“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” From The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1903
Today, on Valentine’s Day, my heart broke just a little. Something happened where I witnessed a devaluation not only of black beauty but the comeliness found in color. I witnessed a situation that affirmed whiteness, and the denial of the beauty found in the rich shades of brown that saturated the classroom. I have the language for internalized racism but do my students?
Like the reader of a book, I read my students and their situations. My students are intricate and like a good book they force me to stop, cycle back, and ask questions about who they are, and consider their histories. I consider the history of being black, and being a girl, and how on days like Valentine’s their blackness may be the least likely to be appreciated, noticed, or affirmed. Recognizing this is relevant to teaching children of color, especially in a world that does not believe in their brilliance. Teachers must be active readers of situations, and understand how internalized racism and self-hate shows up in the classroom. Being literate in the lives of students of color requires that we monitor for meaning. It means rereading a situation. Our students are fluent in the language of their lives but may not have the terminology to express the feelings of discomfort, disapproval, and dissension that at times strive within their souls. It is my hope that as educators grow in critical consciousness that we help students translate and make intertextual connections in reading themselves and the world around them.
Ms. St. Jean
Native New Yorker teaching and living the middle school life, using this site to keep it 100. My students are the embodiment of joy.