Emotion Reimagined (in Multicultural Education)

Learning the Language of Silence / Resilience

I never learned how to code-switch forms of expression in the same sense that I never really learned that black and woman and angry meant that people like me with hearts of depth and sugarcane were unpalatable. The richness of our experience is buried beneath ancient earth, beneath emotions that are unwelcome but accessible. I became fluent in the language of respectability that the black half of my family owed their success to, and the same language that, eight thousand miles and twelve years away, my Filipina mother prayed would create her salvation. Moments in educational spaces (from colorful rooms to elite settings) were full of anxiety packed into small cartons, where I tucked dreams and discomfort into books to mark the page.

I mastered the art of abstraction, exchanging native jargon for the language of academia. Softened and sweetened in favor of melting my words / my experience / myself into spoonfuls of brown sugar. I witched away emotion like a(n) (un)natural remedy for a natural occurrence, like healing abilities I imagine my ancestors learned to survive.

In many ways, I imagine that I’m no different from them. From Audre Lorde’s (art)icle titled “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” she emphasizes: “Our feelings were not meant to survive… feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already.” (Why then, if “within these deep places, each of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling,” are emotional and creative approaches to education a liability rather than a strength?)

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