“Every white person in this country…knows one thing,” James Baldwin (1979)

radical eyes for equity

On Language, Race and the Black Writer, James Baldwin (Los Angeles Times, 1979)

Every white person in this country—and I do not care what he or she says—knows one thing. They may not know, as they put it, “what I want,’ but they know they would not like to be black here. If they know that, then they know everything they need to know, and whatever else they say is a lie.

What Can a Sincere White Person Do? Malcolm X


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Essay 1 Prompt (Fall 2017)

We are sharing a text (Roxane Gay’s collection) and essay 1 with other sections of FYWs this fall. Below is the common prompt.

We will work from this prompt, but will also allow some adjustments, which we will discuss in class. This is a good place to start for planning.

Self-Definition Essay

In “Peculiar Benefits,” Roxane Gay defines privilege through personal and social narrative, weaving a story of the term that includes her own privilege and the way the term has been viewed culturally, both negatively and positively. Using Gay’s essay as an introduction to the genre, you will write an essay that uses exploration of personal and cultural experiences to define a term or concept.

Begin by choosing a term that is related to diversity and inclusion. First, look at this list of terms we’ll examine throughout the semester:

  • Race/Racism
  • Privilege
  • Sexuality
  • Gender
  • Feminism
  • Social Class
  • Intersectionality
  • Religion
  • Nationalism

Do you connect to any of these words, or variations of them? Do your personal or familial experiences with any of these terms offer you a starting point for thinking about what it means? Using this list as a starting point, pinpoint one of these terms or another that relates to them that you’d like to examine in more depth.

Once you’ve chosen a term, consider how this term is traditionally defined as well as how your essay will respond to or broaden that definition. Your essay must:

  • State the term being defined,
  • Offer a clear definition of the term,
  • Use cultural and/or personal examples to elucidate the definition,
  • Both name and explain any negative and positive connotations that are often attached to the term (see Gay’s explanation of privilege).

While all aspects your writing will be factored into the grade, this assignment specifically asks for you to focus on clarity and organization.

I’m Indian, I’m dark, and I don’t care.

aswathi thomas

I love being an Indian, truly I do. With the country’s powerful history, one of a kind culture, and to-die-for food, how could one simply not?

But behind India’s beautiful face, there is a growing disease that our society continually fails to recognize- colorism.

Colorism is a term coined by author Alice Walker, and is defined as a discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone among people of the same racial and/or ethnic group. Also know as, internalized racism.

Growing up, I’ve always had dark skin. I, personally, didn’t see anything wrong with it and heck to be honest if you ask anyone I knew back then it was no secret (with my plaid cargo shorts, above ear length hair, and buckteeth) that I gave absolutely ZERO flips about how I looked. And to be quite honest, why should I have? I had great friends, saw the glass half…

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Rejecting Cultural Literacy for Culturally Relevant: From Baldwin to Cole, “the custodian of a black body”

radical eyes for equity

…to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Haunting the American character still is a fact confronted early in Teju Cole’s Black Body: Rereading James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” (originally published in The New Yorker 19 August 2014 but also opening Cole’s Known and Strange Things): that Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Coltrane are all “people who could still be with us.”

Living, Cole means—because, of course, they remain with us in ways that are both beautiful and disturbing.

Retracing Baldwin’s time in Switzerland and his essay spawned from that visit, Cole recognizes Baldwin was “depressed and distracted” during his trip in the 1950s—in part due to the “absurdity” of being a stranger during his travels as well as alienated in his home city of New York through the fact of the manufactured concept of race.

Cole experiences a “body-double moment”…

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