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陪你读下去——监狱里的阅读课(节选)



我们翻译这篇文章的理由


作为一名哈佛高材生,作者理应是亚裔版“美国梦”的化身。然而,在马丁·路德·金、詹姆斯·鲍德温等民权运动领袖的精神引领下,作者对美国的民权运动与黑权运动有了更为细腻感性的理解。她离经叛道,孤身前赴密西西比三角洲的贫穷小城海伦娜教书;她以文学为针,以教育为线,将亚裔美国人的身份认同与上世纪的风云变幻密密缝合,为那些几近社会边缘的“问题儿童”织就最美丽的梦。一路上,作者将自己的心路历程娓娓道来,深刻反思了美国的种族问题。

 

——禹琦&劼怡


👇


陪你读下去——监狱里的阅读课

(节选)


作者:Michelle Kuo

译者:禹琦

校对:劼怡

策划:小钊 & 佳宁


A teacher, a student, and a life-changing friendship

一师、一生和一段改变人生的友谊


I WENT TO THE MISSISSIPPI Delta with a specific project: to teach American history through black literature. I imagined teaching literature that had moved me. I envisioned my students galvanized, as I had been in eighth grade, by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and mesmerized, as I had been in high school, by Malcolm X’s autobiography. I wanted my students to read James Baldwin, who wrote about the heroic stoicism of children who walked to school through a jeering mob. Books had taught me to admire a person’s will to confront the world, to evaluate his experience honestly, as Ralph Ellison wrote. Books had changed me, charged me with responsibilities. And I believed books could change the lives of my students. It was unabashedly romantic. I was twenty-two.

我曾在密西西比三角洲参与一项特别的教学项目:用黑人文学来教授美国历史,将那些曾深深激励过我的文学作品向孩子们娓娓道来。我期待孩子们会像我八年级时一样,读到马丁·路德·金(Martin Luther King)的《来自伯明翰监狱的书简》时备受鼓舞;或是像高中时的我那样,被马尔科姆·艾克斯(Malcolm X)的自传深深打动。我希望学生们读些詹姆斯·鲍德温(James Baldwin)的书,了解他笔下的孩子们上学时如何无惧街头混混的嘲弄,勇敢而隐忍。正如拉尔夫·埃里森(Ralph Ellison)所写的那样,书籍教会我欣赏与钦佩一个人直面世界的意志,并且如实地评价其作为。读书彻彻底底地改变了我,让我学会了肩负责任。我相信书本也可以改变我的学生们的人生。诚然,这种想法过于天真烂漫。那一年,我22岁。

注:Birmingham campaign(伯明翰运动):

伯明翰运动始于1963年4月3日,在阿拉巴马州伯明翰举行了反对种族主义和种族隔离的游行和静坐活动。马丁·路德·金在1963年4月16日写下公开信《来自伯明翰监狱的书简》。信中,他论证了人们负有违反不公正法律和直接采取行动的道德责任,而不应仅仅等待法院判决实现司法公正。他称:“任何地方的不公正都会威胁到所有地方的正义。”这封信被广泛出版,并成为美国民权运动的重要文本。

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_from_Birmingham_Jail

Letter from Birmingham Jail原文及翻译:

http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf

https://photos.state.gov/libraries/china/240500/pdf/Letter_from_Birmingham_City_Jail.pdf


My own origins, I believed, were prosaic. I had grown up in western Michiganin the 1980s, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. I walked to school, I played piano, I crushed on my brother’s friends. On the first days of snow, my brother and I took our cheap plastic saucers out for a whirl and, during the summer, our parents both at work, we dutifully advanced through booklets of practice SATs, one English and one math, each day.

我的出身平淡无奇——20世纪80年代在密歇根州西部长大,父母是台湾移民。我走路去上学,学过钢琴,暗恋过哥哥的好朋友。初雪的几天,我和哥哥会拿着廉价的塑料飞盘出门玩一会儿;在暑假,父母都在工作,我们则会勤勤恳恳地做习题,准备学术能力测试(SAT),一手英语一手数学,每天如此。


In certain ways, my parents had acclimated very well to the United States. They stacked foot-high collections of Michael Jackson and Joan Baez records in the living room, voted dutifully, never missing an election, and brought home for dinner the occasional bucket of fried chicken. But in other ways, my parents seemed preoccupied by their status as outsiders. They told mecautionary tales about Asians in America being cowed, killed, and then forgotten. There was Vincent Chin, in Detroit, who in 1982 was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, a week before his wedding. Chin had worked in an auto industry dominated by anti-Japanese sentiment. “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work,” the killers, both white men, had said to him. (Vincent was not Japanese but Chinese American and grew up in the States.) The killers served no jail time. “These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail,” the judge stated later. “You don’t make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal.”

