It's A Must That I Bust Any Mic You Hand To Me - The Jose Vilson

It’s A Must That I Bust Any Mic You Hand To Me

July 29, 2008

I’d like to tell my children, whoever they may be, that I was an activist someday. And by children, I mean the ones I borrow for 10 months a year, but I mean the ones I hope to have in the future, too.

I don’t mean that I’ll be rebel-rousing in my school per se. It’s bad enough I know some of my administrators are reading every word I write carefully. I wouldn’t want them to think I’m trying to start a revolution in our building ::ahem::. In school, as a matter of fact, I tend to maintain a very professional attitude, doing my best to be completely respectful of the students and faculty I encounter on a daily basis. When people ask me for my opinion, I usually give them a blanketed statement that comes straight out some manual on best teaching practices. If not, I give my best opinion, but make it so it’s constructive and non-judgmental.

But when the door closes, I want to give my kids the reality that they may face out there. I want to tell them how the war’s a hoax, how billion-dollar corporations have the gall to help raise gas prices while simultaneously lower wages and cut jobs every quarter, how our president and vice president have no shame whatsoever about their corruption of the US Constitution, how this country’s foundation came at fractionating people who weren’t rich white males, how the world will not look too kindly on children from their neighborhoods, and how they should never forget the struggles where they came from.

The problem with that is: I’ll be labeled a radical.

Oooh. Just the thought that I might impart the documented but often hidden truth to students who often have a distorted vision of the country agitates some to the point that they’ll label me as such. Would I prefer to be downgraded to some title like “liberal” or “anti-war” knowing my past and present thoughts and behavior? My affinity for Rage Against the Machine and Immortal Technique? My protests against NYC budget cuts, against calls to repeal affirmative action, for true immigration reform, and against racist and sexist policies by others on my former campus? My affiliations with activist groups I’ve been a part of, have joined, or will be a part of eventually? My blogroll? Some of the search results that lead people to my interviews and writings? My poetry? Never that.

And I have a hard time looking at people who grew up with similar upbringing to mine and consider themselves moderates. At the risk of sounding belligerent, take a damn side. We can’t sit idly by while so many of us fall down like dominoes in an intricate display of callous tumble design. As much as I like building bridges in the blogosphere and connecting with people who may not necessarily agree with me, I also don’t see any way for me to compromise myself and my ideals, especially with everything I know.

Then I look at my kids, and wonder how much their educational system really values social studies and being informed of current events and history. I wonder how much all these distractions have pulled them away from trying to actually understanding the intricacies of why their cousin’s in jail, why they have a hard time seeing themselves anywhere besides rap videos and the wrong end of a murder story, or why both of their parents have to work at all hours of the day and people still call them lazy.

If trying to find real and ethical answers and solutions to these questions makes me radical, I’ll take that proudly.

jose, who gets the microphone fiend in him every so often …

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Taylor July 29, 2008 at 11:25 pm

And once again The Jose nails it.

One thing I don’t think is acknowledged enough ~on and offline~ is the LOCALITY of it all.

Do you know what I mean?

Reply

Jose July 29, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Go on …

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Taylor July 29, 2008 at 11:33 pm

It’s hard to explain. I hide behind the fact that I can’t find my Kool-Aid Jugs right now and I KNOW MY HUSBAND DIDN’T pack them in the same box with their lids….

But mainly I’m saying that you can be as “globally aware” as you want to be, but if it doesn’t translate into local action and greater local understanding, it’s just so much noise.

You teach in a local area you understand. Nobody does it better.

Nothing happens unless it happens locally.

but we need some waffle house to keep us awake till we can snag some late-nite boxes @ Wal-Mart.

You’re the best, Jose. Glad 2 know ya.

Reply

Tracy Rosen July 30, 2008 at 5:33 pm

“I also don’t see any way for me to compromise myself and my ideals, especially with everything I know.”

wooo.
I like.

“If trying to find real and ethical answers and solutions to these questions makes me radical, I’ll take that proudly.”

even more.
I like.

You’re the hottest microphone fiend on the block right now.

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Jay Midnyte July 31, 2008 at 12:26 am

Or they’ll call you a conspiracy theorist… Gotta make sure society kills independent thinking & investigation!

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Amauri T. July 31, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Good post Jose, on a difficult topic. I’ve been meaning to write on this myself but have yet to sort out effectively where I stand on the issue of activism or militancy. This might make me a moderate, but then again I share those musical and literary affinities for work of artists who are clearly in the camp labeled ‘radical’. To me there are significant disconnects between their works of art and the art of working and living in the world. Immortal tech may be on point when he asks us to lick shots for the revolution and not against each other, but some of us may question licking shots at all. Moderation may seem like lack of commitment, but I see it as more complicated than just picking a side. The question of locality brought up in the other comments is one of the issues, but additionally there are issues of psychology, individuation, personal aesthetics, and economics that we all have to balance against the demands of our political ideals. Important and deep stuff…as always thanks for sharing Jose!

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Danielle Vyas August 1, 2008 at 12:30 am

Immortal Technique, yeah, alright I know you.

I love being labeled a radical and wear my badge with pride.

A teacher needs to teach what needs to be learned and I can tell you get the job done.

Great linguistic flow too.

Glad I subscribed.

In light and love

Danielle
Modern Musings

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