Asynchronous Assignment on From Woe To Wonder

Asynchronous Assignment (The deadline is 11/2 before the class)


1. Read the essay “From Woe to Wonder” by Aracelis Girmay. Pay special attention to the second half of the text.

2. Group B (Lorenzo to Woods): In the comment section below, respond to ONE of the following options. 

Group A (Acevedo to Lester): Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Girmay’s essay do you want to bring into the discussion?

(250-words minimum)

Pick ONE of the following prompts and respond in the comment section down below.


Reflecting and responding to racially motivated crimes in the US, Girmay suggests learning about “an idea called whiteness.” What is Girmay’s argument?


As part of an education that emphasizes social and racial justice, Girmay wants her children to learn about the invisibilized indigenous world in NYC and its ecosystems. Explain.


Girmay says that she considers that “a vital part of what we teach [children] must have to do with the beauty and power of the imaginative strategies of Black people everywhere.” How she incorporates maroons into this idea?

22 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on From Woe To Wonder

  1. In response to option one – Girmay is arguing that we should flip the narrative of racism. When racially motivated crimes are discussed the conversation explaining the reasoning behind them usually centers around the victim. The focus of conversation becomes about what aspects the victim possessed that made the perpetrator commit this act. Girmay argues that instead conversations should hold accountability for the role of “whiteness” and white supremacy that made the racist act possible. She states that white history teaches incorrectly that the “world is more theirs”.
    Girmay no longer wants to hear that someone was killed or hurt because of the color of their skin. Instead she wants for everyone, including and especially, white people to respond from a space of awareness for the senseless, racially fueled harm since slavery. Girmay wants to give her children a different way to see and experience the racism around them in the hopes that it could make an impact in the ongoing fight against racism. Extra efforts must be made by parents, the media, and the education system to acknowledge that in order to bring an end to racially motivated crimes an effort has to be made that is bigger than just not being racist. Conscious efforts need to be made where white people are actively considering how their white privilege or, “whiteness”, is providing them with a freedom that is not well known to Black people and people of color in the United States.

    1. Hey Aime I like your response. Although I do understand what Girmay is trying to say in her article with responding differently to these crimes, I don’t think that that will be easy to do. For years and years, we have seen African Americans get treated so poorly and killed when we all know a white person would not get the same treatment. I feel like its important to educate the children on the history as they get older. Yes, they can try to view the situation in different ways but they need to know the reality. In most cases, the color of their skin plays the biggest factor in those types of situations because we do not see this happening with the other races. It is not fair but it has been happening for decades. Our grandparents experienced it, our parents, and now our generation. So when we’ve been seeing it for so long the way it is I think it will be hard to try to see it in a different way.
      I Iike the part in your response when you mention how “Conscious efforts need to be made where white people are actively considering how their white privilege or, “whiteness”, is providing them with the freedom that is not well known to black people and people of color in the United states”. White privilege is definitely real and we see it through social media and in recent news Over the years. Growing up black you are taught this at a young age. It’s important to know this history.

    2. Hey Aime,
      I like the way that you framed Girmay’s central argument and intention , which was to flip the narrative of racism. Instead of framing the cause of racially motivated crimes as the colour of one’s skin, she instead wants to pull focus towards the actual cause– whiteness and white privilege. This whiteness is characterized by a long history of privilege, where generation after generation white children are taught that the “world is more theirs.” When white people focus on the victim and the colour of their skin, there is room to not hold themselves accountable, and in turn there is a lack of self-awareness that forms. With this lack of self-awareness, there is less action towards combating this privilege and being truly anti-racist.
      The only thing I would like to add about her conversations in the first section is that her intentions end up shielding her children completely from the outside world. They are still so young, but she obviously won’t be able to shield them from the truth for a lot longer. It’s really difficult to have to talk to a child about this issue, but I honestly think it is for their safety too. It’s also better that they hear it from their mother so that she can emphasize their worth and that there is nothing wrong with the colour of their skin, and that the real cause is whiteness and its legacy. The concept in and of itself is hard to explain to a child, and so I hope by talking to other moms she can find a way to communicate it to her child.

    3. Hi Aime,
      I completely agree with your response. I just wanted to add that i feel like flipping the narrative gives children learning about racism hope because removing them from the center of the conversation and not hyper-focusing on attributes that they can’t change about themselves removes the connotation that there is something wrong with them. Especially when you are that young, I imagine that it must be hard for their brains to separate themselves from the situation. The small white child is unaffected by racism and brutality, so she could talk about it without being held down by the implications of what that could mean for her future. For her two children, the results of the conversation could have more traumatic, lasting affects on the way they see themselves and the world. This specifically is what makes reframing the narrative of racism and brutality a tool for her young ones; it will emphasize the idea that the people in the wrong, who are to blame are the racists. Actively placing blame on racists will allow these children to be sure of the fact that they are not being targeted or treated badly because of anything they did wrong.

