By: Marissa Munoz (University of British Columbia [Theme: Place and Land])
Imagine a class of 34 pre-service school teachers,
undergrads of various stripes, interests, and ages.
you are in the center of the room,
and they are happily "playing along" with a demonstration
of Agosto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed
this on is called Flocking
which you have done yourself
more than a few times. It is all familiar.
You smile along, watching from the center of the room.
This is Indigenous Education, a required course,
one of the last requirements before these eager pre-service teachers
fledge the nest
and find their own classrooms to facilitate.
You are Indigenous, but an immigrant to this land, to this country far from home.
You came back for the chance to teach
to teach at the big university
to teach a subject close to your heart
because back home, Indigenous Education isn't a thing
they do there.
you created a great syllabus.
Six weeks have flown by and
you have facilitated a lot of learning
called in some favors and personal connections
planned some fieldtrips
agonized over hard conversations about racism
led rounds and rounds of check-ins
kept everyone safe.
You've picked just the right articles,
facilitated online discussions,
and given feedback on reflection after reflection after (not so critical) reflection
and patiently explained again to that one student
who tries to convince you every week
Indigenous Knowledge is not real.
This is the second to the last week,
and these are the final projects
and you are almost done, almost done, almost done.
And over to your left, you see it before you hear it
Students are laughing.
One throws an invisible ball to another
then falls on the floor.
And that student does the same movements, only it's not one ball
it's many small balls, like lint
she picks off her clothing and throws them on the next person
before falling to the floor
is she fake dying?
she's fake dying.
And this is flocking, so others are imitating
And when there are only a few people left
still on their feet
You hear it
"Catch! Now you have smallpox"
And it's so funny! What a great activity!
Only it's not.
Genocide is not funny.
And you can't move
and you are not sure when you stopped breathing.
Stunned, you let the group wrap up their demonstration
Classmates offer appreciations,
just the way you modeled to them.
You stand, and shut it down.
This is how racism happens without any racists in the room.
You ask for a 15 minute break and step out for fresh air
When you come back
They are talking, some are crying
All are shook.
You are wearing your armor
and for the next hour they talk
blaming, pep-talking, working through complicity
you offer care,
and sit with
The course ends.
You submit your grades
and move home.
The following week you get the call
"Everyone was supposed to have passed."
Even the student who doesn't believe in Indigenous Education?
Even the student who only showed up for 2 of 12 classes?
Even the student who didn't turn in one single assignment?
"What are you going to do to ensure that every student is successful?"
And, like magic, the next week all the grades are pass.
But your teaching evaluations are permanent. Students wrote
"I do not trust her professional judgment."
"Led a dangerous exercise..."
"...Not fit for university teaching"
And, like magic, I've never been invited to teach again.
Because this is how racism happens without any racists in the room.
BIO: Marissa Aki'Nene Muñoz is a Xicana Tejana, tracing her roots to Tlaxcalteca, Coahuilteca, and Wixarika communities of the present-day Texas/Mexico frontera. Her current research focuses on critical storying, testimonio, and collective memory as the community strategies that have protected rich mesoAmerican intellectual traditions from colonization. Building upon Indigenous scholarship and frontera-specific methodologies, Marissa’s research moves toward mobilizing Indigenous knowledge of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, in response to the ongoing military occupation, environmental racism, and cultural ethnocide that occurs along the U.S.-Mexico border.