what they tried to take from us…

by: d

some thoughts i’m still forming on radical self-care and self-actualization in a capitalist context:

i think about how my grandmother and other ancestors might conceptualize freedom and “radical self-care.” i imagine radical self-care being tied to all of our daily practices in sustaining our self-actualization. the Haudenosaunee believe that we arrive to this existence already self-actualized. In other words, our innate purposes and gifts are with us from the moment we are born. Imagine being affirmed in our unique inherent power as children! What kinds of goals would we set for ourselves? what kinds of self-care would we require?

on the other hand, Maslow estimated that less than 1% of people experience self-actualization. This kind of ideology strips us of our time, power, and our capacity to tend to our inherent gifts. and isn’t this precisely what happens in a capitalist, imperialist, neoliberal society? i think of my grandmother, who came to the united states when she was just 39 (three years older than me). I think of her crossing a border illegally with her 18 year old daughter, my mother. what does self-care look like when violence and poverty devour your home? when after so much running, your feet turn into sores? when your vision is clouded by hope? are hope and radical self-care the same thing? Mariame Kaba teaches us that hope is a discipline. i think of my grandmother, decades after arriving, gripping to a rosary, practicing hope, as her youngest son follows in her footsteps, across a river, across borders, alone.

i think back to the two of them, my mother and grandmother, being detained at the border. What does radical self-care or self-actualization look like when you’re inside a cage? I think of my mother working as a live-in servant, making $50 a week (40 of which paid her rent and debts). what does self-care look like when you have $10 left over to eat and sleep and live? there were no bath-bombs, or spa days. there was just each other. living disobedient, bold, hopeful, scared, hungry lives. there were networks of care — my tias, our neighbors, eventually my father. all moving together, intertwining, like plants stretching out towards the sun. Loveless and Smith (2022) talk about collaboration and interdependence as sites of resistance, of unpredictable, emergent growth. i wonder what else might’ve emerged in the absence of hunger and fear.

what did care look like for my grandmother? a lot of it was tied to making sure we were fed. when my uncle moved in with us, i remember my grandmother always saving half of her meals for him. always serving us a little more. un poquito más. how does oppression warp the way we love and care for one another? what strategies of care are unconditional, and resistant to oppression? are we the broken machines of the patriarchy — our directive to collapse under the weight of capitalism disrupted by some faulty code in our DNA. the code: here we are. still fighting. to survive. and thrive.

what does my radical self-care include at this moment? a kind of attunement, and also return to my ancestors. i wonder if when she prayed, my grandmother limited her prayers to yt Jesus, or did she pray to her grandmother, the way i pray to her?

image of a brown-skinned woman with long, curly hair, sitting cross-legged with her hands open, palm up in her lap. she is wearing grey leggings, and a bright blue shirt with a purple eye in the middle. she is surrounded by golden lines in the form of a halo. on the left is an incense burner, with smoke coming off of the tip of the incense. on the right is a cylinder, possibly a mug or candle, with steam or smoke rising from it.


Self care is widely not practiced in the global north. We are accustomed to work and eat at our desk and hope that our hard work gets noticed with upper management in order to receive recognition. in the article provided, we need to reclaim the moment to breathe and understand that most job requests are not an emergency. Many of us suffer whenever a person in upper management asks for a report and we try our best to complete it, worrying and stressing that our position is in a precarious position. it takes a bit of mental strength to convince ourselves that our jobs isn’t always on the line.

A form of care I take is that if i did not sign up for a high pressured environment then I will not stress about it. Many organizations artificially create high pressured environments that eat away at our psyche. It is reported that many BIPOC are the ones that experience this the most. it’s a form of institutionalized oppression that was built many eons ago and it is still being used today all under the guise of capitalism. Not many organizations dont have the capacity to stop and have backup for missing personnel. We often see minimum paid workers refuse to take a sick day in fear of upsetting upper management, only for that loyalty be thrown out the window the moment layoffs happen.

