"Within complex and ever shifting realms of power relations, do we position ourselves on the side of colonizing mentality? Or do we continue to stand in political resistance with the oppressed, ready to offer our ways of seeing and theorizing of making culture, towards the revolutionary effort which seeks to create space where there is unlimited access to the pleasure and power of knowing, where transformation is possible? This choice is crucial. It shapes and determines our response to existing cultural practice and our capacity to envision new, alternative, oppositional aesthetic acts. It informs the way we speak about these issues, the language we choose. Language is also a place of struggle.” (bell hooks “Choosing the margin as a space of radical openness” from Yearnings: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics.
October 9, 2013 found me sitting on the beach. Just me and my pink chair. Sitting and being.
How do we begin to engage in radical acts? How does going to the beach become a part of my radical acts? At first glance, the image of me siting on the beach does not seem to rise to the level of an act of resistance. However, for me it was and continues to be.
Often we don’t think of the language of busyness, necessitated for a “late” capitalist state, as part of the oppression we as Black women face. The language of busyness exists as the contrast for the language of idleness/laziness. In deed, there is a politics involved in these narratives. Consequently, there exist space for resistance.
Busyness can be used to mask so much—insecurity, or need to feel needed, our fears that to not appear busy is to not fit the mold of success. So we stay busy, we keep our children busy—we are busy just for the sake of being busy.
Have you tried to get together with anyone recently? We now have to schedule a simple get together weeks in advance. There is very little opportunity for spontaneity in building friendships. Why? Because we are all so busy.
Some of us believe that we have to be constantly writing, researching, grading and the list goes on in order to achieve tenure. The model we are often given, real or fictitious, is to be constantly in motion. Motion because equated with success and subsequently self-worth.
This I argue contributes to our oppression. We have bought into, to sound somewhat Marxist, capitalist exploitation of its workers. We know that we can’t maintain the busyness of life; we know that we need human interactions, on a substantive level; we know we need to take a moment to simply sit and enjoy the beach. Yet we resist. We resist because we believe that to exist in the academy is to follow the capitalist model of constantly doing. After all we are fighting against the myth that we don’t belong. Thus, not only must we perform the expectations of capitalist academe, we must go above and beyond.
So, I resisted and went to the beach. I was tired—emotionally and physically. I could not and more importantly I didn’t want to perform the expected norms of what it means to be a professor. I found a different model. One that allowed me an opportunity to (co)exist with nature and to simply just be.
It is in my act of simply just being that I resisted positioning myself “on the side of [the] colonizing mentality.” I do believe that we can have success without constantly being busy. In part, we have to recognize how this model and the accompanying language—which is often couched in praise—actually oppress us. It oppresses us on various levels, including, but not limited to making us into someone we don’t recognize. The haggard look and the stress we consistently endure take us away from our true beings.
So-called idleness is not necessarily bad. We need rest. We need to rejuvenate. Thus we must resist the language of busyness and create other narratives of care.
This is the ninth post of my 31-day blogging challenge. You can tweet me at Dr_JZ using hash tag #31dbc to share your thoughts and share your stories.