Debates in Latin American Social Theory

Asynchronous Assignment on From Woe to Wonder

Asynchronous Assignment


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

2. Pick ONE of the following prompts and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 3/9 before the class. 200-word minimum.


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


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.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “From Woe to Wonder” do you want to bring into the discussion?

12 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on From Woe to Wonder”

  1. What it’s like to not exist…
    The main character is facing a challenging narrative on how to explain the intricate relationship with race and class and identity in the United States as a black women. Essentially she tries to shelter her children away from common explanations:
    George floyed, Brianna Taylor and other black counterparts who are victim to “racially” biased system have been killed as a result of the color of their skin
    The author argues that essentially her cocasion counterparts fail to acknowledge the systematic issues America faces . It was designed for a specific set of people to hold the wealth; colonization at its core
    An underrated understanding of what it actually means to identify your roots. The author still wants to hold her children’s innocence and often looks back at a moornage community that disabled the system they live in by centering away to another community. In her own way she is designing her own community in a wolrd where her history does not exist.

  2. Girmay’s logic is that people need to be educated on whiteness since is a constant issue that goes back to history and how we see this being present today. It is understanding that there is a superiority that has been put for white people based on their skin color, and has allowed them to grow and have opportunities that other people don’t have. Moreover, it is acknowledging this and stepping away from it to create better equal opportunities for everyone. Also, understanding the experiences that people of color have been subject to go through, because of the racism added in our system to protect whiteness. In the reading Grimay we see how she protects her children from learning about the inequality that is found in the world, while other white children have been told/aware of issues happening such as the killing of George Floyd. I think people understanding the role of whiteness is crucial for Grimay since it is going deeper into the problem and calling out what people don’t want to acknowledge as the problem, which is whiteness. It has created this idea of superiority that people should try to step away from to bring more opportunities to minority communities who are seen as less because of their skin color or background.

    1. Hi Diego, I truly agree with your statement. The idea that people need to be educated on and have a true understanding of what whiteness is, is extremely important. People will never be able to resolve a problem if they aren’t able to understand the root causes of it. When she states that she dislikes the statement that a person was killed “because the color of their skin”, I think it further proves the point of why understanding what whiteness is, is so important. That reasoning makes it seem as though Black people are at fault, as if this was something that was in their control or almost as if it was inevitable. In reality, this whiteness is what led to it, and is what led to all of the unfair treatment that Black people go through. She later states “We stand in the light of the sentence but the perpetrator is under cover, cloaked.” The history that is taught to us often ignores the ways in which Blacks and people of color were mistreated, or it is described in a manner that takes the blame off of whites. Her want for people to learn about whiteness would force people to take accountability for things that occurred in the past, and only then would people be able to understand the want for change within the Black community. I believe her stance on understanding whiteness, and our history in general, is truly powerful.

  3. Girmay suggests learning about “an idea called whiteness” as another perspective to look at racially motivated hate crimes. Her logic is to not look at the violent murders of people of color as “they were killed because they are Black” but rather to look at it as they were killed because of white supremacy. I believe her logic is to focus on the effects of white supremacy including police brutality, hate crimes, etc. Girmay is suggesting throughout the article that white people need to recognize their privilege instead of ignoring white supremacy and to stop seeing Black issues as not a problem of theirs. She correlates that the power whiteness holds has to do with the belittling and abuse of Black people. Girmay also used “an idea called whiteness” as a response she wants her children to have when someone tells them a Black person was murdered because of the color of their skin. She says, “Some people think that they are better and deserve more of everything because they are White and their ancestors are from Europe. 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?”

  4. How I read this was how we as caretakers of BIPOC children, it’s important to remember to also teach them about the resilience of our ancestors had even under these conditions. And an emphasis on our ancestors’ imaginations, to teach them that we can exist outside of globalization, outside the white imagination. And create our own reality. Such like the imagination of their own child who also goes through the process of deciding the word, treehouse, is it. And the moment of joy they had as a parent thinking about how the maroons also went through the process of deciding that on top of a tree, is it. Which reminds me of my own niece who creates her own realities in her drawings. This essay also ties with the film Quilombo, where in a scene we observe Zumbi hiding from the colonial-settlers on top of the tree and closely monitoring their moves and his own silence, and at last he is free from slavery. And at last, my niece is free from generational poverty.
    This quote also stood out to me because it reminded me how I often forget to teach my nieces and nephews about the resilience our ancestors had, about their moments of joy. And it’s a fine balance to do, to talk about both the pain and joy of our ancestors. I want to stress the dangers of not talking about ancestral joy and imagination, because it can lead to this state of despair. And without realizing with our own words, we had captivated this child in globalization without an exit.

  5. Girmay’s logic is that people of color get killed because of their skin color. From Eric Garner to George Floyd, both were killed by the cops because they were African American males. “George Floyd was killed because his skin was brown” (Girmay). When you are white, it is easier for you to talk about this out in public, and they don’t understand that these words could hurt someone, especially someone who has lost their child due to cops. Not only was the killing of Eric Garner and George Floyd was on the news, but also the news of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor because cops also killed them. They all have this in common, and it isn’t easy to speak to children about the racial differences they might go through because of their skin color since they wouldn’t understand until they are older and out more. In the United States, the color of people is not viewed equally, and this is why “Whiteness” exists because they do not acknowledge someone who is not white. Being white should not mean they are better than others; we are all human here, and it sucks that the number of people killed by cops was people of color.