Organizational recognition of the worker is key for a productive environment. The burden of work should not rely on one person but as a team. Many organizations fail to prepare for absences and make the worker suffer to cover up their lack of preparation. Care should be accessible to everyone and not have the individual force themselves and struggle to find care.

Week 10 (Care Day 2)


My Pandemic

Today I tried experimenting with fotor.com and made a collage. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to do something creative whenever I feel overwhelmed. This act of self-care helps me maintain my sanity whenever the semester gets hectic. My collage is inspired by the My Pandemic video. It was inevitable to remember my pandemic experience as I saw images of online learning, plants, people painting and others engaging with nature. I know it was a tough time for all of us, for some more than others. But I’d like to reflect on my own experience and how I was able to cope by preforming acts of care. I’ll do so by briefly explaining what each picture represents.

From left to right, the first row starts with a COVID map of Puerto Rico, a picture of Metropolitan Hospital and the front page of my MA thesis. These were my main stressors during the early pandemic days. I was away from my family in P.R. and my husband (who is a high risk COVID candidate) was working the COVID ICU. Amidst all that stress and confinement, I had to take zoom classes and write my MA thesis. The next two rows are acts of care that helped me get through everything. From left to right, the second row starts with a picture of springtime in the city, the Apple FaceTime logo, a shrimp salad and a Zoom Wedding. I started taking roadtrips around and outside the city as a way to escape my tiny apartment. I think this was an act of care for myself and my husband (Also, having quarantine at-home dinner date nights helped!). In order to maintain relationships with friends and family, the best act of care I could do was be present for them via FaceTime and Zoom. I did this with family almost every day and with friends at least every 2 weeks. Lastly, self care was crucial (and still is!). You’ll see this on the third row. (From left to right) I took up painting, bought plants, took pottery classes online, and started working out at home. I know I’m not a pro, but I have to say that pottery and painting are the best de-stressors. Taking care of ourselves is perhaps the best way we can take care of others. And care definitely started to “have a moment” during the pandemic.

P.S. I don’t have rights to some pictures. The P.R. map is from The New York Times, the hospital image belongs to the NYC Health and Hospitals website, the FaceTime logo belongs to Apple and the working out image belongs to iStock.

Fotor Review: Not the best tool. I had trouble downloading the image. Once I downloaded it, I noticed it gets blurred out whenever I zoom in.

Week 10

— by Jen

For this week’s reflection, I made a mind map of different ideas of “care” that I saw in My Pandemic and in Reclaiming our Time. This mind map isn’t super scientific; ultimately, I chose first-level categories because I wanted them to stand out as more important; I added items attached to these when I thought that they nested well within categories…but we could move things around by category, or move things up within category hierarchies, in endless iterations of this.

While the image below is static (and tiny!), you should be able to navigate around the mind map at this link.

This mind map draws out various ideas of care: care is revolutionary; is providing direct support; is making space for trust and relationship building; is prioritizing; is methodology; is scrappy and DIY; is making a radical change.

Because I spend so much time thinking about classification and categorization, I enjoyed a chance to reflect on how tools like mind maps result in classifications and hierarchies, even if our intention isn’t to create hierarchy.

Costs of Care

by Anthony W.

Care is something that I do feel is essential to teaching and learning— having care woven into the ways we interact with each other in learning spaces is often palpable in the results. It helps to foster a sense of security and comfort, making students more likely to engage in discussions and activities. I’ve tried to be intentional and integrate care very explicitly into some of my research, putting it into practice when working with faculty or my students (resulting in my DH thesis being based on the same type of games as the one used in Connection Established). That being said, care has its costs, too. There’s a burden that comes with becoming the person who takes on that responsibility when there isn’t always institutional support backing you up or providing spaces to really foster that effort collaboratively. Echoing some of our conversations around OER from some weeks back, it often falls on the backs of a small number of people to really push something forward, and that’s hard when we also need to practice care toward ourselves as we deal with the residual fallout of the pandemic.

