On Erasures, Silences & Absences: National Poetry Month, Day 23

Yesterday I posted about not “outing” myself in my home to keep the peace with a man who was building bookshelves for me, a man who has an issue with gay people, although he insisted that he didn’t. Afterwards, I saw an email from my friend Adela (whose gorgeous face you can see holding one of her three debut books in one of my earlier April posts) who shared this David Mura piece about race in the MFA classroom. I’ve been reading this piece in chunks on my phone. I can only read three or four paragraphs at a sitting. My blood pressure is already on the edge of normal and 5-alarm chili fire. It’s not only the issues that Mura raises, each of which are incredibly familiar to me, nor is it only the incredible familiarity, the eerie feeling that I’ve seen this story a hundred times, that I’ve lived this story, nor is it only the truths that he lays bare.

I’m peeved at the typos. The glaring errors that the editors of Gulf Coast did not catch. I’m angry that they left these errors in this critical piece about the ways in which POC are seen as “a troublemaker, a malcontent, someone with psychological problems” this “manual for battle and survival” left unedited unproofed. How easy it will be for the very white writers who Mura so carefully & compassionately unpacks to simply dismiss the essay or scoff at it for its mechanical errors. While I want to be publicly silent about this disregard of the editors of GC to honor and respect not only Mura but also its own journal, I also find silence to only be useful in meditation.

How many times have I sat in a classroom in which there is only one or two persons of color and the only person whose typos are called out are poc? How many times have I sat in a classroom in which the person of color’s work is considered “undecipherable” because of the typos? That the writing has been called “sloppy”.

This is one way that POC are erased.

Once, I sat on a committee and listened while a white committee member said with the absoluteness of a guillotine: “I liked the passion but the execution was just not there; this person had too many typos.” This person was the only POC applicant. A couple of the other applications, too, had errors. When I pointed these out, the committee member blinked rapidly and another member told me this wasn’t a contest to see who had the most errors.

Rationality is absent when, as Mura delicately points out, white people attempt to maintain the status quo of whiteness.

The white professor and the white students start with the assumption that none of the white people in the class are racists or consciously or unconsciously subscribe to any elements from an ideology of white supremacy.  To challenge this assumption is treated as blasphemy, as an act of aggression.

I have yet to finish Mura’s essay. I can only read it in chunks. It’s too familiar. Too painful. Too filled with erasures and silences from the absent editorial hand. Here is a wonderful David Mura poem.

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