Our feelings are an important part of the experience of being present in the race conversation…But our feelings don’t need to be fixed.
One of the hardest things to do in a conversation about race is to resist the urge to fix the feelings of people around us. We can fixate so much on what we think someone is feeling, and what we wish they felt, or on the fact that we somehow feel responsible for what they’re feeling, that we lose sight of why we’re in the conversation in the first place.
And when we care deeply about the conversation we’re in, it’s easy to take this approach towards our own feelings too. Judging ourselves for having feelings. Comparing our feelings to the feelings of people around us. And wondering whether it’s OK to have the feelings we’re feeling as we attempt to have the race conversation.
It’s not our responsibility to fix feelings - anyone’s feelings. We witness feelings, respond to feelings, and experience feelings. Educators aren’t fixers. We can create boundaries to help everyone in our classroom learn how to respond to feelings in healthy ways. We can make room for feelings and self-expression in the learning process. We can acknowledge feelings and treat them with dignity and respect. We don’t fix them. We don’t pretend they’re not there. We don’t ignore them, bury them, or brush by them. Feelings and learning aren’t archenemies. Responding responsibly to the feelings we find pleasant and the ones that are more difficult to deal with without spewing them all over each other, without turning our feelings into an excuse to ignore the challenging parts of the learning process, is a skill - one that takes time and practice to learn.
- excerpt from The Brave Educator, Honest Conversations about Navigating Race in the Classroom
Our feelings are an important part of the experience of being present in the race conversation. We are certainly responsible for the ways we respond to our feelings.
But our feelings don’t need to be fixed.