Wendy Trevino has worked as a Summer Recreation Leader with at-risk and special needs youth; a LSAT Instructor and Site Director for The Princeton Review; a House- and Pet-sitter in Iowa City; a Teaching Assistant and Creative Writing Instructor at UC Davis; a Guest Services Attendant and Development Intern at the California Academy of Sciences; and a Writing Consultant for SFJAZZ. She currently works as a Grant Writer at the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco.

The “We” of a Position

I started writing this at 6 this morning, after 5 hours of sleep, after a night of doing nothing, after a couple of hours talking on the phone with Lauren Levin, after a day of seeing a very disorganized friend off to Kuwait, where he will teach for two years in order to have a free place to live and pay off a fraction of his grad student loans.

I started to make a list of things that have happened, beginning with “global financial crisis” & ending with me standing here in Oakland, reading something about labor, writing, and fighting. Without even trying to include everything, I ran out of steam by the time I got to the third instance of “looking for work” and the first word of students occupying UC buildings.

I started to respond to a piece that Stephanie Young so generously sent me, a piece that included a piece of something I’d said about working with people that are hard to work with, people you might not like all that much or at all, people you might not know. How it is still possible, how it is already how most people work every day in jobs they wish they didn’t need. How it reminds me of my family, a very large group of people that includes people who just appeared in a field to work one day. How it isn’t a family in the traditional sense. How it includes a kid named Taco, an orphan who would ask for tacos from other field hands, a kid the barrio my mother grew up in took in. How it includes a woman my mother met working in the fields and her son and another woman who took care of me as a child. How it includes the neighbors my mother lived with when she ran away from home at thirteen as much as a [woman] my mother recently met on a flight to New York. How the support these people have given each other is financial as well as emotional. How in continuing to support each other XXXX.

I started to think about my father picking cotton as a kid and the hierarchy of the fields. How poor whites and Mexican-Americans got first pick. How undocumented workers went in second, and African-Americans picked last. How my father said getting first-pick made him feel special until one very hot day, in Lubbock, during a break, his family went looking for water. How none of the white people in town would give them water. How on their way back to the fields, a truck of African-American farm hands offered them some. How they didn’t even have to ask. How my father says we’re all living like that—not even knowing who our friends are. How my father passes for white until he speaks. How a farmer and his wife, in College Station, told my grandmother they would adopt my father and raise him as white when he was four years old. How the men who hired my father at XXXX in the seventies laughed and said they were meeting the requirements of affirmative action with a man who “talks like a Mexican but looks white.” How, when my father tells this story, he doesn’t even seem mad.

I started to worry that what I was writing was dealing too much with identity without dealing with it. I remembered why I hesitate to talk about these things. Because what I am trying to say is that we should really think about who our friends are. What I am trying to describe is what is described in Tiqqun’s Call as “the ‘we’ of a position.” A “we” that includes people we do and don’t like. A “we” that includes people we haven’t met yet and people we will never meet. A “we” that sees the hierarchy of the fields and calls bullshit without being dismissive of its bullshit effects. A “we” that is aware of other fields.

I started to worry that I would cry reading this in front of a room full of people I respect and am just getting to know. Mostly because I read what I’d written to Dereck, my partner, and he said some of you might cry. I started to consider having Dereck read this and worried about the effect a white man, an adjunct professor from a working class family might have on the text. A white man whose grandfather grew up on a Choctaw reservation, moved to Arkansas and bought land because it had once been illegal for Native Americans to cross the Oklahoma border into certain parts of Arkansas. I wondered which option I would worry about, then do anyway.

I wanted to talk about how I started slowly to see this “we.” How I had been looking for work, then working six days a week and all that time reading. Reading Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings, thinking about envy, asking, “To what extent do homosocial group formations rely on antagonism?” Reading Ian Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery and the Philosophy of History, thinking about the British slave ship Zong. Reading the first chapter of Marx’s Capital for the nth time, listening to David Harvey’s podcasts. Reading Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, engaging in an argument about Social Networking Sites, weak intimacy and collective action in because poetry is not enough, a “secret” group on facebook consisting of me, Brian Ang, Tiffany Denman, Joseph Atkins, Jeanine Webb, May Ought, Erin Steinke and Dereck Clemons. In a cubicle, an unpaid intern, arguing on facebook, with people I do and people I do not often see, arguing “I’m not sure the weak intimacy that characterizes even strictly fb relationships is so different than that of the intimacy characterizing most work relationships or relationships between peers, and while it is true that relationships are implicit in collectivizing and while propinquity remains a determining factor in whether one participates in a particular collective action, I think it’s a mistake to think people have to be on intimate terms with each other prior to collectivizing / in order to collectivize.”

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