Early in 2016, I met with the graduate students with whom I work (Wideline Seraphin, Ana Beltran-Diaz, Pauli Badenhorst, Alison Tyler, Angeline Felber, and Mary Higgins). We were talking about my second book. We’re writing it together. The book is a team effort because the course on which it is based is a team effort. I designed my course (entitled The Philadelphia Urban Seminar) to provide infrastructure for the development of anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-abelist pedagogy among predominantly White pre-service teachers interested in urban education. I’ve taught the course eight times. I might teach the course ten times by the time the book is complete. I’ve revised the content, objectives, instructional methodologies, and assessments of learning several times. I’ve reflected on processes and outcomes, realigned goals, tested theories, and kept records of progress. My methods are based on #SupremeLove. Here’s what my students have to say about it.
The course is intense and has phenomenal impact, so we’re taking our time in writing the book. While we do, we also talk a lot about White Supremacist Patriarchy and how it affects people.
During one of our 2016 discussions, I shared with these graduate students how important it is to learn how people who are variously marginalized in society develop coping mechanisms and defense strategies in order to exist and thrive in societies that are so deeply affected by various supremacist patriarchies. People who are black, brown, yellow, red, women, differently abled, immigrant, old, fat, poor, trans, gay, lesbian, queer, etc. devise socioemotional and psychological methods to navigate multiple contexts that are not expressly designed with us in mind.
For example, I (as a person who is a Black, straight, cis, femme woman) know how to not bother you.
I know how to not bother you.
That means, I know how to do a representation of polite, gentle, deferential communication when engaging with people I know lack the capacity to acknowledge the nuances of my very existence, let alone the depth and breadth of my humanity, authority, and power. I know how to manage the knowledge of my world (which I must know well) and the world of those who rest, unencumbered, in the center of society (which I must know equally well) in order to survive. I have inherited this knowledge from many generations of Black women and men who preceded me. It has saved my life one hundred times (that I am aware of…and probably many more).
I know how to not bother you.
*Watch this entire video. OR jump to 15:00 to hear Soror Dr. Maya Angelou clarify this technique through poetry. Soror Dr. Maya Angelou is the author of many books. She is also the author of the poem “For Old Black Men” (which she names in this clip). She is one that I perceive as a Supreme Lover. In addition to her, I pay homage to Paul Laurence Dunbar, author of “We Wear the Mask” in Lyrics of Lowly Life, 1896. Brother Dunbar’s poem preceded Soror Angelou’s “For Old Black Men” and was integrated with hers to form the new literacies event she presents in the YouTube video at the link above.*
The #BlackGirlMagic of knowing how to not bother you is multifaceted. It protects and extends my ability to navigate sometimes treacherous personal and professional spaces. This is a very helpful skill for the times we are living in. However, the failure of this skill is that it leaves no room for those who occupy the center and comprise the power base to wake up from their oblivious, yet persistent, acts of oppression. It makes no effort to develop, within the oppressor, complementary methods for connection and integration. When I practice not bothering you, the method provides no opportunity for oppressors to see me clearly, nor my world (and the worlds of other marginalized people). As a result, the fact that I know how to not bother you actually compromises progress. Still, I still need it to be safe. So, I won’t let it go (at least not right now).
When I work with the graduate students I advise, and as we write our book about training pre-service teachers to be anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-ableist, I imagine what our assignments, assessments, exercises, and experiential work must be in order for students to grasp this and other survival and thriving methods constructed by people at the margins of society. I am aware that our efforts must include attention to the method of not bothering you and the culture it upholds. I am also aware that empowering people at the center with new awareness and new methods for meeting the margins must be anchored by the deepest levels of honesty, integrity, and courage. As we keep burying people, I hold faith that we’ll get there. As we figure it out, it becomes more clear to me how #SupremeLove can heal souls and change the world.
By providing a means through which to address and uproot the t/Terrors that supremacist patriarchies plant and perpetuate in human souls.
#GetSome #DiamondReynoldsKnowsHowToNotBotherYouToo #ItSavedHerLifeWhileHerBoyfriendWasDying #DiamondReynoldsIsAHero
Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language, African American Studies, & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s t/Terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.
Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.