Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Welcome, everyone. I want to say a few things, in no particular order, as I don’t see hierarchy. Let me put my glasses on:

1. You belong here.
2. This is a safe space.
3. No one is an expert; we are here to learn as we go.

Before we get started, I’d like to ask you to fill out a privilege check. You can make it out to zie, zim, zir, sie, xie, hir, ey, em, eir, or a name.

On the table in front of you, you’ll find a piece of white paper with black ink on it. Can anyone read the statement aloud for me? This is a rhetorical question, not a statement on the intersectionality of race-, class-, privilege-, and systems-based grievances.

For a woman of C62, M52, Y72, K41 color value, “the only possible relationship to the university today is a criminal one.” I have directly lifted this text from others; and by this, I do not mean Said academicians. Plagiarism, defined as “taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own,” is a highly problematic notion, having originated in the Euro-phallo-centricism of the 18th century. From the Latin, plagiarius, literally “kid-napping,” it may also be a trigger for victims of childhood narcolepsy.

Here in academia, we believe in tolerance towards a diverse group of like-minded peers. We will be unapologetic when it comes to making sweeping statements about bigots and transgressors. I’m sorry if anyone here is a Christian. The truth is that history is a personal re-telling of various subjective narratives. If you disagree with me, then you are a colonialist.

Now, let me collapse the grand narrative and come down to your level so that I’m talking at you in closer proximity. (Dismounts.) Let’s call this the form of criticism, sans the rigid structuralist approach of the circle, shall we? Education is about critically examining your entire worldview according to my selection of readings by a few Marxist-Feminist-Anarchist theorists.

By no means looking to resolve any questions, dialogue is motivated by an urge to problematize in productive ways the accusation that academia does not care for, take into consideration, or otherwise understand ‘history,’ however uniquely conceived. I can only speak for myself, generating sound vis-à-vis phonation in the glottis, recognizing that alaryngeal speech is not a monolith: Every palate is different.

In honor of this year’s theme—Are You Getting Everything You’re Entitled To?—we’ll be self-referentially marching in a non-linear and de-militarized fashion to collectively denounce systems-based grievances, at a fluid time, in the not-so-distant-now dystopian future. Everyone is welcome to join, except climate-change deniers; perpetrators of verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights; and anyone who did not join the Union.

Transgressing linear, western, closed-circuit narratives which privilege information as a means of highlighting a fixed meaning, we acknowledge language as a weapon and will support only those who claim to represent our rights, based on what’s left of positive word-association. In this mode, there are no answers, only questions of better hashtag usage.

Together, we can reimagine the etiological Tower of Babel as a locus for personal expression.

Clare Halpine is pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of Washington.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles