FALL 2020
From the Desk of Director Tim Stookesberry
The best part of being a publisher is the chance to play a small part in bringing fresh voices to light. We’re so proud of the work our SUNY Press authors do, and the four we are showcasing in this issue offer excellent examples of the kinds of projects that make it fulfilling to come to work every day.

I also want to give a shout-out to the staff here at SUNY Press, who recently launched our new imprint, 64 ink™. 64 ink will showcase the work of faculty from all over SUNY, the largest comprehensive higher education system in the nation. We’re launching the imprint by proudly offering print and offline-accessible digital versions for a wide range of course materials that were created or adapted from open-source materials by SUNY faculty. If you’re a SUNY professor, I’ll be happy to discuss any questions you might have regarding this new program. You can find out more about 64 ink here.
 
Finally, I’m delighted to share the news that Mary Jo Bona from Stony Brook University, who has been an important member of the SUNY Press Editorial Board for the past few years and is a SUNY Press series editor and author, was honored this summer with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service. Way to go, Mary Jo!

Tim Stookesberry is the Director of SUNY Press, and he would love to hear about your publishing projects! Contact him at tim.stookesberry@sunypress.edu.
Alan J. Singer is a professor of education at Hofstra University and a two-time SUNY Press author, and now we can also call him a television star! Watch Alan’s interview on the August 11 episode of The Daily Show where he discusses the racist roots of the citizen’s arrest law. To learn more about the history of race and racism in New York State, check out Alan’s SUNY Press titles.
Michael Datcher’s groundbreaking work Animating Black and Brown Liberation: A Theory of American Literatures is available in paperback. Our staff caught up with Michael recently, and he shares his thoughts about life during these challenging times.
My Covid-19 bedside reading is heavy on Frantz Fanon. The Rona Lockdown context amplifies the Martinican intellectual’s cogent insights into freedom. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon writes, “I acknowledge one right for myself: the right to demand human behavior from the other. And one duty: the duty to never let my decisions renounce my freedom.”

It is not clear if George Floyd felt he had the right to demand human behavior from Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Righteous demands are difficult to assert when wrists are cuffed and a knee curtails the freedom to breathe. Ahmaud Arbery fulfilled his duty by deciding to fight Travis McMichael for his life, when running for his freedom had run its course. Jogging While Black proved no match for Chasing Black Joggers While Armed. Louisville Emergency Medical Technician Breonna Taylor decided to risk her life by continuing her frontline medical duties amidst a pandemic but she couldn’t survive the risky behavior, bullets, and the inhumanity of three Louisville Metro Police officers. The wrongful death suit filed by Ms. Taylor’s family claims that officers Hankison, Cosgrove, and Mattingly acted with a “flagrant indifference for the value of human life.”

It has been our fellow citizens’ consistent and historical indifference to the value of black human life that has been so painful to many African Americans. We shout “black lives matter” in the public sphere because our tired private shouts aren’t working.
Carrying black skin through America is exhausting. Entering a room for a meeting, being next in the bank line, jogging, raising our hand in class, taking our daughter to the theater, driving to the store for orange juice, looking suspicious while entering our own front door, walking down the street with Skittles, breathing. Exhausting because we engage in these quotidian activities under the atomizing gaze of a citizenry indifferent to the value of our black lives—which means too many quotidian activities end in black funerals.

Yet, we wake and again risk those busted tail light murders, those overheard water cooler comments, risk the stress of going outside in Minneapolis, the stress of going to bed in Louisville.

This ain’t living.

Marvin Gaye tells us this on wax. Even though we already know what’s going on, we shake our head like it’s the first time we’ve heard this truth. We know this ain’t living. This is dying. Piecemeal. One heartbreak at a time. So we shout, “black lives matter,” hoping our fellow citizens will hear what a broken heart sounds like coming out of a bullhorn. We hope that our painful timbre will help America see our full rich humanity. And this hope is our fatal flaw: seeking freedom from our pain by being acknowledged by those who are complicit in our pain. As a nation, America will never see our full rich humanity because the country would have to confront its historic and contemporaneous inhumanity. There are simply too many white Americans who are outraged—in the name of God and country—by the idea of black people demanding that white people stop killing us.

“All lives matter” is their Rosary.

The practitioners of this Rosary have no freedom to offer—because they are not free themselves. We have to shout, “black lives matter,” to ourselves, like nobody is watching but ourselves. Our freedom is in our reflection. Or, as Fanon said, “Here is my freedom, which sends back to me my own reflection.”
For four consecutive Sundays in August, readers of the Albany Times Union had the good fortune to be able to read excerpts of Edward Schwarschild’s new novel In Security. Part airport thriller, part love story, Ed’s new novel is a gripping read about how those who strive to protect us aren’t always able to protect themselves. The book is available this month! Here’s an essay by Ed that gives us a glimpse inside his early days as a TSA security officer.
Long before I began writing In Security, long before I worked for a few months as a Transportation Security Officer-in-Training at Albany International Airport, I closely followed coverage of the TSA in the news. It has seemed clear from the start that some officers abuse their power. Toddlers are patted down. Cancer survivors are forced to remove their prosthetic breasts. There is bullying at checkpoints. Property is stolen, and there are other crimes committed as well. This list could go on.

I have no desire to be a TSA apologist. Also, I should note that I worked the airport checkpoint during Obama’s presidency. The job and the way airport work is done seem likely to keep changing drastically as Trump continues to make appointments and sign executive orders. Who can say at this point what sorts of orders TSA employees might be compelled to carry out in the months and years ahead?

A mantra I heard throughout my training helped me understand my time on the job: if you’ve been to one airport, you’ve been to one airport. While I can’t speak for what happens at other airports, or what might happen in the future, I can tell you what I experienced and observed during my time at Albany International. It’s not a particularly sexy or edgy reveal. I saw a diverse group of men and women of all ages who sought TSA employment because it offered a combination that seems scarce these days: entry-level positions with real health benefits, job security, and the possibility of career development. For all its supposed faults, the TSA is an opportunity for thousands of people who want to help keep their finances and/or nation secure. Some were more skeptical about the mission than others, and some were more crass in their conduct than others, but everyone I saw performed the job they had been trained to do as best they could.

I’ve held other entry-level jobs over the course of my life: kennel cleaner, dishwasher, waiter, gardener, gravedigger, office temp, lab assistant. Working as a TSO-in-training was as challenging as any other work I’ve done, including writing and teaching. At the checkpoint, we were often urged to practice focused attention, hour after hour, shift after shift, and it could get exhausting. We rotated from station to station, repeating our scripts, studying documents and images, searching bags. We were supposed to perform each task as if our lives and the lives of everyone around us were continuously at stake.

In my best moments at the checkpoint, however, I came to feel that security done right could be downright peaceful, or even uplifting—a way to rise above our world of constant distractions. In this context, it’s revealing that the TSA lingo for passengers is actually “PAX.” The PAX passed by, pulling their rolling bags, poking at their devices, chatting with other PAX and non-PAX in distant locations, and there was an odd, pulsating beauty to it all. Peace, PAX. We’re all PAX of the world, just a swirl of souls. We pass through airports to lift-off and land, like so many drops of water, bound for our time in the clouds. We’re carried aloft for miles and then we descend back to the earth’s surface. The world spins and we spin upon it; it is, like almost everything else, beyond our control. The tickets can say whatever they say. Everyone knows the person who arrives is not the same person who departed. Whoever we are, we won’t be for long.

I suppose it would be true to say that what I learned during my brief time in the TSA could fill a book, but let me share here an incident that didn’t make it into the book, an incident from my very first shift working the checkpoint. I was told to shadow Steven, a fast-talking, big-bellied former car salesman. We started our rotation at “divestiture,” the Transportation Security Administration’s term for the place where you surrender your belongings. I rehearsed the script about emptying all pockets, putting laptops in their own trays, and removing shoes, jackets and belts. After fifteen minutes of that, it was on to the next task. We moved from bag search to the walk-through metal detector, to the document checker, to the scanner, then back around to divestiture. Steven pattered advice my way as we circled the checkpoint. “Carry extra gloves in your back pocket,” he said. “Make sure they’re not too tight. And remember, you’re in charge. This is your house.”

It didn’t feel like my house, which I’d left at 4 a.m., tiptoeing out so as not to wake my wife and three-year-old son. And despite my brand new, titanium-blue uniform, complete with patches, epaulets, and a shiny name tag, I didn’t feel in charge at all. While I listened to Steven, I scanned the checkpoint for my fellow TSOs-in-training. Eight of us had just spent two weeks in a heavily air-conditioned, windowless classroom together. In our civilian clothes, we had listened to lectures, learned how to read x-ray images, practiced pat-downs, and passed various tests. I caught sight of one of my classmates: Nina, a bubbly former schoolteacher. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet as she worked the walk-through metal detector. She didn’t look in charge either, but the crisp new uniform lent her an undeniable aura of authority. She gave me the thumbs-up and I returned the favor, remembering my pre-dawn drive to the airport. A cover of “Feeling Good” had been playing on the radio as I pulled into the employee car park: “It’s a new dawn / It’s a new day / It’s a new life.” I had walked toward the terminal with the music still buzzing in my ears. Red lights glowed out on the tarmac. Under the layers of asphalt and concrete, there was marshland. Along the chain-link fences, cattails still grew tall, rustling in the wind. They were stiff from the cold, and I listened to them brush like bamboo against the fence, an odd but soothing wind chime.

