AWP Is NOT Us

Over years of working on literary publications, I have never felt particularly compelled to self-disclose as a radical queer editor, instead hoping that the writers I support would make clear my editorial interests. Today, Red Hen Press editor Kate Gale’s tone-deaf, reactionary—perhaps satirical?—piece “AWP Is Us,” posted at Huffington Post, illustrates publishing’s implicit & explicit intolerance for critical engagement with intersectional oppression and its influence on art & literature. Today, I realize that my silence has been a mistake.

So here goes: I, Jesse Rice-Evans, hereby vocalize my ongoing commitment to seek out and publish queer & trans writers, authors of color, writers of varying dis/ability & class, and any writer similarly committed to dismantling the exclusionary fascist bullshit demarcated by Kate Gale’s oblivious editorial. As a queer, educated, white grrl-presenting poet, I am fully able to slip into privileged literary spaces, evidenced by my gatekeeper status as editor and writing instructor. It is of utmost importance to my practice in both of these spheres to remain committed to inclusion, challenging neoliberal & apologist discourses, and the act of becoming as necessary for any person of privilege interested in challenging the very real oppression within publishing.

The challenge of who discloses in submissions is also up for debate; I have not felt it integral to the experience of my work to self-identify as [whatever], but I am also questioning if this is misguided. Publishing is still incredibly insular, overwhelmingly white, cis, straight, wealthy, and otherwise paralleling normative, exclusionary patterns that dominate our cultural narrative. By neglecting to explicitly come out as an editor (or a writer) committed to rejecting those paradigms and publishing authors who challenge hegemony, I have done all writers who have submitted/will submit to Identity Theory and other publications I have worked for a great disservice.

I am deeply disappointed that an editor at an influential small press such as Red Hen would show her (racist) ass quite like this, but in truth, I am not surprised. (And I’m not surprised one bit at Gale’s affiliation with and blind defense of AWP, aka Apologist White Poets.) For my own well-being, I have elected to stay the fuck out of publishing as paid work for exactly this reason, but I am now doubly committed to signal-boosting writers of color and queers, and publishing them whenever I am lucky enough to have the opportunity.

I’m so pleased the online response to Gale’s willful ignorance of how institutions operate and her baffling writing style has been so strong. There are enough politically literate writers & publishing folks to push hard against these unacceptable incarnations of oppression in our community, and folks are out there fighting back. Let’s find each other! And buy each others’ books!

Student

No matter what sort of bureaucratic nightmare I have to suffer to work as a professional writing tutor, the frustrations pale next to the exciting, multi-talented students that I get to support and challenge.

I have had an extra vibrant string of students this week–sociological studies on Michael Jackson, human geography of Tanzania, critical analyses of fast food and white pseudo-activism. Community college is obviously more diverse than my tiny liberal arts alma mater, and the students I tutor are no exception. Their opinions and experience often challenge my own academically-steeped politics, and I have to shut my white, Bachelor’s degreed, class privileged mouth and hear what they have to say. It’s humbling to be reminded that queerness and gender non-conformance aren’t the limits of  diversity in my current tutoring job.

Too bad admin is such a mess, because SCCC students rule.

Tutor

I’m trying to not get wildly upset at the SCCC administrators about their totally useless tutor training. The most difficult part of my grumpy energy is that I don’t even know who to direct my comments towards; everyone I’ve tried to communicate with has pointed me to someone else. It almost feels as if they are playing a bureaucratic trick, dangling a treat in front of me as I leap through hoop after hoop like a miniature horse.

The obsession with education psychology has really gotten out of hand–instead of addressing systemic inequalities, educators replace these difficult subjects with frilly, feel-good psychobabble on “self-regulated learning.”

Of course, the systemic inequalities critique would require some self-regulated privilege checks, not to mention some reverse brainwashing.

Success

My post-internship contemplation has solidified my long-held suspicion that I cannot be an intern–least of all when my supervisors have less work experience combined than I do myself.

Alexandra Kimball’s brilliant, sad essay touches on the anguish felt by those of us who are realizing that the job we always wanted is reserved for rich folks, and that we have little else to do besides worry about bills.

How to Succeed in Journalism when You Can’t Afford an Internship | Hazlitt.

White

In the writing center where I used to work, I helped a white student with an anthropology personal statement for graduate school. During our session, as the student was explaining their choice to focus their studies in anthropology–instead of sociology–they said, “Sociology is Anthropology for white people.”

At the time, I chuckled and continued to talk about passive verbs and abstract ideas, but in truth, the student’s complete misunderstanding of their field really bothered me. My discomfort worsened as the student detailed their research within an “intentional community” of hippies, freegans, and artists.

Later, I stumbled upon some photos of the student with another friend of mine at their Arabic dance class. The two of them sported heavy eye makeup, gossamer scarves, bangles, and jewels fastened to belly buttons, eyebrows, and cleavage. They were posed in artificial, exoticized positions, their white skin dusted with powder to make them glimmer under stage lights.

If Anthropology is not for white people, then who is cultural appropriation for? Was this just another research method to justify the scientific and cultural othering of non-white people? Or was this student caught in the delusion that their neoliberal multiculturalism benefited their scholarship?

Hippies don’t see color, which allows them to appropriate indiscriminately: dreadlocks are fine if your own thick hair dreads itself “naturally”; belly dancing is feminist and body-positive; the only non-white cultures worth studying are “exotic” cultures and their “mystical” religions, not the cultures of the neighborhoods hippies’ intentional communities have gentrified.

While I don’t have a problem with Anthropology, I do have a problem with white scholars saying shit like “Sociology is for white people.” Set down your Sanskrit dictionary and get a clue.