      1. Hello Tasmine,
        I did enjoy reading you interpretation and really like how you created a positive outlook on the narrator explaining to her children that they are not the problem and there is nothing wrong with them. I do agree with you when you say that hyper focusing on the characteristics that may make them a target can be traumatic for them as those are things that they can’t change about themselves. I think it’s important that we start to turn the narrative around regarding racial attacks, we need to start to shed the light on the individuals that commit these crimes and reason behind why they commit these crimes instead of centering the attention around the victim and why what they looked like led to the tragedy.

      2. I also feel like it was really good how the narrator added in the concept of whiteness and how white people should stop justify these actions because of how someone else looks and start understanding that they have been taught knowingly or unknowingly to act as if they are superior to all other people because of past historic events that have allowed them to continue to think in this way.

  2. Hello Aime, I agree with your response one hundred percent! For centuries we, people of color, have taken the inequity of the world and held it though it was not our cross to bear. “Whiteness”, in various forms has always been considered the best, better than, of pure form. In comparison black, although truly brown, has been deemed the opposite…the worst, dirty, of lesser quality. Unfortunately, like Holiday traditions and recipes these ideals have been handed down from generations and even the those with the most noble of intentions, never fully break the cycle. They may bend it just a little to appear to give a bit of support but behind closed doors, do they fully rebuke the lesson THEY were taught or is it all for show?
    It’s unfortunate that only two short years ago, Aracelis Girmay feels that it would be “easier” to show her children that there are ways to “disappear into thin air” when faced with painful incidents. I understand that their age plays a large part in her theory and to a point it makes sense, but doesn’t that play into what her white peers are sharing with their children without a second thought? While we can’t smash the reality of the world into our children’s faces, I believe that we can equip them with the knowledge to understand that there is more than one way to view a situation and that view can empower you with the tools to change someone else’s view or drag them into the mire that is history.

  3. Almost immediately into the reading we begin to see how the author, Aracelis Girmay is calling everyone out. She suggest that we dive a bit deeper into breaking down the reasoning behind all racially motivated crimes. She introduces us into this idea called whiteness. She pretty much explains this concept through an example referring to a seesaw. She states “I imagine a seesaw. My children are on one side and this White child, my son’s same age, same height and weight, is on the other side. She is one child, my children are two. And yet they are the ones hovering in the air, ungrounded.” This alone goes out to show what Girmay believes is happening in the world we currently live in. We live in a world where whites feel overpowered and far more superior. A world that they feel they have control over, all while leaving African Americans with the bare minimum. A world where decision making roles belong to whites and all positions underneath belong to blacks. The most interesting part of it all is that Girmay doesn’t so much blame the children, but more so the parents that fail to educate their children. She argues that her children are already old enough to understand that a seesaw doesn’t work this way. She also believes that they would be capable enough to understand the history and reasoning behind why some people tend to feel that they deserve more. This is something that Girmay is far more concerned about. She wants us to ignore statements like “he died because his skin was brown”, but more so he died because of this concept of whiteness.

    1. Hi Yarony,
      I agree with your statement. The author goes into depth about the seasaw. Her example of it gives a clear image of how society continues to be now. We do live in a world where the decision making is done by whites and how blacks have no say nor opinion based on the decisions being made. The one thing that stood to me while reading this that she brings up, a white parent with a white child should talk to their child about their history and goes into “.. about how they are going to have to work really hard to make sure that they are not taking up more air, more space , more sidewalk because they have been taught wrongly that their world is theirs”. I agree with what she says here because it’s true. This concept of whiteness of being better, being superior because they are white and being able to get everything that they think they deserve.

    2. Hi Yarony. I agree with many of the points you brought up. The first one I wanted to identify was the one pertaining to “whiteness”. The author makes a clear emphasis that instead of constantly referring to how violent instances involving black individuals as the victims is racially motivated, we should acknowledge the superiority complex and entitlement that White people are raised to adhere to that creates this isssue revolving around the discrimination of black individuals. Instead of breaking this cycle, many white parents are to blame for consistently encouraging this type of mindset within their children. The author places white people in the position to further introspect about how they can alter this within the minds of children, seeing as children are capable of understanding the “seesaw” interpretation. Whiteness is a large component as to why black individuals are deemed inferior within many aspects of society. This is evident within the abuse amongst black youth that is inherently caused by white “superiors”. The author makes multiple references to the black victims of violence throughout the structure of her poetic article as well. The same way white people are reluctant to address the issue of whiteness, is the same reason as to why the author doesn’t want to expose her children to the harsh realities they may face within the future because of it. Black people have to be aware of the world around them that revolves around the power of the white man, and white people continue to encourage this stance knowingly.