Steven thumped a hand down on my shoulder. “Come on, man,” he said. “Focused attention please!” The lines around me at divestiture were backing up; suddenly there were two passengers in wheelchairs, another two passengers requesting pat-downs to avoid the scanner, and a young woman with a Siamese cat in a small pet carrier. I struggled to recall the standard operating procedure for pets. I had to keep the lines moving. I needed to continue repeating my script about liquids, gels, aerosols, jackets, and laptops. As TSOs, we were supposed to “create calm” and demonstrate “command presence,” but I was starting to sweat and my voice didn’t sound confident to me; I wasn’t sure exactly what I should be saying into my walkie-talkie, either. I was grateful that Steven was there to help me out. Clearly, it would take a little longer to establish authority.

Just a few rotations later, Steven and I were at the scanner when a familiar voice shouted: “This guy is an impostor!” I looked up and saw Gene, a friend and retired professor from the University at Albany. He was about to enter the scanner. He was old enough to keep his brown loafers on. I was already nervous enough. I feared I was now moments away from being fired.

But I was the only one who flinched. I helped Gene through and quietly told him we’d talk another time. I watched him reunite with his wife, who used a wheelchair—she had been sent through the metal detector instead of the scanner. I heard her ask him the obvious question: “What’s Ed doing here?”

Again Gene spoke at full volume, as if the checkpoint were his lecture hall, though I knew his wife had perfectly good hearing. “He’s researching a novel!” Gene shouted.
I waited for the supervisor to rush over and apprehend me, but nothing like that happened. Steven was unfazed. He was already focusing his attention on the next passenger. 

Novel writing, apparently, wasn’t perceived as a threat at the checkpoint. Relieved, I took a deep breath and got back to work.

Parts of this essay appeared in different form, first at Hazlitt.net and then in The Guardian
We close this issue with an uplifting essay from a new author, Molly Beauregard (Tuning the Student Mind: A Journey in Consciousness-Centered Education). After reading this, you’ll understand why Molly’s book is getting the kind of reviews we publishing folks dream about. Like this one, from world-renowned author Deepak Chopra: 

“An inspiring and down-to-earth template for learning and teaching, Tuning the Student Mind makes a convincing case for consciousness-centered education. Molly Beauregard’s impassioned book, laced with inspiration and information, offers readers hope for the future.”
These past months have offered many of us a true opportunity for reflection. The collective atmosphere is ripe with heightened emotions. At times, the world feels like a popping, fizzing stew pot of upset energy. The stew pot contains a mix of disease, tragedy, confusion, grief, and suffering. In this environment, it can be challenging to navigate a trip to the grocery store, let alone find solutions for all that ails our communities and the broader world.

Years ago, during a media studies course I was teaching, a student stopped me midstream and said, “Molly, I just feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems I see in the world. It’s so depressing and so impossible to imagine my personal ability to impact change anywhere.” His sincerity silenced the room. Emboldened, I tossed my organized syllabus in the trash and totally revamped the semester’s learning objectives. By the end of the course, a cohort of students within my class had raised $5,000 by designing and implementing an entire “Who Cares?” media campaign dedicated to supporting Habitat for Humanity programs in Detroit. It was a small step, but an important development in my work as an educator. I had witnessed the most disgruntled and disengaged students in my course transform their attitudes with a simple shift in focus: away from cynicism, and toward engagement.

The simple truth is that when my students slowed down and asked in a moment of deep reflection, “who cares,” they discovered that they did. Rather than sitting and stewing in their own frustration, they turned toward service to others. And, in giving from a place of care, they made a meaningful contribution to their community.

Being a student of cultural patterns for most of my life has convinced me of one basic truth: compassion is the source of human happiness. We see this in personal relationships, in community initiatives, and in every sphere of public and private life. Where there is compassionate action there is social justice, where there are compassionate relationships there are healthy families, and when we suffer collectively from natural disasters or national tragedy, we seek compassionate leadership. Compassion and loving-kindness serve as the root source of the best aspects of our human culture. And where these qualities are absent, we suffer in lonely despair and darkness.

Preparing a new generation of leaders to address the existential challenges and practical crises we face in the world today demands a new kind of education. Consciousness-centered educational initiatives may offer a solution to teaching and learning in our increasingly complex and interconnected world. Expanded consciousness allows individuals to actually “see” the personal in the diversity. This is expressed in the Vedic literature with the following words: “I am That, thou art That, all this is That” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.10). 

Our personal lives are the expression of our inner potentialities. Teaching students how to access this inner knowingness profoundly reshapes student experience and, by extension, the educational landscape. In my own classroom incubator, I have found that by integrating the skills of introspection, silence, and reflection with intellectual engagement, my students have been better able to synthesize information and engage with the world from a place of health and well-being.

In classrooms around the country, more and more educators are integrating consciousness-centered approaches to cultivate deeper reflection and compassion in students. My book, Tuning the Student Mind, offers one template and suggestions for how we can teach our students to bring their whole selves to any puzzle or problem they encounter. The rest will be up to them.