在某些方面,我的父母已经在美国入乡随俗了。他们听迈克尔·杰克逊(Michael Jackson)和琼·贝兹(Joan Baez),唱片堆在客厅里,足有一尺高;他们从未错过任何一次选举,积极行使选民权利,认认真真投票,偶尔还会带回来一桶炸鸡作为晚饭。但是,从另一些方面来说,父母还是很在意他们异乡人的身份。他们告诉我在美国的亚裔被恐吓、被杀害却不了了之的种种事例,以此来警示我们。1982年,来自底特律的华裔陈果仁(Vincent Chin)曾在反日情绪高涨的汽车制造业工作,结婚前一星期被棒球棍打死。那些杀害他的白人说:“都怨你们这些狗娘养的混蛋,老子们才失业的。”(文森特不是日本人,而是在美国长大的华裔美国人。)但是他们不用坐牢。法官后来表示:“这两位不应该被送进监狱。” “我们惩罚的不是罪行,是罪犯。”


The other story my parents told me was about a sixteen-year-old kid in the Deep South, somewhere in Louisiana—this time, actually Japanese—whom were ferred to as “the Japanese exchange student.” Invited to a Halloween party inthe early nineties, he showed up at the wrong house, dressed in a white suit as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. He rang the doorbell and was shot dead at point-blank range. The shooter was charged with manslaughter. He claimed at court that the kid moved in a strange way; his lawyer told the jury that the killer was protecting his property and that he was an “average Joe,” “one of your neighbors,” someone who liked “sugar in his grits.” He was acquitted.

另一起案件发生在美国南方腹地,位于路易斯安那州的某个地方。这次受害者的确是日本人,一个16岁的孩子,我们都叫他“日本交换生”。那是90年代初,他受邀参加一场万圣节派对,身着白色西装,扮成约翰·特拉沃尔塔(John Travolta)在电影《周六夜狂热》里面的样子,但是他走错了地方。按响门铃后随即被近距离枪杀。枪手却被指控过失杀人罪,他在法庭上宣称那孩子的行为非常怪异。其律师称委托人只是在保护他的财产,是个“普通人”,“你的邻居”,喜欢“往燕麦粉里加点儿糖”。最后他成功说服了陪审团,枪手被无罪释放了。


“Nobody will tell you these stories,” my parents told me. “We tell you because we want you to be careful.”

父母说:“没有人会告诉你这些事。我们告诉你,是希望你小心点儿。”

 

Be careful: That was the central message. Like many immigrants, my parents were fearful people, and they seemed determined to remind me that tragedy might be right around the corner. It only took one ignorant guy with a gun or a baseball bat. In actual numbers, the likelihood an Asian would be murdered in the 1980s and 1990s was minimal. And yet, in a way, they were telling me something important. They were trying to tell me that we did not figure, at all, in the national imagination. Indeed, until my second year of college, I never learned about Asian Americans, alive or dead, in any class, from any teacher. As an immigrant group, we were convenient on the one hand but also, ultimately, disposable. When we did well, people would vaguely point to us as evidence of the American dream, but when we were killed for being Asian, the media wasn’t interested. Our dying did not betray any myth or ideal about America. Why? Because we weren’t American. Our faces gave us away.

小心点儿:这才是他们想告诉我的。和许多移民一样,我的父母很害怕,他们决意提醒我,只消一个拿着枪或棒球棒的蠢蛋,悲剧可能随时重演。根据实际数据,在20世纪80、90年代,亚裔被谋杀的可能性很小。然而,从某种意义上讲,他们的警诫是——我们根本没有被纳入国家这一想象共同体中。事实上,大二以前,我未曾在任何一位老师的任何课堂上学到任何有关亚裔美国人的事。作为移民团体,我们的生活很便利,但也很无关紧要。我们表现优秀时,媒体会隐晦地指出这就是美国梦的成功,但当我们因为亚裔身份而被杀害时,媒体却对此置若罔闻,而我们的没落并没有背离任何美国式神话或理想。为什么?因为我们不是美国人,而亚洲人的脸就是原罪。


Like many immigrants, my parents believed education was both a barricade against harm and a ladder to safety and prosperity. Math, in particular, comforted my parents: It was familiar, the same in their little island country of Taiwan as it was in America. You didn’t need to know English. You didn’t need to learn a secret set of social rules to do math. You put in the time, and you learned how to do it. Every single night when my brother and I were in elementary school, our father drilled us with math problems. He yelled when we got answers wrong; we cried; our mother guiltily brought us tea.