“When she introduces the term in her 1990 book Black Feminist Thought, Collins emphasizes race, class, and gender as the three systems that historically have been most important in structuring most Black women’s lives. She notes that additional systems of oppression structure the matrix of domination for other kinds of people. The term, for her, describes a mode of analysis that includes any and all systems of oppression that mutually constitute each other and shape people’s lives.”

Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice, Introduction

The way Costanza-Chock describes Collins’ matrix of domination is a good way of framing my feelings about care. As we know, intersectionality provides us with a set of advantages and disadvantages based on where we fall within the identity matrix, and based on those, people will grow to need different types of scaffolding, support, and care. So, to a degree, it feels necessary to direct that small amount of extra energy towards ourselves or those close to us with an immediate need rather than taking restructuring our teaching to be more intentional about care within pedagogy (especially as teaching has always been seen as a more feminine field, some choose to believe care is innately embedded). If you are considering care from early on in your teaching career like some of us are, then it may be easier to integrate it into your practice, but I do believe that it is an undertaking being that beacon and re-evaluating a number of your approaches.

Be careful with empathy.

by Sean

I am not an empathic person, at least in the way it’s defined in the readings, but I’m fine with that. I think the people supporting the notion of empathy in the classroom frequent;ly take it too far. I’ve seen way too many college-level instructors who seem to think that they should be friends with their students. Ethically, that’s not a good idea. The classroom should have a friendly atmosphere. Most of us don’t learn well in a hostile environment, after all. Still, instructors should maintain some distance. At the end of the day, you. As an instructor, you can’t care more about their grades or their performance than they do.  

And if you haven’t had the underperforming student who can do better but chooses not to, you will. Heck, most of us have BEEN that student. I certainly have. 

Further, empathy can come across as fake to many students. Let me tell you a story. About a decade ago, I gave a quiz in my Voice and Diction class on material they had a month to learn and they bombed hard. 

Now, I’m teaching linguistic theory, and, if you’ve never thought about language this way, there’s a learning curve. And several students were having issues. For them, I just corrected their work and moved on. However, several students had been doing consistently well, and bombed the quiz anyway. I was… less than nice. I remember three comments:

“On the next quiz, you should use a pencil. You’ve scratched out so many things here that it look less like a quiz and more like a recently-released classified document.”

On another:

“Is following directions against your religion or something?”


“I guess I can take comfort in the fact that you didn’t cheat.”

All three were visibly unhappy, which I was not happy about their quizzes either, so I was fine with it. 

At the end of class, they came up to me and one of them said:

“None of us liked what you wrote, but at least we know where we stand with you. You’re angry. In interpersonal Communication, we did badly on an assignment, and the professor said ‘What matters is that you tried.’ Then, she hugged* us. It was weird. We got a D on that assignment. It just felt like bullshit.” 

(These aren’t exact words, but close enough. Well, the bs line was accurate.)

So, be careful with empathy. It can come off as phony and alienate students.

*Don’t do this.

You need to care enough to learn…right?

Tuka Al-Sahlani

I don’t know where to begin, because there is so much to think about. I envy people who create mind maps…I feel these readings require some idea/map mapping. And this notion of mind-mapping is lingering because when I read Empathy is an Ideology I was excited to read about this difficult concept that we have been taught we must practice from classic literary characters like Atticus to social media reels and all i could think about as an alternative was Standpoint Theory. Then I read Connection Established  and I thought, yes, here is standpoint theory in practice, but I was a little taken aback because even with the gender neutral pronouns, I knew the character who brought their son to the office was a woman.( I couldn’t read beyond that because it was much.) Then I read Design Justice, and appreciated the detailed expression of their standpoint. I knew exactly what they had gone through, not through empathy, but by being in a similar standpoint. From there I  went down a rabbit hole and  searched some of the artists mentioned and found this remarkable artist Zahra Agjee at https://www.andalsotoo.net/people/zahra-agjee/. She used design justice network principles in her project (mus)interpreted.  You can read about it here:  https://theconversation.com/art-show-takes-on-the-misrepresentation-of-muslims-9723.Lastly, i read chapter one of Caring to Know and happy to find the thread of standpoint theory was challenged again with the concept of “relational humility”. My mind wandered back to Connection Established and the introduction to Design Justice. Are empathy, standpoint, and relational humility similar to operating at the “speed of trust”? If we need the speed of trust to produce knowledge as mentioned last week, wouldn’t care be a form of doing things with trust? 

