I Have a lot to say about this. I’m preparing you.lolz
I think it’s really important that teachers implement certain practices into their teaching to help students feel as though they are included. Feeling like the odd-one out is hard. I can speak from personal experience. Growing up I had always felt like I didn’t belong. I was the black sheep of the family…or the rebel, the one with the feet that walk to a different rhythm.
An unfair and hard truth for some to fathom is that as a person of color I have been through events in which I felt marginalized, or that I didn’t belong, especially when I am one of few Jamaican-Canadians in the vicinity! What can I say, when you share a culture with someone sometimes the bond is easier because you’ve already surpassed that first layer of the illusion of separation that we as human beings hold as barriers in our minds against each other, whether we choose to see it or not, it is there. That’s just human nature.
Here are some examples:
Sometimes when I walk into a room and I am the only one who looks like me…it’s hard to ignore when people look at you a certain way, or stare a little too hard like you’re an alien and you’re reeeally uncomfortable, or even keep their distance from you just to be safe…sometimes it’s just the anxiety of not knowing what to expect that poisons the experience. Sometimes you can even tell by the glances someone gives you that they’re judging you (pick a stereotype). It’s all in the body language. It may not be verbal or overt but manifest in covert micro-aggression too unnoticeable for the perpetrator, but very noticeable for people who are often marginalized; they’ve been trained to see that kind of behavior from a young age, they pick it up easily. When I feel most uncomfortable is when I sense that people are “othering” me. Making assumptions about me because of what I look like on the outside. (I’ve heard this term “othering” from Simone de Beauvoir’s “The second sex”, commenting how women are basically marginalized in society.)
In this society we often say “black (wo)man” when we ought to say, “(wo)man”. Yeah, I get it, (s)he’s the “black edition”, but (s)he’s a (wo)man first before (s)he is “black”. There isn’t that much of a distinction between us. We’re all human. And “black” people come from somewhere, too, just as “white” people can come from England or Portugal. Whereas, when we refer to a “white” (wo)man, (s)he’s just a “(wo)man”. This is how POC are marginalised. Labels are a big part of it.
Labels are labels. “Black” is a marginalising label. “white” can be too. but you see, in media the connotation of the word “black” is often bad. Superhero may say to a villain, “You black-hearted scoundrel!” (okay, peter pan said that, but still.) That means the villain has nothing but evil in their heart. What does it mean when you apply that word to a person? That the person is inherently bad? If that is what society believes about me; I guess I’m the wrong shade to be good or anything nice (lolz, yeah right!). The colour white, on the other hand has been long associated with heaven’s angel’s robes, or the colour of virginity on a wedding dress, I mean, it’s not surprise that the same connotation refers to a group of people. My question is…is this deliberate? The fact that the word “black” can trigger any response in someone from defensiveness, to discomfort to disgust…I’m not saying to change the symbolism, I’m asking you to challenge what that word “black” means when you stick it on an individual. You will find a skeleton. Biases are okay and normal. Confront it.
And there are different ways and different reasons that one may be marginalized, I’m just telling you an example of how I have experienced being marginalized. I can only speak out of the authority of my experience, which cannot be disregarded or refuted or denied, because it is MY experience and truth, meaning your turn to listen, not to correct.
Anyone who is different in any way has a chance to be marginalized, whether it’s by gender, ethnicity, weight, sexual identity, etc. I think it’s super important to have classes that allow the unheard marginalized voices speak, because often the pressure of the majority will squash their courage or the audibility of their voices. Teachers have immense influence in that they can encourage students, listen to their struggles and allow themselves to be taught. It will allow other students to learn about themselves and about the social constructs that have gone “under the radar” for a long time. Sometimes a fresh new perspective is a good thing, and shouldn’t be stifled or seen as a threat.