By Robert J. Razzante
I teach a small group communication course in a university located in the southwestern region of the United States. Each classroom has at least two things: the United States Constitution and a United States flag. In addition, both “patriotic” symbols are located at the front of the classroom. The strategic location of these artifacts works to maintain a patriotic ideology that privileges some students while oppressing others. The university also requires instructors to withdraw our own ideological beliefs before we enter the classroom. Consequentially, the post-Trump election (known as 11/9 by some) has turned our classrooms into a potential hotbed for any post-colonial body.
I consider myself an able-bodied, white, European-American, cisgender, heterosexual male. My very body re-presents colonial oppression. My very body may serve as a threat to some body: colored bodies, immigrant bodies, queer bodies, trans-bodies, and disabled bodies. My body is no longer some body. Rather my body has become some body that may threaten through my being. My body may re-present the oppression encoded in the United States Constitution and flag. How do I, in my body, work to create an environment where all bodies are welcome? How do I use my body to rewrite the script when it comes to colonial and neoliberal oppression? How do I encourage students who identify like me to rethink the workings of their own bodies?
Studying critical pedagogy can often take a hit on the soul; this field of study is not for the faint of heart. Cornel West (2008) provokingly noted that an alternative to both optimism and pessimism is hope. Under a Trump presidency, critical pedagogues need to foster their own sense of hope. Hope is what allows us to stay engaged in the tension between teaching in a neoliberal educational system and teaching for our students’ and our own fulfillment. I am hopeful that our students will engage in their own hope-making after they observe the struggles we go through ourselves. Praxis is contagious. When we vocalize the questions above, we encourage our students to do the same.
Robert J. Razzante, a doctoral student at Arizona State University studying critical-intercultural communication, focuses on ways dominant group members work to resist oppressive social systems through their communitive behaviors.
West, C. (2008). Hope on a tightrope: Words & wisdom. Carlsbad, CA: Smiley Books.