Follow-up to The day after.
My students came, even after them being told they could take a mental health absence. They came.
I started off the class nervous. Very nervous. I reintroduced myself, reminding them that I am a Chicana feminist scholar and what that means about my academic and personal politics. I told them Chicana/o studies is not neutral on issues of race, gender, sexuality and economic justice. I told them I was not neutral on this election. I also said that this was a space they could talk about the election, any fears, any plans, any questions.
There was nodding, but silence. So I went into my lecture on food and The Hunger Games. But in addition to the focus on food, we also looked at reality TV. Its cruelties and attractions. The discussion and lecture (I mingle the two) had gone on for forty five minutes, and had included discussion on the ways the United States was Panem when I got to my last slide. It asked them to talk about Donald Trump as reality TV star and how this image he had constructed informed the support for his run for the presidency.
Discussion came alive. Everything about the election, about Trump, about his personality and persona and his views was discussed. The students looked at the intersections of his support and what it meant and what it would mean. Their ideas were powerful and informed.
Then we took our break and the students started their presentations. As part of their requirements for this class, five students each week bring in a food that’s significant to them for any reason. They then, in a presentation, give a five to ten minute cultural and social exploration of that food. They have to bring in enough of the food so that everyone can have a taste.
The students last night outdid themselves. We had two types of tamales, each with stories of their connections to home, mothers and sisters, Los Angeles and to Meso America. Another student brought in pralines, connecting them to her family’s history in Louisiana and New Orleans. We had Cuban pork, black beans and rice and their connection to Cuba, Castro, fleeing, and starting again.
But the stand-out moment for me, the day after the election of Trump, was a student who brought in Chinese Chicken salad she had made for us. A Muslim woman originally from the Middle East, she told the history of this salad in her family (which she described as “Trump’s nightmare”). How her Asian American sister-in-law had made it and introduced her to it, along with U.S. customs like Thanksgiving. How this salad, created in California by a European chief based on California cuisine and American Chinese food, was so beloved by her children and her. It was a perfect moment.
These presentations filled me with joy as we came together over the foods the students had shared. They were everything I love about teaching U.S. culture, about how in Los Angeles we rub up against each other, mix together and create hybrid foods, languages and cultures. How this very thing, this majority minority, Bladerunner Los Angeles, is what so many in rural spaces fear, can be so creative, kind and wonderful.
I could not thank my students enough for what they’d done.
I drove home last night at 10:30 PM, after being on campus for 14 hours, filled with energy and hope.