像许多移民一样,我父母认为教育可以避免伤害,通向繁荣与稳定;而在所有的科目里,又以数学最为称心:无论在小岛台湾还是在美国,数学都是一样的。无需懂英语,也无需了解一套秘密的社交规则就可以运算了,而且有付出就会有回报。我和哥哥还在上小学时,每晚父亲都会盯着我们做数学。一算错答案,他就吼我们;我们委屈哭了,母亲颇为内疚地为我们沏些茶。


I spoke late and was shy. My pursuits were solitary. I could, for instance, play the piano with great feeling—once, in a fit of zeal over a Chopin cadenza, I banged my head against the stand. Like my mother, I disliked indolence, and, in my moderately competitive public schools, this quality got me far. I enjoyed pleasing my parents and, for Christmas in the sixth grade, gift-wrapped my report card. I read copious numbers of books, though in retrospect it couldn’t be said I was particularly good at it. I liked moral absolutes and was poor at grasping parody. I read Don Quixote and thought he was a hero. I read Middlemarch and wanted to be Dorothea, married to a man of knowledge.

我很晚才会说话,性情羞涩,享受独处,喜欢忘我地弹钢琴。有一次,由于在演奏肖邦华彩乐章时过于激动,头居然撞到了架子上。同母亲一样,我很勤奋,这令我的成绩在竞争相对激烈的公立学校里遥遥领先。我努力使父母满意,小学六年级的那年圣诞节,我把成绩单包装成了礼物。回顾过去,不敢说秀出班行,但也读了很多书。我热衷于纯粹的道德观念,却对戏仿作品一窍不通。我读《堂吉诃德》,认定他是条好汉。我读《米德尔马契》,想成为里面的多萝西亚,嫁给一位博学之人。


But other readings rewarded my earnestness. I felt, for instance, personally summoned when Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. I read Malcolm X, also from Michigan, whose mother had been committed to a mental hospital in my hometown of Kalamazoo. He warned black readers not to trust white liberals: I don’t care how nice one is to you; the thing you must always remember is that almost never does he really see you as he sees himself, as he sees his own kind. He may stand with you through thin, but not thick. And I heard that same reprimand in James Baldwin, who said that liberals bought all the right books, have all the proper attitudes—but they have no real convictions. And when the chips are down and you expect them to deliver on what you thought they felt, they somehow are not there.

但是有一些读物我读得津津有味,收获颇丰。当读到马丁·路德·金信中的“所以问题不是我们是否会成为极端主义者,而是我们将成为什么样的极端主义者”时,我如受感召。我又读了马尔科姆•艾克斯(他也来自密歇根州,母亲因精神崩溃被送进医院,就在我的家乡卡拉马祖),他却警告黑人读者不要相信自由主义白人:我不在乎那个人对你有多好,你必须永远记住,他几乎从来没有把你视作和他一样的人或同类。他可能会和你同甘,但不会共苦。詹姆斯·鲍德温也有类似的谴责:自由主义者买了所有正确的书,表现出了所有端正的态度,但他们没有真正的信念。紧要关头时,你希望他们感同身受,兑现诺言,他们就销声匿迹了。


They somehow are not there. I took this allegation literally. Where should I put myself?

“他们不知为何不在那儿。”我把这些控诉字字句句都记了下来,那么我应该何去何从呢?

 

In suburban Michigan, in the quiet of my bedroom, these iconic readings of antiracist rhetoric cast a spell over me. They effected a clandestine evangelization of a kid primed to be a good disciple. It was not enough just to learn, just to read. Not enough to admire a black writer. Admiration was nothing. If your passions went unmatched by actions, you were just playing a role, demonstrating that you knew what to praise and what to reject. Education, for me, became laden with a meaning at once specific and spiritual. To be educated meant you read books and entertained ideas that made you feel uncomfortable. It meant looking in the mirror and asking, What have I done that has cost me anything? What authority have I earned to speak? What work have I put in? It meant collapsing your certainties and tearing down your self-fortifications. You should feel unprotected, unarmed, open to attack.

