In-Depth Look: Ashaki Jackson – “The Public is Generally Self taught and Uninformed”
Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“Sometimes there is silence after a video is released. You want to describe it as grief, or disbelief, or trauma.”
In addition to being a poet, Ashaki M. Jackson, Ph.D., is also a social psychologist. That feels relevant when experiencing this poem, which does so much with so few words. Note how the poem is written in second-person, but that the “you” feels alive in its specificity. At first, it feels perhaps self-incriminating, exploring the reflexive thoughts that many of us have when reading about another injustice. But as the poem goes on, it moves from the universal to something a bit more focused, which brings everything back to the title. This is a poem that has something specific to say– not just about media and information, but about the specific issue of police violence and its roots in US history.
The poem is also a powerful crystallization of an idea that I’ve found more and more friends and colleagues (in poetry, academia, and beyond) discussing lately– how hungry we are for hot-takes, and how difficult it can be to get a more nuanced, multi-layered idea to catch fire and go viral. When excavating the whole truth requires that we “consider the history of policing in a chattel system” (explored in books and articles like this), are we really willing to do that, or will we be content with incomplete truths?