letter that was pretty much a "coming out" letter where he was on some

a (11:17pm): mom, i'm sorry i can't be athletic...i want to be a musician and his parents were trippin because of it.

moth’s powder (11:17pm): damn

a (11:18pm): pretty much. so i mean, i'm not alone thinkin that "being musical" was somethin gay or father thought so...and i thought i just pretended to be sick...get around having to sing or whatever altogether.

moth’s powder (11:18pm): you're ...

moth’s powder (11:18pm): you're like ...

a (11:19pm): what?

moth’s powder (11:20pm): you fascinate me or something

a (11:20pm): but can a black man blush? because...i think i am...right now

moth’s powder (11:23pm): i mean, shit. you just made me think of this woman that came to our church when i was ten or eleven years old. i don't know what the hell she was talking about but i do remember her saying something about "sissies fanning over the choir" and about "bulldaggers"...

a (11:24pm): seriously? i ain't surprised though...she was probably a lesbian ...

moth’s powder (11:25pm): yeah. i remember it because when she said the sissies thing, people kinda sorta looked over at me, but not really. kinda like the gasp for breath that wasn't. you could almost hear everyone stop breathing ... because, if anything, i was kinda gayish

a (11:25pm): was? haha...j/k

moth’s powder (11:26pm): know what i mean, though. they knew i was different so even her saying something was a kind of jab

a (11:27pm): yeah. for me, i was always afraid of getting called out. this one white dude evangelist came to our church one time

a (11:27pm): and this was right after my parents got a computer and we had AOL and i began going online in chatrooms to meet dudes and had sucked a dick for the first time ...

moth’s powder (11:28pm): ...

a (11:28pm): my bad. lol

a (11:29pm): but yeah. so this evangelist was at the church and had a prayer line and was calling people out on some

a (11:30pm): someone is sick

a (11:30pm): sometime has a toe ache

moth’s powder (11:31pm): nice and precise, i see! lmao

a (11:33pm): haha...yeah. it was a mess. but yo. then he called out this dude i was messin wit that i met on the partyline (and i swear, somebody should like, do a study about the kind of religious and social life of phone chat lines...i've met more pastors and evangelists on there than anywhere)

moth’s powder (11:34pm): you a fool! lmao

moth’s powder (11:34pm): yo...keep typin...i gotta go to the bathroom...brb

a (11:35pm): oh ... iight ... hurry back

a (11:36pm): but yeah. so this evangelist is on some you've been hanging with people that aren't good for you ... god said it get it right or you will be destroyed as he destroyed the people of sodom and gomorrah

a (11:38pm): well shit. i was scared shitless. because my mother AND father were there and i did not know if they suspected i was gay or whatever. but i didn't want them to suspect it. so

moth’s powder (11:44pm): i'm back...

a (11:44pm): welcome back

a (11:45pm): so yeah. he does all this praying for that dude but ain't say shit to me or even look at me.

moth’s powder (11:46pm): he probably met the dude on the partyline himself

a (11:47pm): i wouldn't have believed it then. but damn. all that i've seen and heard? it's plausible.

moth’s powder (11:50pm): haha. plausible? they probably fucked right after the service. my music mentor took me to a service to hear her cousin play the organ. the dude that preached talked about how fornication was taking over the young people at his church but how he prayed against it and they won the victory. and how the spirit of homosexuality was going to take over too but they pleaded the blood of jesus

a (11:50pm): and wham! it was gone!

moth’s powder (11:50pm): just like that

a (11:50pm): in an instant

moth’s powder (11:51pm): who knew it was so easy?!

a (11:51pm): haha

moth’s powder (11:51pm): after the service...this fool says to me

a (11:51pm): uh oh

moth’s powder (11:52pm): right. he's like i can tell you're a bad boy and flashed a smile

a (11:52pm): what the fuck?

moth’s powder (11:53pm): dude. i was 16...i ain't know what he was saying or what he meant

a (11:54pm): that's crazy as hell

moth’s powder (11:55pm): dude! i said and he said it again no no, i can tell you're a bad boy!

a (11:56pm): but he wanted to preach against that shit right before?

moth’s powder (11:56pm): exactly.

a (11:59pm): i don't know, man. that's why i don't really fuck with church too much. too much contradiction.

moth’s powder (12:02am): maybe. maybe. but, i don't know. the preacher was in his late 50s at least, maybe even early 60s. he was probably lonely. the church sorta preaches that you've gotta be lonely to be holy, if you're gay or whatever.

