Performing Politics: Poetry in a Writing Classroom
Shall we agree to the erasure of our beleaguered, heterogeneous truth?… Or shall we become 'politically correct' as fast as we can and defend and engage the multifoliate, overwhelming, and ultimately inescapable actual life that our myriad and disparate histories imply?
—June Jordan, “Toward a Manifest New Destiny”
Standing in front of my students, I am performing my identities. As a male teacher in a position of authority who will grade them, as a person of color from the Third World who is the bearer of news from the other side of the global divide, as a cultural theorist who asks his class why is it that the bull from Merrill Lynch can cross borders at will and the Mexican peasant cannot….
I can come to class on the first day and show the slide of a postcard from a decade or more ago. It shows a billboard with a corporate logo and a child kneeling beside a dirt road in the Central American country-side. Above the child's head, the advertisement reads, “He knows only three words of English: Boy, George, Uniroyal.” A line of black paint cuts across the last three words, and, thanks to the ingenuity of a graffiti artist, the new message reads “He knows only three words of English: Go Home Yankee.”
When I show my students this, I want to teach them that multicultural education in the United States might be nothing more than propa-ganda—or worse, advertising—if it doesn't hear, or even amplify, those voices all over the world who are talking back to power. But, they are