  4. In reply to option 3.
    In her poem “Woe to Wonder,” Girmay says that she considers teaching children about the beauty and power of the imaginative strategies of Black people to be a vital part of education. She specifically mentions maroons, runaway slaves who established free communities in the Americas, as an example of this. Girmay argues that by understanding the history and culture of maroons, children can learn to appreciate the strength and resilience of Black people.
    Girmay’s poem celebrates the maroons’ ability to create their communities and cultures, despite the odds against them. She writes that the maroons “made a world / out of the one that would not have them.” This is a powerful example of the Black imagination at work. The maroons took what little they had and used it to build something beautiful and lasting. Girmay’s poem also highlights the importance of storytelling in the maroon tradition. She writes that the maroons “told each other / stories of the ones who had come before.” These stories helped the maroons to remember their history and to keep their culture alive. They also served as a source of inspiration and hope for future generations.
    By teaching children about the maroons, Girmay is helping them to understand the importance of the Black imagination. She is showing them that Black people have always been creative and resourceful, even in the face of adversity. This is an important lesson for all children, but it is especially relevant for Black children, who often face challenges that their white counterparts do not. Girmay’s poem “Woe to Wonder” is a moving tribute to the maroons and their culture. It is also a reminder of the importance of teaching children about the beauty and power of the Black imagination.

    1. Hello Harou Saleah,
      Hope you are doing great, I love the way you simplified and gave meaning to the poem Woe to wonder in response to question 3. I would have to agree with you on your points. The poem for me builds both strength and character to blackness not only so it shows us how different the world is for a black person compared to a white person. Woe to Wonder also summarizes events / police brutality that toke place here in United States to young men/ men of color like Trayvon Martin, Malcomn X , George Floyd just to name a few.
      From Woe to Wonder By Aracelis Girmay ” Those people
      do not like Black among the colors.” this line meaning that amongst all the races Europeans, brought so much negativity towards a Black Those people.
      Visiting the world as I visit the world” we are all human beings, no matter our color or religion our status quo, the world is not ours we are here for a short period of time and we would go out (die) at some point in time .
      Girmay also speaks about things that we can teach our children at a young age to stop racism and inequality someday, as a white parent, from woe to wonder mention that a white parent can teach their child the cruelty that Europeans showed upon people of color. To a black parent to teach their children what “whiteness” means that we are no less than the white man because of our color, to embrace and know that we are just as deserving of this world and what the world have to offer just as a white person .

    2. Harou, your explanation to the third prompt is exactly the thoughts I had while reading this section. As we’ve talked about in class many times, it is important to focus not only on the struggles of these marginalized communities, but the successes and positive aspects of the culture. Telling this story as a mother offers the audience an authentic perspective of bringing up a black/brown child in our society. Like you mentioned, the main example she gives her children is that of Maroons and their resilience. Black imagination is seen in acts of rebellion and in trying to live full lives given their circumstances. To Girmay, raising her children to understand these concepts will give them a sort of tether to their culture and communities. I thought it was effective how Girmay turns this point around and writes: “I would also like that person to teach their White child about White life and history, and about how they are going to have to work really hard to make sure that they are not taking up more air, more space, more sidewalk because they have been taught wrongly that the world is more theirs”. It is everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves/their children on the state of the society we live in.

  5. Author Girmay introduced an idea called whiteness in the essay. “Some people think that they are better and deserve more of everything because they are White and their ancestors are from Europe,” she writes regarding wanting her children to say something along this line when they are told a victim of racial crimes was killed because of their black skin. Furthermore, she thinks that idea is what leads to the death of some black people. She believes we should focus on getting rid of that idea, instead of just focusing on the black skin of the victim because it is the idea of whiteness that has led the perpetrators to commit such crimes. She doesn’t think it will ever be solved unless people become aware of this idea and become educated on getting rid of it. “Their ancestors hurt people and hurt the land to get the power that they gave to their children and that their children keep keeping, and using to hurt, even today. Isn’t that horrible?” she stated regarding how this belief has been passed down through generations, so people might not necessarily have questioned it since it has become regular part of their life.

