Post-Magical Thinking America

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-30 18:12Z by Steven

Post-Magical Thinking America

The Offing: A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel

Matthew Salesses

This semester, a strange thing happened. A student came to my office hours to complain about the difficulties of understanding her own oppression.

I teach a course called “Asians in the Media” at the University of Houston, where I am a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Creative Writing. The student is Asian American and has taken other courses in Asian American Studies. Her complaint was how hard it is on her to know that she is oppressed systematically by her country. She had it easier, she told me, before she knew that she was being marginalized. She expressed a wish to go back to not knowing. What could she do? She has a white boyfriend whom she wishes to marry. Why shouldn’t she be able to become a doctor or lawyer and live out a sort of ignorance-is-bliss?

I found myself very much identifying with her desire, and empathizing with her fear of the world she now knows she lives in. Sometimes knowledge is a very difficult thing to deal with. As a teacher, I admitted to her, that difficulty is something we want — we want to complicate knowledge. And yet. I could understand the very real truth that perhaps her life would be happier if she didn’t know that her country values her happiness less than certain other people’s happiness.

I have been thinking about our conversation ever since. I have been thinking about how close the student seemed to a breakdown. I have been thinking about whether it indeed screws up her life to know about white supremacy. I have been thinking about how unhelpful it is to tell students that in a decade or so, they will appreciate having learned what they learned. I have been thinking about how unhelpful it is to tell students that they will live more fulfilled lives if they understand the system under which those lives are led. I don’t know if that is even true…

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