在密歇根州郊区的那间安静的卧室里,我如痴如醉地研读反种族主义的各类经典,而它们向我这个原本安分的小信徒秘密传授了新福音。然而,仅仅了解和阅读是远不足以参透这些言论的,遑论欣赏一位黑人作家,而钦佩也只是纸上谈兵。如果满腔热情无法付诸行动,那和角色扮演有何区别,不过都是在自我标榜罢了。这一刻,教育所承载的意义,在我眼里变得真实而神圣。教养意味着要阅读并认真思考那些与你的固有认知相悖的观点;意味着审视镜子里真实的自己:我拼尽全力实现了什么,又失去了什么?我有什么资本发言?我付出了哪些努力?教育还意味着要打破既定框架,拆毁自卫的堡垒,置身在风暴中,茕茕孑立,手无寸铁,不堪一击。


There was a problem, though: Baldwin, King, and Malcolm spoke only of black and white people, and I was neither. What had Asian Americans fought for, died for? What had we cared about? History textbooks and popular culture didn’t tell me. When an Asian-looking man appeared on television (a rare occurrence), my heart beat very fast. The question was never Will this be a joke? but rather What kind of joke will it be? If it turned out I was wrong and he was simply like any other minor character—no accent, no distinguishing characteristics, unmemorable—I felt satisfied and, even, grateful.

问题是:鲍德温、金和马尔科姆都只谈论黑人和白人,而我不属于两者。亚裔美国人为何而战?死得何所?心系何处?历史教科书和流行文化没有告诉我。看到电视上罕见地出现亚洲男人的面孔时,我的心跳飞快。但我想的永远不是“他是出来搞笑的吗?”而是“这次又要闹什么笑话?”如果事实并非如此,他也只是像其他小角色一样,没有口音,没有鲜明特征,过目就忘,我却因此心满意足,甚至感激不已。

 

I found my role models in books. W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou—each of these people seemed as fearless to me as Asian Americans seemed afraid, as essential to American history as we were irrelevant. I went to Harvard for college and met activists for the first time; the ones I most wanted to emulate had parents who had fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the sixties and seventies. They had been at the March on Washington and heard Martin Luther King, Jr.; they had taken part in the Black Power Movement. I imagined households steeped in conversation. What was it like to inherit a history of passions and resentments? I wondered. Did it make you stronger? Did it embolden you? Was this why I was weak, sweet, obedient?

在书中我找到了榜样—— W·E·B·杜波依斯、拉尔夫·埃里森、理查德·赖特、爱丽丝·沃克、玛雅·安吉鲁。对我来说,亚裔美国人有多恐惧,这些人就有多么无所畏惧;亚裔美国人对美国历史有多无关紧要,这些人就有多么至关重要。我去哈佛大学读书,第一次见到了我的激进主义榜样们。他们的父母曾在60、70年代争取民权和反对越南战争,参加“向华盛顿进军”的游行,在广场聆听马丁·路德·金的演讲,进行了黑人民权运动。我想象着一家人高谈政治时的神采飞扬。他们继承这段满怀激情和怨恨的历史时是什么感觉?我很好奇。这会令人更加坚强吗?这就是为什么我会如此温驯吗?


I steeled myself. I would start from scratch. I would root out like weeds the effects of my parents, the tendency to choose safe options, to get ahead, to feel secure. I would embrace irrational measures. In college I worked at a homeless shelter, where I slept overnight on Fridays and signed up for extra shifts precisely when I had papers due. I dropped pre-med and majored in social studies and gender studies. I edited a small magazine about race and class and sexuality. And when I met other Asian Americans, those bound for consultant and hedge-fund jobs where they would make six figures, my judgment was harsh. Silently, through my narrowed eyes, I told them, I know you, and there’s not too much to know.

我下定决心,从头开始。像除草一样铲除原生家庭的影响,清空所有安全备选,剔除稳中求进的固有观念,改变安居一隅的性情,迎接各种看似疯狂的的可能性。上大学时,我到收容所工作,星期五都会在那儿过夜,在要交论文前一直加班。我从医学预科专业转到社会研究和性别研究。我主编了一本关于种族、阶级和性的小杂志。遇到其他亚裔美国人时,我知道这些人将来都会从事顾问和对冲基金工作,赚六位数的工资。但我刻薄得很,默默眯起眼睛,暗示他们,我知道你们几斤几两,没什么好炫耀的。

 

As graduation approached, I wondered what I wanted to do. I consider edactivism; I admired activists the most. But I wasn’t good at it. I’d tried working at a feminist nonprofit, where I had to lobby congressional staffers, and discovered I had a tendency to apologize for intruding on their time. More broadly, I thought it was too difficult to change the minds of the powerfully self-interested. What I wanted to do was straightforward, immediate work in places that needed people. Then I met a recruiter from Teach for America, an Asian American woman who told me that schools in the Mississippi Delta, among the poorest places in the country, faced a drastic teacher shortage.