  6. Option 1:

    I opine that central argument of Girmay’s argument that crimes in the US are predominantly motivated by “an idea called whiteness” is essentially that racism is essentially a trait or learned characteristic by Europeans. This point is brought home when the write posits,” Their ancestors hurt people and hurt the land to get the power that they gave to their children and that their children keep keeping, and keep using to hurt, even today. Isn’t that terrible?”
    Essentially, the writer wants her children to live in a world where they are not and eventually are meted with waves of injustice and are even killed just because the color of their skin. The writer is of the view that all those persons killed namely: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Abery, were all killed by the white man just because of the color of their skin,.
    Her main aim is to equip her children with the necessary tools that will help them to stand up for themselves and have them know that they are free and whiteness in America does not govern them.
    “It occurs to me that what I right now want for my children is to equip them with fight and armor and space for dreaming in the long, constant work of our trying to get free. I am trying to think like a poet, like a maroon—to tell our children that there were people who, even while under the most unimaginable duress, had the mind to find and keep refuge in the trees. ” Girmay writes.

  7. When reflecting on racially motivated crimes such as Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, Girmay mentions the idea of whiteness. This idea of whiteness stems from examples of fellow classmates of her kids openly talking about these racially motivated crimes without any fear on their statements because the kids are white. She uses another example of a zoom call with her child’s class, stating, “One of his White classmates has gone to a march with her family, in the middle of a pandemic, to march for Black Lives. The power of this is not lost on me. I am moved by their family’s investment and risk, a risk I do not take. I study the child’s face. The baby still in her voice, her cheeks, the way she holds her mouth. She says, “George Floyd was killed because…” And I click the sound off…The rest of that sentence might go a hundred different ways… The sentence I expect is a variation on a theme: George Floyd was killed because of the color of his skin.” Girmay then goes on to talk about how their skin is brown and how she hasn’t prepared her children about the threat that being brown brings. How they might be treated differently, and all the other problems they may face simply because of their skin color. The whiteness one may have brings less problems, as they do not have to worry about going on a run like Ahmaud Arbery, and not be killed, or openly talk about race without the fears that come along with the color of their skin. It is a privilege that her kids do not have, and it is a battle brown and black parents must face in terms of educating their kids on the color of their skin. It is an unfortunate reality many people must live in, until societal standards and behaviors are changed.

  8. Option 1:

    The argument presented by Girmay that racially motivated crimes in the US are influenced by an idea called whiteness is a compelling one. The writer is detailing how these crimes are not a result of any wrongdoing by the victims, rather they are the result of flawed teachings and behaviors carried out by the perpetrators. The writer wants us to realize that when sharing these stories of racist crimes, we should not be recalling the story as “this person died because their skin was brown,” but rather we should recall the story as “this person died because a hateful, racist person committed a heinous act.” The writer goes on to explain how whiteness is the idea that whites are more deserving of this world that we all share and live in. Whiteness, she describes, is this shared idea that white people are better and should take up more space than other races. This suggests that white people are the owners of this earth and can take up as much space as they want. This is because white history teaches them such beliefs and they are taught this by their ancestors. These beliefs not only need to stop being passed through generations but also they need to be dispelled through education. White people need to be taught to lose their sense of entitlement and superiority. Even those who marched and supported some Black lives matter movements need to understand that they still benefit from their own white privilege even if they are not necessarily racist individuals. They can not just be told that racism is bad, but they need to be aware of how their white privilege creates an entire different reality for them. The writer wants her kids to grow up in a world where white people do not inherently feel more deserving of life and liberty than Black people.

  9. Throughout the article, Girmay showcases many examples of racially motivated crimes in the US and then brings up this concept of “an idea called whiteness.” Her argument for saying this was that she wanted kids just like her own whose skin is brown be able to “visit the world” like the others are visiting the world. She mentions earlier that she has this engrained fear for her own children to learn that these hate crimes were made because of the color of their skin and she wants to hide that fact from them as inhumane and horrible that fact is. But she also wants to bring light to the idea that just how schools have taught these white children to learn about black oppression in the US they should also teach them to learn to not overuse their privilege of whiteness and repeat history. Girmay wants to shed light on this issue that the education system and learning experiences have made it so easy for children to grow up learning and understanding that the reason blacks get hated crimed is because of the color of their skin; but this has become a topic that feels so numb and has become a commonality and just accepted when in reality as someone of that color it is hard for her to see such vague responses by white to this issue.

