Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Facing the Raw Emotion

I can now admit that I came into college with an ignorance about race, racism, and race relations. Growing up in a small New England town, it was easy to let myself believe that racism was not in my life. We did not have a safe space to talk about race. In fact, there was one African American student in my grade who went by the name "Black Josh".

We are told what to believe, what to think, and what to feel about "difference". We have all heard President Obama's"race speech". Many of us only see what is on the news or what the government gives us. Let's investigate ourselves. Reading this book-"Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria"has changed my small town, white girl view on race.

My experience at Allegheny has changed my views completely. I used to think we could all be accepting and the slate would be clean. That moving on was the only answer. After taking Dr. Lockridge's class "The Psych of the African American Experience", I have been forced to reexamine my views that have so long defined me. Every day after class I would bust into my room, ranting about racism and its prominence in our society. My roommates had to listen to me gripe about ignorance and white superiority complex. But that is why we are at Allegheny. To question our beliefs and our way of thinking.

I now know that it is impossible to be comfortable when you are the minority. There have been times in my life when I was the minority, and I never considered the psychological implications this would have on my if it was my life every day. However, I do not think this is how it has to be. I, an optimist, believe that with education and conversations we can open the stream of dialogue and acceptance that needs to happen. When Whites can recognize the burden they have put on Blacks, we can start the conversation.

After reading the chapter from Dr. Yancy's book, there is one part that particularly stood out to me. He tells of the African American girl in his class who was reduced to tears after sharing her frustration with the way she feels in the classroom. I thought it was admiral and brave for her to share this, but I also thought Dr. Yancy's approach is also something to take note of. He strives to have an environment where students can confront these fears. Although it might be awkward or hurtful, letting a class recognize the social issues by facing them themselves, is going to be a one-shock learning experience.

I had an uncomfortable situation in my Psych class last semester when we watched a movie on race relations. In an interview, a White American said that "we (as whites) had to take full responsibility for the past regarding race relations". This hit me hard. And it made me think. For the next couple of classes, we discussed this issue, and it was uncomfortable-no one wants to take on a weight that large. But because we were in an learning environment where the boundaries could be pushed, we had the conversations. We faced it and I was able to grow as a learner.

I believe that classrooms should foster this raw emotional feeling that students use to learn. As Dr. Yancy shows, it is not just the mind that creates an intellectual, but the whole body and its experiences. We experience more when we are in an environment that pushes us.

So my question to you- What is a good age to start accepting these raw, emotional learning experiences into the classroom? At what age do you let students learn from each other about this controversial issue?

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