随着毕业临近,我开始探寻自己的未来。我考虑过激进主义路线,最钦佩激进人士,但是我并不擅长这类行动。我曾试着在一家女权主义非营利组织工作,在那里我不得不去游说国会工作人员,却总是为打扰他们的时间而道歉。说白一点,我认为,要改变极端利己主义者简直是白日做梦,而我只想要在人手紧缺的领域做些直接有效的工作。后来,我遇到了一位来自“为美国而教”的招聘人员,她是一位亚裔女性,告诉我密西西比三角洲地区(全美最贫穷的地区)面临严重的师资短缺问题。


This was the first time anyone had described to me the state of the present-day Delta. This land of cotton and extreme poverty had served as the stomping grounds of the early Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Bobby Kennedy had toured the Delta as part of a war against poverty. Stokely Carmichael had coined the term Black Power there. The Delta was a place where heroic people had been maimed, shot, arrested, and killed for their belief in change. King himself was killed in Memphis, the Delta’s northern most tip, while rallying for sanitation workers; James Meredith commenced a legendary solo walk across Mississippi but was shot by a sniper on his second day; and Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper, had been arrested and beaten for organizing people to vote.

这是第一次有人向我描述三角洲的现状。这里是棉花之乡,饱受极端贫困之苦,曾孕育出许多早期民权运动和黑人权力运动。鲍比·肯尼迪(Bobby Kennedy)曾在三角洲地区进行过消除贫困的战争;在这里,斯托克利·卡迈克尔(Stokely Carmichael)创造了“黑人权力”一词;在这里,英勇的人民因相信改变的力量而遭遇残害、逮捕、枪击和杀害。马丁·路德·金在三角洲最北端的孟菲斯市为联合清洁人员(非裔美国人垃圾收集员)抗议时被杀;詹姆斯·梅瑞迪斯(James Meredith)在开始穿越密西西比州的传奇徒步之旅的第二天中弹受伤;佃农芬妮·露·哈默(Fannie Lou Hamer)因组织民众投票而被捕并殴打。

注:James Meredith (詹姆斯·梅瑞迪斯): 

詹姆斯·梅瑞迪斯是第一位就读于仍在实行种族隔离制度的密西西比大学的非裔美国人。毕业后的1966年,他开始举行一场名为”MarchAgainst Fear”(反对恐惧的游行)的民权游行,在从田纳西州到密西西比州的225英里行军中,他曾中弹受伤,游行期间其他民权领袖包括马丁·路德·金和斯托克利·卡迈克尔曾加入。

https://www.obv.org.uk/news-blogs/james-meredith-long-walk-history

 

Why hadn’t I heard about how people in the Delta lived now? I wondered. Was it because few progressives and members of the educated middle class—the disappointing liberals of Baldwin’s day— wanted to visit, much less live there? I couldn’t help but wonder if this place had vanished from the national consciousness when the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements ended. Was rural black poverty, unattached to white violence, too unglamorous to attract celebrated leaders willing to speak for its cause?

为何我未曾听说三角洲地区人们的生活现状?我很好奇。是因为那里鲜有受过良好教育的中产阶级进步人士(即鲍德温时代令人失望的自由主义者)问津吗?我忍不住想知道,民权运动和黑人权力运动结束后,三角洲是否就已经从民族意识中消弥。这里地处偏远,黑人流于贫苦,即便是远离了白人暴力,但是否就因此而噱头不再,以至于那些著名的民权领袖不愿意为此代言?

 

The fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education was approaching, yet on a recent national reading test for fourth graders, 45 percent of white students had passed, as opposed to 13 percent of black students. Considering the Teach for America job, I began to think I could pick up where the Civil Rights Movement had left off. “This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with,” Martin Luther King had said. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.”

“布朗诉教育局案”五十周年纪念日已经临近,但是在最近一次针对四年级学生的全国阅读测验中,白人学生的通过率为45%,而黑人学生的通过率仅为13%。想到了在“为美国而教”组织的职位,我打算就在这片民权运动没落之地,肩负着马丁·路德·金的信念走下去:“这是我们的希望。这是我将带回南方的信念……回到密西西比去吧,回到亚拉巴马去吧;回到南卡罗来纳去吧,回到佐治亚去吧,回到路易斯安那去吧,回到北方城市中的贫民区去吧。要知道,这种情况能够而且将会改变。”

注:Brown v. Board of Education(布朗诉教育局案):