  6. Reading the article “From Woe to Wonder” written by Aracelis Girmay suggests a controversial idea called “whiteness”. This term can involve too many factors as the name of it includes the main idea of white people or the influence of white fundamentals over people’s lives. Unfortunately, there has always been a conflict between the “white” and the “black” people which is the culprit of so many deaths around the world. The logic of whiteness is related to people who have lighter skin color and to those who have European roots. It’s also related to the logic of superiority as to feel that white people are well-known and accepted in society compared to blacks. Also, considering the idea of white people’s deaths as the worst action a citizen can do while black people’s death is left unpunished because it doesn’t matter to society. It’s unbelievable that just a skin color can create such big differences in the world including death. The author also mentions George Floyd’s death in hands of police brutality and how the child had the necessity to hear the response the classmate has about Floyd’s death. The reality is so cruel that parents prefer to enclose this information and share it when it’s convenient to children’s age.

  7. Girmay has been put into a position where she is stuck on how to explain to her kids about the situation going on in the world around them. Her kids at ages two and four attend school where classmates have bought to attention to the marches and deaths. Girmay would shut her kids out of anything regarding the BLM movement till she found the right words to explain everything to her children. Something that was bought to my attention was when one of her children’s white classmates started the sentence “George Floyd was killed because…” and she shut off the volume. Eric Garner, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others who they believe were killed for the color of their skin is an issue in it itself. The whiteness Girmay is talking about is white supremacy and they are oblivious to such concept. Therefore Girmay has not been able to tell her kids in simple terms just because this goes way beyond just the color of their skin and she needs the time to process how to make her kids understand to never be ashamed of who they are.

    1. Hey Janice,
      I agree it is a vey tough situation she is currently placed in ontrying to explain to her kids the reality of things in this world, making them understand things. We can see how the idea and things that occur around the idealogy of “whiteness” where it has a major influence and impact on the way people think about things. Or their “whiteness” and their European descent having an advantage because of their “lighter skin color” and disregarding any human life being that so hapens to have a darker skin color. A situation that seems to never end unfortunately, and a constant batle for improvement all around in hopes that one day a skin color will no longer have a dangerous impact.

  8. Girmey talks about the fact that people of color are oftentimes discriminated against and killed because they are not White. She mentioned victims such as Eric Garner and George Floyd who were both killed by the police presumably because of their skin color. There were many instances where White persons committed more horrendous crimes but were not treated with such inhumane behavior as compared to what Floyd and Garner received. In the world we live in today, our skin color plays an important part in our opportunities we have in life. It is sad, but this is the reality of it.
    It is a tough situation to explain to young children about racial discrimination and racial bias we face in the world. But it is fundamentally important to teach them so that they are prepared and understand the world we live in. Girmey noted that “I am startled, in February, by my son’s White schoolmate who runs into the hall to announce to his parent that Martin Luther King Jr. was killed because of the color of his skin. These months later I am again startled by the very young White children who speak openly and, it seems, without fear about George Floyd’s murder.
    It might be surprising to hear about young children talk about the color of one’s skin and perhaps racial discrimination is a never-ending cycle that will never end.

  9. At first, I was confused on why Girmay was censoring the injustices Black people go through to her kids. As I kept reading, it’s my understanding that she wants her kids to have the tools to be able to talk about it and respond to these issues in an educated and aware way. While I was reading, this quote stood out to me, “The sentence I expect is a variation on a theme: George Floyd was killed because of the color of his skin. People are mistreated because of the color of their skin. George Floyd was killed because his skin was brown. Our skin is brown. We stand in the light of the sentence but the perpetrator is under cover, cloaked. But by what, and in whose service?” (Girmay). From my understanding, Girmay’s logic is that Black people aren’t killed because they are Black, instead, they are killed because of whiteness. After reading this, I was able to understand why it’s wrong to say something like “George Floyd was killed because he was Black”. As Girmay says, this shifts the focus from the killer to the victim and as a result, also shifts the blame on them. I think that this concept of whiteness and white supremacy needs more attention in the media. Oftentimes, the media focuses on what the victim could have been doing wrong instead of focusing on the attacker and the white supremacy beliefs they had.

  10. Prompt: 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.

    It is very important to us as parents or future parents, aunts, uncles, educators of the future to make sure that we frame our own narrative, of our history, in all its complexities, especially as people of color. We have adapted to the framing of history and our ancestors as told from the perspective of “whiteness” in a sense, for me growing up as a person of color in the American school system (Christian School at that) had me feeling like I was an adopted child, with no real place to belong to. The history being taught was not my history, not the one I had heard from my grandfather in Cuba as we stood en la playa de Siboney, dressed in all white with my shell offerings for Yemoja as he taught me about the history of our land and our Yoruba ancestors. I loved hearing Yoruba legends and about the Orisha goddesses and how I resembled them and how they protected me depending on the element whether I was in the ocean, a river, en los viñales or on a plane back home. To hear then that we don’t have a history we’re “just a mix” of “others” this lack of representation, or actually, misrepresentation in history always left a void in me, my racialized emotions.

    We are part of a system built around the practices, mechanisms behaviors and cognitions that reproduce racial domination and what’s worse is that we inadvertently become its perpetrators. For this reason it is so important to take hold of the narratives of our diverse histories and elevate them, in the case of Girmay, as a creator she also wants to honor the imaginativeness of her ancestors, of her children’s ancestors, like the Maroons and the beauty and power that exists in standing up for yourself and reclaiming your power, as they did. To say enough is enough, I will no longer be treated this way and we will do what it takes to break free and create a community for myself.

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