a (12:02am): but it's not fair

moth’s powder (12:04am): it doesn't have to be fair. i said to a friend of mine, had he been cute, i probably would've "understood" him...he just wasn't attractive to me

a (12:04am): that's kinda fucked up, dude

moth’s powder: (12:05am) i don't know if it is or not. i know it's what i was thinking...

a (12:06am): but you said you didn't know what he was talking about

moth’s powder (12:07am): but i could feel what he meant. does that make sense?

a (12:07am): maybe. i think i felt what you meant when you told me to take your number down. i'm still awe

moth’s powder (12:08am): why?

a (12:08am): you did it in front of everyone. almost like reckless abandon

moth’s powder (12:09am): come on! you're a know all about lettin things go and lookin

a (12:10am): word? it's like that? lol

moth’s powder (12:10am): damn. i like you.

a (12:10am): it's reciprocal. you're very...forward

moth’s powder (12:11am): it's part of the charm. i'm dangerous, though. you shouldn't mess with me. i'll break your heart.

a (12:12am): but you're the one who came after me

moth’s powder (12:13am): i know what i like and what i want...doesn't mean i'm good for you

a (12:13am): but i'm already into're gonna have a hard time refusing me if you don't stop now

moth’s powder (12:13am): well.

a (12:14am): well.

moth’s powder (12:16am): so what do you think, though? could you even be with someone? i know you told me that you've not been in anything real or serious before...

a (12:17am): i'm sure i could be. or, let me say, i'm open to the idea.

moth’s powder (12:17am): just the idea?

a (12:18am): i'm really just too emotional. and too hypersensitive about things. i cried the day my maternal grandmother died...the entire day...before i knew she was dead. just didn't feel right...

moth’s powder (12:19am): you're a ain't holy! lol

a (12:19am): nah. not that. my parents knew. and i could feel the way they felt. and they felt sad. so i felt sad.

moth’s powder (12:20am): so what do you

a (12:20am): i'm not sayin

moth’s powder (12:20am): why not?

a (12:20am): i'm not sayin

moth’s powder (12:21am): you copy and pastin shit?

a (12:21am): i'm.not.sayin...!

moth’s powder (12:21am): stop it

a (12:21am): lol

moth’s powder (12:23am): seriously. what do you feel now? it's ok if it's nothing...

a (12:23am): but is it ok if it isn't?

moth’s powder: (12:24am) if it isn't?

a (12:25am): what if its something? what if i feel something that i've tried not to feel for a while?

moth’s powder (12:25am): that might. excite me.

a (12:26am): but you told me not to get excited. why should you be allowed to and not me?

moth’s powder (12:27am): i just...i don't know

a (12:27am): don't know?

moth’s powder (12:27am): there's been a lot that has happened to me

a (12:28am): that doesn't make you special

moth’s powder (12:28am): that's kind of an asshole thing to say

a (12:28am): shit. i ain't mean it like that. of course you're special. i mean...

moth’s powder (12:28am): ...

a (12:29am): i mean, things have happened to us all.

moth’s powder (12:29am): true. but shit has made me...guarded

a (12:30am): the ole okeydoke

moth’s powder (12:31am): what does that even mean?

a (12:31am): it means that maybe i should just believe you when you say that you will break my heart

moth’s powder (12:34am): *sigh*

a (12:34am): wait. this is far too much for this conversation ... lol

moth’s powder (12:37am): i have always been an intense dude

a (12:37am): well. meet your match

moth’s powder (12:37am): oooh! is that right?

a (12:41am): i like you.

moth’s powder (12:42am): is that right?

a (12:42am): right.

moth’s powder (12:44am): so you think you could be in a relationship with a dude? a real one?

a (12:44am): i could.

moth’s powder (12:45am): how do you even know?

a (12:45am): i just know

moth’s powder (12:45am): that's not reassuring ... lol

a (12:46am): it should be. and i think you're making excuses. making me unbelievable. untrustworthyable. no. that's not a word. lol

moth’s powder (12:48am): shouldn't we eat together a lot more before that's determined?

a (12:49am): i could ask the same about your knowing that you'd break my heart...

moth’s powder (12:52am): but it seems that's all i do

a (12:52am): break hearts?

moth’s powder (12:52am): break hearts.

a (12:53am): but why? if you know you do it, stop it. i know this perfect guy too...