1954年5月17日,美国最高法院一致裁定,公立学校的种族隔离违反了美国宪法第十四修正案,该修正案禁止各州拒绝在其管辖范围内的任何人平等保护法律。该决定宣布,为白人和非洲裔美国学生提供单独的教育设施本质上是不平等的。该案被认为是法院历史上最重要的裁决之一,激励了1950年代末和1960年代的美国民权运动。

https://www.britannica.com/event/Brown-v-Board-of-Education-of-Topeka

 

I wanted to touch that heroism or at least work in its shadows. I believed in James Baldwin’s injunction: If we…like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others, …we may be able…to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. And I felt I knew what Baldwin asked from me: reparation that required my whole body, my whole being. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime, Baldwin wrote of whites in 1963. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, ineffect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. Yes, I told myself, I would prove that I was no innocent—Baldwin’s softer, and more damning, term for ignorance Teaching in Helena, Arkansas, a rural town located in the heart of the Delta, might help acquit me of Baldwin’s charge.

我想触碰这种英雄主义,至少在工作中不时仰望这份情怀。我信守詹姆斯·鲍德温的指令:“如果我们……如爱人般坚守彼此的信念,或创造彼此的记忆,… …我们也许能够……终结种族歧视的噩梦,实现民族使命,改变世界的历史。”我想我知道鲍德温对我的要求:用我的全身心来弥补过错。提到白人时,鲍德温在1963年写道,正是这种无辜构成了犯罪,因为这些清白的人们没有其他希望。实际上,他们仍深陷于自己不了解的历史中,只有他们理解历史的那一天,才能得到解放。对,我告诉自己,我要证明自己绝非鲍德温笔下的“无辜”之人,这一标签比“无知”挥鞭更轻,却伤得更重。因此,只有到阿肯色州的海伦娜去,到那个三角洲腹地的偏远小镇去,教书育人,我才可能免遭鲍德温的指控,无罪释放。

注:原文选自James Baldwin的Down at the Cross: Letter From a Letter in My Mind,首次发表于1962年的《纽约客》,当时正值亚拉巴马州发动的针对黑人的暴力事件。文中鲍德温认为“肤色不是人类或个人现实,而是政治现实”,“白人对黑人的无知正暴露了他们对自己的无知”,并在文章结尾借黑人奴隶改编自圣经的歌词发出警示:

God gave Noah the rainbow sign,

No more water, the fire next time!

其振聋发聩的结尾成为了后来收录该文的书名The Fire Next Time (《下一次将是烈火》)(1963)。

原文:www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/11/17/letter-from-a-region-in-my-mind/amp


Nearly a thousand miles from my parents, I easily made the decision to go to the Delta. When I told them, over the phone, they were befuddled, then angry. “You’re going to get killed down there,” my mother said.

虽与父母远隔一千英里,我却打算一人欣然前往三角洲。通电话时我告诉了他们,他们先是困惑,然后很生气。母亲说:“你会在那儿被杀死的!”

 

At this I chortled loudly. This made my father stern.

听到这我咯咯地笑起来,父亲更严厉了。

 

“It’s not funny, mei mei,” he said, using the Chinese word for little sister. “It’s dangerous down there.”

他说:“这不好笑,妹妹,那边很危险。”

 

Growing up, I’d attributed to my mother and father a particular hysteria, a sad misapprehension of America, where I—unlike them— was born, and belonged. This feeling had persisted through college.

长大后,我将父母这种情绪定义为一种特定的歇斯底里,是对美国的一种扼腕的误解,与他们不同,我在美国出生,归属于此。我对此坚信不疑,这种归属感贯穿了我的大学生涯。

 

I started to tell them the literacy statistics and, detecting my pious tone, my parents cut me off.

我开始给他们讲一堆统计数据,但是父母一察觉到我是认真的,便立刻打断了我。

 

“Are you even going to get paid?”

“不会连报酬都没有吧?”

 

I replied that the local district gave a salary.

我回答说那边给了薪水。

 

“It won’t be much,” my dad said. “You want to throw away your Harvard degree?”

父亲说:“没多少的。你就这样把哈佛的学位丢到一边了?”

 

I was hurt. But within a day I was joking about their disapproval with myfriends.

我当时很受伤。但是当天我就拿这件事跟朋友打趣了。


 

TEACH FOR AMERICA assigned me to an alternative school in congruously named “Stars,” which the local administration used as a dumping ground for the so-called bad kids. These were the truants and the druggies, the troublemakers and the fighters who had been expelled from the mainstream schools. Stars was a kid’s last shot at staying in the system before being banished, entirely, from public education.

