On Teaching What Is Not Valued, But Is Still Needed
Teaching black literature is hard, when generations of students have been taught things like:
- Racism only exists when black people are present.
- If black people only loved themselves, racism would go away.
- Wealthy, white women in the South and black enslaved women suffered equally.
- Naming the sources of racial oppression and violence against black and brown people is really an expression of racism against white people.
- Black people can’t…
- Black-on-black crime…
- Black literature, black studies do not offer a way to engage in anything beyond “a culture of victimhood.”
- When you say “race” you really mean “black.” And racism is a black-white dynamic.
- Black people don’t write science fiction.
- Black/African American Literature is not “American” literature.
Oh, there’s more, my students tell me. But I will stop there.
It pains me to see the devaluation of black studies is spaces where students need it the most. So embedded are the narratives of pathological blackness, that even when students read about black love, family, community, there is cognitive dissonance that forces them to transform poetry, music, art into the negative. And they tell me this is what they are taught in our public and private institutions.
On the eve of a new semester, I think about the work ahead. That there is so much to do. So much work to do.
#fallpreps #Imightbehopeful #orImightnot