moth’s powder (12:53am): you?

moth’s powder (12:57am): and if it were that easy? well. i would've stopped it a while ago

a (12:58am): what. you turn into a vampire or some shit?

moth’s powder (1:02am): no. not that at all. one day, i'll explain a bit. right now? i'm still at the library and need to be finishing up this paper.

a (1:03am): instead, you're wasting time talking to

moth’s powder (1:03am): it's not time wasted yet

a (1:03am): flirt.

moth’s powder (1:04am):

moth’s powder (1:11am): but you really, really should think about music again. i know people that know you. they say some nice things about you on the organ.

a (1:11am): haha. they're lying, i'm sure.

moth’s powder (1:12am): your false modesty is cute. lol

a (1:12am): it's not false.

moth’s powder (1:14am): anyway. you should. i have a concept for a group that i think you'd maybe like

a (1:17am): maybe. i don't know. it's like, i stopped with the music because i felt that if i stood before a choir or group and directed their singing, or if i wrote songs, or if i played the organ, something of their voices would wrap around me and make me drop my hips, sway my head and get into it and make me, force me, compel me to be and become gay

moth’s powder (1:17am): but you are gay

a (1:19am): thankfully! lol. but now that i'm all cool with it, i'm just not all cool with the church.

moth’s powder (1:19am): you're hurt

a (1:20am): eh

moth’s powder (1:20am): it's ok to be hurt

a (1:20am): eh

moth’s powder (1:21am): typing with stuttering fingers again?

a (1:21am): lol

moth’s powder (1:25am): i'm just saying. we don't need to pretend that the places that were formative for us, the places where we learned to sing and dance and love others, where eat ate dinner and got hugs and lipstick smudged on us ... we don't have to pretend

a (1:26am): lipstick? pentecostals don't wear makeup! lolol...j/k

moth’s powder (1:27am): well, you know. we don't have to pretend that we weren't hurt. and that it's not real.

a (1:27am): i suppose

moth’s powder (1:30am): what's gained by acting as if you're superman?

a (1:30am): i have a funny story to tell you about a dream i always have with a white and black superman fighting each

moth’s powder (1:30am):

a (1:32am): but yeah. i mean, i understand.

moth’s powder (1:32am): do you? you seem to be still worried that someone will know something about you that you don't want them to know

a (1:33am): you're not the only one that's guarded

moth’s powder (1:34am): touche...or, just touchy. either

a (1:37am): i had to use my old typewriter to finish a paper at my parent's house last week. and forgot about the delete tape.

moth’s powder (1:38am): what?

a (1:44am): haha. the delete tape. it was this clear tape that you'd use whenever you have a typo. the typewriter was electric so it could "remember" what was typed and if you made an error, it would go back to that space and "type" over the error with the tape and the tape would be imprinted with the same letter and the black would be removed. so it would be a kind of "delete"

moth’s powder (1:44am): i'm...confused.

a (1:47am): well. i mean. it's weird. we don't think about deleting the same way anymore. or, maybe it's just me. but like, with the delete tape, the machine had to go back to the same spot in order to remove the problem. now, we can just click a button before we print. we might have problems with print cartridges running out of ink, but not with delete tape.

moth’s powder (1:48am): i'll just repeat...i'

a (1:50am): lol. no. don't be. i'm just sayin. i don't feel the need to go back to the place that caused me problems in order to fix them. i can just...print something different altogether.

moth’s powder (1:51am): but what if you have a typo. you don't correct it?

a (1:51am): of course i do

moth’s powder (1:51am): then the difference is a bit illusory...or at least a ruse

a (1:51am): how?

moth’s powder (1:53am): you still have to go and fix it. even if it's just technology making a squiggly red mark under a word to let you know it's spelled incorrectly, you've gotta still highlight that spot to fix it. you may go there differently, but you still go there

a (1:53am): hmm...

moth’s powder (1:54am): and you still go there...the church, i mean. you engage it differently. but you do go. you have your way. you told me you only listen to gospel. and a bit of everything else.

a (1:54am): i suppose.

moth’s powder (1:55am): haha. i need to go, sir!

a (1:55am): then go! lol

moth’s powder (1:56am): only if you promise to talk to me again

a (1:57am): i want nothing more

moth’s powder (1:57am): until then...

we were so in love. and didn't even realize it at the time. well. it's snowing and i'm cold. and i wanted to call to say how much i wanted to wrap up with you. well.