“为美国而教”组织将我分配给了另一所学校,学校名为“群星”,当地政府将其用作收容所谓“坏孩子”的垃圾场,这名字显然与现实很不协调。这些孩子都有前科,或是逃学吸毒,或是打架斗殴,惹是生非,所以被正规学校开除。“群星”是这些孩子留在公共教育系统的最后一环,再犯事,他们将被彻底驱逐。

 

This is where I met Patrick, who was fifteen and in the eighth grade.

就是在这里,我遇到了八年级的帕特里克,当时他十五岁。

 

Mild-mannered, he walked with more hunch than swagger. In class, he preferred listening to speaking. Patrick never bullied anybody. He never cussed anybody out. He appeared to abide by a self-imposed code: Keep to yourself, don’t mess around, don’t get involved with other people’s trouble. But he was willing to break his own code for a cause: Once, he leapt between two girls to stop a fight, and, in the process, got slammed to the ground.

帕特里克性情温和,走路时微微驼背,从不招摇。课堂上,他倾听多于发言。他从不欺负人,也从不骂人。他似乎遵守着自己的一套准则:坚守自己,不打闹,不卷入他人争端。但是他愿意为一件事打破自己的准则:有一次,他介入两个女孩之间劝架,却被摔倒在地。

 

Other students rushed and jostled to get to the front of the lunch line. Patrick hung back. His mind always seemed to be somewhere else: Frequently, while he was working, he would hum to himself, often not realizing it until someone poked him. He left papers strewn about his desk or unfolded them from his pockets. His grin was a half grin, as if he’d once trained himself to smile fully but had since abandoned the project.

其他学生会冲上去挤到等午餐的队伍前列,帕特里克却向后让。他看起来总是心不在焉:常常一边学习一边哼起了小曲儿,有人戳他,他才意识到。他不会整理散落在桌子上的文件,有时还会从口袋里掏出被折起来的纸。他笑起来很局促,半遮半露,就像是他曾经自行训练过完美的笑容,但是半途而废了。

 

More than anything else, Patrick seemed lost, as if he’d gotten on the school bus by accident. And indeed, just a month after he arrived at school, he stopped attending.

然而,更重要的是,帕特里克似乎迷失了,就好像他只是碰巧搭上了校车才来到这里。确实,在他上学仅仅一个月之后,他就休学了。


 

IT WASN’T HARD to imagine why Patrick had stopped coming to school. Maybe it was just depressing. It could be violent, and when students got into fights, the school sometimes called the police. Shoved into a police car with the rest of the school watching, some pair of kids, freshly scratched and bruised, would spend the weekend in county jail—where, as one teacher put it, they could“think about where they’re going in life.” And we, the teachers, were also violent: For more minor incursions, like cussing out a classmate or teacher, students were paddled. Corporal punishment was legal in Arkansas and widely practiced in these parts. Stamped with ARKANSAS BOARD OF EDUCATION, an updated paddle had been engineered with holes to make it swing faster. I did not personally paddle, but like most teachers who have sent kids to the principal’s office, I was complicit. Still, by far our most common method of disciplining a student was simply to send him home. Since all the students qualified for a free lunch, they liked to joke that if you wanted to mess around, you should do it in the afternoon.

不难理解帕特里克为何辍学。或许只是压抑,因为这里一切都充斥着暴力。学生打架时,学校有时会叫警察来解决。众目睽睽下,那些刚被抓伤、身上有瘀伤的孩子会被拖入警车,在县监狱度过周末。一位老师曾说,县监狱是一个很适合“思考人生方向”的地方。而我们这些老师也助长了这种暴力:对于小打小闹,比如辱骂同学或老师,学生们就会被打手板。体罚在阿肯色州合法并在这类学校被广泛实施。新升级的板子上印有“阿肯色州教育委员会”的印章,有孔设计使其摆动得更快。我从没有亲自打学生手板,但是会像大多数老师一样,将学生送到校长办公室,我也是暴力的同谋。尽管如此,到目前为止,我们最常用的惩戒学生方法是劝退。由于所有学生都有资格获得免费午餐,他们便喜欢开玩笑说,想惹是生非至少也得先吃了午餐才好。

 

In spite of everything, many of my students, including Patrick, remained optimistic about their futures. Patrick said he wanted to graduate and become amechanic. He said he’d like to visit New York. Other students wanted good jobs so that they could take care of their grandparents. And when I looked for the source of this hope, most kids told me it came from God. This belief in God, this idea that because human beings were made in God’s image their value was inherent, was foreign to me, but the longer I lived in the Delta, the more sense it made.

