Day 1: Anxiety CCCC 2018, Tuesday March 13, 2018
I was next in line. “Yes, the kiosk told me to go to the customer service desk. It says it’s too late to check my luggage.”
There’s nothing like missing a flight for a conference that you’re a bit anxious about attending and nothing like touching down in a city that you know you’re not wanted in but will nonetheless visit because as we say where I come from, “One monkey don’t stop no show.”
My anxiety around attending 4Cs 2018 has nothing to do with the NAACP advisory; I already know how America works. Rather, my anxiety around attending this year’s convention has to do with how I will manage the comments and actions of “well-intentioned” scholars—comments like the one I’ll receive Thursday morning, “You know, I saw you and waved but you didn’t acknowledge me. I figured it was because you saw a white guy with a bald head and beard.” It’s the burden of having to manage inevitable moments like these enacted within the context of a contentious Cs and within a body that is not the somatic norm that make me anxious about attending this year’s convention, not an advisory that reminds me of what I already know.
My anxiety around attending 4Cs 2018 revolves around one other thing—the way blackness has been used as a pretense for boycotting the convention and the way this pretense will, without doubt, encourage pandering and patronizing as opposed to regular examination and reflection on “the evidence of racism and white supremacy” in our org and deliberation over how to disrupt it through a culture of accountability. I say pretense because the notice released by the NAACP was a travel advisory, not a ban. Yet the impetus to boycott the convention asserted that the NAACP had indeed released a ban on travel to Kansas City, MO. The irony of this misreading by language arts scholars, compositions, and rhetoricians doesn’t escape me, and it was the use of such language to rationalize such action that unnerved me in ways I can only describe as that feeling you get when you know you’re the vehicle through which other’s aims are achieved.
I agree unequivocally that CCCCs is–like so many other institutions—an organization that at once outwardly embraces diversity and calls for inclusion while at the same time failing to enact principles that materialize these values and practices that sustain equity. However, Kansas City constitutes no more precarious a space for Black folks than the rest of America. That being the case, how does boycotting a convention in the name of social justice assist Black folks on the ground in KC? From an inward-facing perspective, how does boycotting a convention in the name of social justice assist the efforts of black in particularly, and graduates of color and graduate students, in general, who rely on such opportunities to secure their futures? This is to say that my anxiety is informed by what I can only best describe as a knee-jerk reaction. I’m not good with knee-jerk reactions, particularly when such reactions claim to speak on my behalf or be in my favor.
“We can get you into Kansas City by 11:45pm, otherwise you’d have to wait until tomorrow.”
“I’m happy to take that,” I replied. “I’m in no rush.”