  10. Aracelis Girmay is making the argument that oftentimes racism and race-based hate crimes are observed and analyzed ONLY through the lens of suffering of the victim, rather than also looking at the root of the issue, the white supremacy and racism that has allowed for it to happen in the first place. Girmay says “The consequences of White supremacy are named only in terms of my child’s suffering or potential suffering, named only in terms of the suffering of our beloveds, but not in terms of the causes, the perpetrators…” She also states “If we do, the sentence itself becomes a kind of captivity. If we do, he will have no chance of knowing what it is he’s trying to get free from.” Framing racism from only the point of view of the person suffering and not focusing on why it is actually happens leaves people with a shortsightedness. People will know that racism and hate crimes are happening, but not the historical reasons as to why and how. Having an incomplete understanding leaves us unequipped to go about dismantling these systems and stop these things from being perpetuated further. Framing it from that perspective also removes accountability from the oppressor and can lead white people to distance themselves from that history. Black people are confronted with the reality of racism from a very young age, and if white people don’t learn how Whiteness has been and is used to enact violence and suppress Black and nonwhite people, these systems will continue to be upheld and used to oppress people.

  11. Option one-
    Reflecting and responding to racially motivated crimes in the US, Girmay suggests learning about “an idea called whiteness.” What is Girmay’s argument?

    As I was reading “From Woe to Wonder”, Grimay chooses to angle the concept of Racism by focusing on the idea of whiteness. From what Grimay explains the idea of whiteness is the want/need of a Caucasian belittling others for their need of priority for the simple reason that they are white and deserve more than others because “their ancestors are from Europe”. Grime’s argument is that she does not feel okay with teaching her kids that people that are their same color got killed because they are “brown”. She feels as though when she is ready to open that portal for her kids that her kids understand and learn that “because someone is brown” is not their reason for being killed. The reason they were killed was because of whiteness, because whites feel the need to find brown people as a threat for the simple fact that they desire everything in their favor. In terms of the term “whiteness”, Grimay also highlights that the ancestors of the white community hurt people and land to get their way and make America what it is today. In regards to modern day society, whiteness is applied because as Grimay explains this “whiteness” has been passed down through generations which affects modern day society because it continues racism although racism and segregation were abolished long ago. Through the plenty of examples Grimay uses such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amaud Aubrey, etc. it is clear representation that white supremacy does exist, ie. whiteness.

  12. In, “From Woe to Wonder” by Aracelis Girmay, she delves into the idea of “Whiteness” quite profoundly. However, I found it almost crucial to note that she does not attack nor seek to villainize those who benefit from their fated “Whiteness”. Instead, her approach is more directed towards better educating her son and daughter, or even more so, the Black children who are raised unarmed to face the realities that come as a package deal with the color of the skin they were born into.

    A line from her writing that really resonated with me goes as follows, “Those people. Visiting the world as I visit the world.” This, I believe, becomes an even more powerful statement when paired in context with what Girmay desires for her son to be able to contribute to a conversation about race and what a White child should be raised to know about themselves. An example of what she would like White children to be aware of is their history, and how they came to inherit what they have.

    She wishes for White children not to be taught “that the world is more theirs.” Going even further, by wanting her son to be equipped enough to disclose the idea that White children “keep keeping, and keep using to hurt” the power bequeathed to them by their ancestors. A final point I loved about her writing was how intensely she would analyze in layers. Like with her process of boiling peony petals. From petals to color, from color to meaning, from meaning to reality, from reality to a concept, from a concept to her interpretation. Done so subtly and eloquently…wow.

  13. As Grimay reflects and responds to racially motivated crimes in the U.S she suggests learning about “an idea called whiteness”. This “idea of whiteness” is an entitled belief that white people are superior over any other race or ethnicity. This idea of “superiority” that white people have over black people and other people of color stems from European countries enslaving, and colonizing Africa. Grimay then argues that we need to shift the focus of conversation when talking about racially motivated crimes against black folks that are committed by racist white people (in some cases by racist white police officers). Usually, when a hate crime is committed against a black person, people call into question what they did to the perpetrator in order for them to commit a heinous act against them. Although the black person was the one attacked, they are viewed as the aggressor who is at fault. Grimay stresses the significance of acknowledging the role “whiteness” plays, because she doesn’t believe a black man is attacked for the color of his skin, but is attacked by a white person due their beliefs. She believes white people should be held accountable for their actions against black people. Although Grimay is confident in her argument she finds herself struggling with how to explain “whiteness” to her child. Her child is consistently almost exposed to the harsh reality black folks face through his peers and the media, but Grimay shields him. Although, Grimay hasn’t been completely transparent about how the world works to her child, she believes that all parents should educate their children on their race, and the history behind it. Especially white families, because white people were made to feel entitled to “more air, more space, more sidewalk because they have been taught wrongly that the world is more theirs”. Therefore, it is their responsibility to fix the mess they created (well created by their ancestors).

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