I have a lot more on my mind. I look forward to our discussion soon. But, if I didn’t care enough about knowing about care, I wouldn’t have gone on these tangents. Also, how is caring to know different/similar to bell hook’s pedagogy of hope?

on empathy as ideology


i felt a great deal of tension reading Jade E Davis’ zine this week. i’ve been trying to process, like others, how empathy, which seems so innocuous, even virtuous, can be weaponized. and honestly, feelings of anger and even guilt came up for me as i sat with this question. i remember the first time that empathy was introduced to me in a professional setting. it was during a DEI workshop/training via a Brené Brown animated video (https://twentyonetoys.com/blogs/teaching-empathy/brene-brown-empathy-vs-sympathy). it’s not lost on me that this video seems to have been produced by an organization called “RSA” (the royal society for arts). in the video, you can hear Brown’s voiceover, where she says that empathy is a vulnerable choice, a connecting with something within ourselves. here we were, a relatively diverse group of educators, being taught how to more deeply connect with our students and their families via empathy. i’m still unpacking what that means.

here is where i am today: it is ok to admit that we can never understand people’s distinct experiences. in fact, honoring our individual standpoints are what might lead us to something greater than we can imagine. Reading through the introduction of Costanza-Chock’s got me thinking about the role of multiplicity in design justice. being able to thoughtfully consider the experiences and needs of others as we design whatever we are trying to design feels paramount to me. is that what care is? thoughtful consideration? thoughtful listening? allowing ourselves to be moved by what we might not fully understand? the need to know *everything* feels like an impulse of domination. what if we allow ourselves to say…i don’t know/ i can’t imagine. but i am still moved. i still care. what possibilities come from this kind of vulnerability? of not knowing and still listening?

Care + Empathy

Brie Scolaro

Out of the group of readings this week, what stook with me the most was walking through the Connection Established simulator. What came up for me is viscerally remembering my own anxiety of that specific time, early pandemic, and the decision trees I myself had to navigate. As a therapist during that time, I also supported 20+ folx a week navigating their own early pandemic decision trees, and with that I absorbed part of the anxiety transferred from my clients onto myself. I thought the simulator was a brilliant way to highlight precarity and care in academia from multiple perspectives / levels of power. Having the reader / user walk through and make their own decisions forces investment in the outcome as opposed to passively observing scenarios. I would say this cultivates a sense of empathy, which as per the Empathy as Ideology Zine, is actually code for a slew of an unlimited set of emotions, experieces, etc (fear, excitement, anxiety).

I am grappling internally with the idea that empathy is a negative thing or tool for further oppresion. I am a therapist, and I do recognize that empathy alone is not enough. But perhaps my definition of empathy is different than the general public. In the therapuetic space, I create a small world, a bubble free of judgement for folx to show up and navigate their tensions. It isnt about empathy – or me prioritizing self over the emotional response of my clients. It is about reflection, being a blank slate for my clients to imprint on, but with that, I represent so much more. I am White and many assumptions can be made about me without my sharing. I take that into the space with me. Culturally, the role of the therapist is also different. For instance, with a Chinese client, my role is to support problem solving and solutions analysis – compared to my queer and trans clients, where the most therapeutic aspect of my work is to sit with them and just see them as the humans they are. I appreciated the Empathy Zine’s evocative nature and how it has left me reflecting on my own relationship with Empathy.