Laptops as Security Blankets
I will speak this into existence for this summer, which truthfully doesn't quite feel like a summer. My goal: to go on vacation, and not bring my laptop.
Whew. I am starting to get anxious just thinking about not bringing my laptop. I have a tablet, with a keyboard, which I know I'll bring with me. But even so, the idea of NOT BRINGING my laptop, feels so very much different.
My friend Debbie, who I met while at UCLA, used to complain about me (in a loving, joking way) because no matter where we went to explore on the weekends, I'd always bring my laptop. Cute cafes, amazing locations, delicious brunch spaces (all pre-pandemic), always included my metaphorical but actually quite literal, physical baggage that is my laptop. For many of those times, I actually never wound up opening it. (And Debbie would, like a true friend, tease me about why I hauled it around LA in the first place). Even during multi-day vacations, I'd really not spend a lot of time using it— usually just answering emails which (1) I shouldn't have been doing anyways, but also (2) could easily do on my phone.
And yet, the idea of not taking my laptop, feels like a commitment I'm not quite ready to make: a commitment to not be so tied to my work. To be clear, I am certainly not making the argument that people who bring their laptops everywhere have bad work-life harmony; (thank you Dr. Fred Bonner II for that reframe from work-life balance). Instead, as I'm slowly starting to travel (i.e., see my family for the first time), I'm wondering what my life might be like where I just... don't take my laptop. I'll still be able to do work off my tablet of course, and my parents have computers for me to use too in case I really need it. So I am thinking, and wondering about this idea, this vision, this tantilizing dream of not bringing my laptop... that feels like something that maybe I can actually try for this summer and commit to taking some time off.
And through it, I've come to meet some of my most favorite worlds, learned about authors who have now become some of my faves, and picked up new anthologies and books because I wanted to read more. Here are some of the episodes I've especially enjoyed (links and descriptions from Stitcher and in no particular order):
"Valedictorian" by N.K. Jemisin
A smart, stubborn high school student sets her own rules in a near-future dystopia. This story appears in N.K. Jemisin's collection HOW LONG 'TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH? Content advisory: language.
"What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" by Lesley Nneka Arimah
A mathematician has discovered a formula that explains the universe and makes it possible to manipulate human bodies and emotions. "What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" is the title story of Lesley Nneka Arimah's collection from Riverhead Books.
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken LiU
An immigrant mother tries to bond with her American-born son by creating a magical paper menagerie. This story appears in Ken Liu's collection THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES, available now from Saga Press.
"Childfinder" by Octavia Butler
A telepath uses her skills to mentor children with psionic ability. "Childfinder" is available in e-book format in the collection UNEXPECTED STORIES, published by Open Road Media. The story is copyright Ernestine Walker-Zadnick.
"Pockets" by Amal El-Mohtar
What could it mean to reach into your pocket and pull out... something that wasn't there before? Find more from Amal El-Mohtar at www.amalelmohtar.com.
"Cuisine des Mémoires" by N.K. Jemisin
A themed restaurant presents a very unique opportunity to its patrons. This story appears in N.K. Jemisin's collection HOW LONG 'TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH?
The first story I listened to was Lesley Nneka Arimah's "What it means when a man falls from the sky." And when I finished listening, I couldn't believe that it ended there, so I went out and bought the book immediately. I did the same after listening to N.K. Jemisin's "Cuisine des mémoires." And I cried during and after Ken Liu's "The Paper Menagerie"-- it was a little to close to home for me.
Part of why I like the podcast is because of how Burton adds in special effects with his incredible reading, so it really feels like a transportation to another realm. It's why I feel jarred when stories end "too soon" for me, or when things feel too close to emotions I've pent up. But, part of why I wanted to share about podcasts for this random round-up is because of the two stories I had wanted to include, but won't.
If folx have been following the news over the past couple of years, we've seen several cases of how scholars, researchers, and organizers have pretended to be a race that they are not and reaped the benefits of doing so-- which is especially damaging, horrible, and frustrating given the already scare resources for minoritized groups. The most recent in 2021 is Andrea Smith and I recomment reading Sarah Viren's incredible article about it. Viren's article unpacks the multilayered complexities of claiming ancestry with Native American tribes. I can't really do it justice so please just read it :)
I included it because of how, after listening to "Takeback Tango" on the podcast, I was enthralled and decided to look up Rebecca Roanhorse. And in doing so, came across this article: Acee Agoyo 's (Ohkay Owingeh/Cochiti/Kewa) article, entitled, "'The Elizabeth Warren of the sci-fi set': Author faces criticism for repeated use of tribal traditions." Whew. What a title right? But in it, included several troubling conclusions that felt similar to what I had been reading with Viren's (yet, also very different). I was of course, shocked and disappointed in reading the article, and now I don't know quite what to do-- I really do love Roanhorse's work. And yet...
In reflection on the past two weeks (which is when all of this came to play), I've realized that while I try to do my due diligence to read about authors I cite and include in my academic work (because citations are very much political), I have been less discerning in my other areas of life. To be clear, this isn't about wholesale boycotts or cancel culture (which is a different thing to unpack in it of itself), but a reminder for me that my time, money, and interests should be spent carefully and deeply in consideration of how harm is reproduced and the ways I contribute to it.
I've appreciated African American Policy Forum's #TruthBeTold Campaign where they've been documenting the attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT). And one of the things that they've clearly outlined and what Colleen and I also spoke about (and can be seen from other CRT scholars), is just how many misconceptions that exist about CRT. As mentioned in the article:
Cho said that two common misperceptions dominate discussions about racism in the U.S.: the “interactional,” as in, “As long as I am not doing racist things, then racism is false,” and the “comparative,” as in, “We're not as bad as we used to be.” And in keeping the discourse here, she said, “we miss the ways that racism may no longer be, for example, graffitiing terrible words in front of somebody's store, but can be much more covert."
One of the things that we're observing is the interpretation of CRT as "attacks" on specific groups such as white conservatives, who argue that they are being villiafied. But what I want to clearly emphasize here and what CRT explains (see Derrick Bell who helped found CRT in legal studies), is that racism isn't just about racist interactions but really about the embedded ways our policies, structures, and even organizations reify racism. (This is also why I appreciate Victor Ray's article about theorizing racialized orgs). This also points back to our education systems and what we are— and just as importantly are not— teaching. For that reason and more, programs and initiatives like Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones's work with the 1619 Project are huge because part of these anti-CRT attacks reflect a lack of recognition (*cough* hypocrisy) about our history. Recent comments from Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala to "not come" to America very much overlook how the U.S. has contributed to the political instability and migration, particularly in Central America.
But what these attacks also reveal are the ways that C. W. Mills (1959) describes our lack of "sociological imagination." In short, we reduce systemic concerns and struggles to interpersonal conflict and personal behavioral changes. We see this in deficit-oriented language and programming— think of the rhetoric of parents not caring about their children's education because they are not showing up to parent-teacher conferences, but overlooking that these conferences are scheduled during the work day that many parents (especially low-income) cannot (literally) afford prioritize. In the same way, we fall into the trap of thinking of racism as interactional, individually focused behaviors that we can "fix" through diversity trainings and workshops, without considering the political structures (think housing and redlining or gerrymandering and voting).
All this to say, I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been able to share my thoughts and am also grateful for Dr. Abbie Bates and Dr. Nolan Cabrera who talked me through my initial concerns and reminded me not to ramble (as I usually do— exhibit A are these entries).
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).