My mom told me a story once about a substitute teacher she had in high school. Like many subs, he was not exactly thrilled to be there, perhaps even the complete opposite. He, a privileged and educated man from the North, stood before a classroom of children in rural Georgia and, bitingly, remarked about how stupid they sounded.
"You're so lazy, your tongues won’t even get up. Why do you speak like that?"
Entangled in this moment are the roots of tongues, of languages, of community, and of resistant histories.
Language is the medium through which culture is expressed, through which we are expressed, completing our thoughts, ourselves. It is necessarily a tool of the performance of self and the completion of work. Particular types of linguistic performance are requisite to surpass given cultural barriers, ascertain a certain culture cache, whether social or monetary.
In his article, "Exuberance & Exhaustion," Jan Verwoert writes of the political ethics of performance: ‘How can we know what would be the right thing to do to make a better life for ourselves and others, now and in the future?" With this question, I think of the performance choices, particularly the language choices people make for themselves and for their children.
In this 2018 performance of DUMB, I recount one small piece of my mother’s story.