尽管这一切的一切,我的许多学生,包括帕特里克,都对自己的未来保持乐观。帕特里克说他想毕业,然后成为一名机修工;他还说他想去纽约。其他学生想找个好工作,这样可以照顾自己的祖父母。在我问他们这种希望从何而来时,大多数答案是,来自上帝,来自对上帝的这份信仰。相信人类是按照上帝的形象造就的,因此他们生而珍贵。这一理念对我来说很陌生,但在三角洲生活的时间越长,我越觉得它有道理。


I often thought of the words Baldwin had written to his nephew: This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Except in the Delta, the ghetto was not a corner of a city but an entire region of the country. This ghetto is all my students knew, and it occurred to me that if you live in a place that you cannot leave, where you can’t travel or work if you can’t afford a car, where land is endless space that’s been denied you, where people burn down their houses because the insurance money is worth more than the sale price, where the yards of shuttered homes are dumping grounds for pedestrian litter, where water is possibly polluted by a fertilizer company that skipped town, you want to believe that you do not at all resemble what you see. You want to believe that your town’s decay is not a mirror of your own prospects, that its dirtiness cannot dirty your inner life, that its emptiness does not contradict your own ambitions—that in fact you were born linked to beauty, to the joyous power of resurrection.

我经常想起鲍德温写给他侄子的话:这个无辜的国家让你陷入贫民窟,然后看着你腐烂。在三角洲以外的地区,贫民窟不是城市一隅,而是美国的一整片地区,我所有学生都深谙此道。而在我看来,如果你居住的地方束缚着你,如果买不起车、就无法旅行或工作,如果土地广袤却没有你的安身之所,如果人们烧毁房屋是因为房屋保险金比售价还贵,如果自家院子堆放着路人乱扔的垃圾,如果化肥厂的排放污染了生活用水却逍遥法外,你会对眼前的一切唯恐避之不及,不愿相信这座城的衰败折射着自己的前景,不肯接受这座城的肮脏会玷污自己的内心,发自肺腑地认为自己的野心与这座城的虚空并不抵触;而你依旧生而美丽,生而拥有涅槃重生的力量,生生不息,源源不断。

 

Yet for all the hours I spent thinking about my students’ fundamental beliefs, I fretted mainly about the tasks in front of me. How to get them to read and write and talk. How to get students like Patrick to show up at school. I generally tried not to think too hard about the perils that lay ahead of them, after they finished school. I didn’t entirely acknowledge everything they were up against. In other words, had an oracle knocked on my door and told me what the future held for Patrick, I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have shut the door. And maybe that would not have been wrong of me: There are just certain kids for whom you bring all your hope.

即便我曾反复思索孩子们对于未来的坚定信念,我主要还是为堆在面前的任务而烦恼——如何让他们阅读、写作和交流,如何让帕特里克这类学生乖乖上学;我通常不会再三思量他们前路的艰难险阻,甚至对孩子们正在遭遇的一切后知后觉。换句话说,要不是因为帕特里克的故事,纵使神使亲自登门,向我预言其未来的凄风冷雨,我也不会相信半句,而是继续闭门造车。也许这样本没有错:我已经倾尽全力带给他们希望,而希望,本没有错。


👇



参考阅读:

Educated

一部充满力量的自传小说,毕业于剑桥大学的作者Tara出生于美国一个虔诚摩门教徒家庭,她和其他六个兄弟姐妹在爱荷华州的农场上长大,他们的父亲不信任政府,不送孩子上学校,拒绝去医院治病。Tara只能透过父亲给她的视角来看待整个世界。17岁之后,教育给了她看待世界的全新视角,她开始重新审视自己的成长经历,审视父亲的狭隘暴戾,母亲的懦弱和哥哥的暴力,她在原生家庭和现代教育中撕扯着成长着。


Born a Crime

脱口秀The Daily Show主持人崔娃的自传。在种族隔离背景下的南非,他的母亲就像是他人生中的一道光,照亮了他周遭的黑暗,带他走出了暴力、贫困、封闭的恶性循环。当时南非大多数黑人脑中已经形成了根深蒂固的种族隔离思维模式,许多邻居和亲戚常常询问崔娃的母亲,为什么要教黑人小孩白人的事?他一辈子都无法离开贫民窟,为什么要给他看外面的世界?但是崔娃的母亲回答道:“哪怕他一辈子都无法离开贫民窟,他也知道,贫民窟不是整个世界。”她让崔娃多去大学里找找他堂兄,告诉他where you are can determine who you are. 可以说,他勇敢、智慧的母亲,以个人的力量让他跳出了大社会的枷锁。



  • 本文节选自 Reading with Patrick: a teacher, a student, and a life-changing friendship 


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