Err on the Side of Caution and Watch Your Words

Talking Behind My Back

Individuals can sometimes make statements about someone that emerge from lapses in good judgment.  Before you make statements about someone, be sure you have all of the facts about what you intend to say so that you don’t look like a fool in the end.  Many people who are so quick to make comments about someone don’t have the emotional strength to handle the backlash their words can engender.  When you’re not having the best day and/or have an attitude, err on the side of caution with what you say.

The things you say have power—whether those things you say bring you positive or negative returns.

When you directly or indirectly make bold statements about someone, the person who often really has the problem is you.  Many people rather deflect their problems by attempting to attack others.  After you finish attempting to attack others, your problems will still be there.  What are you going to do about your own problems?  Why waste time trying to draw attention to other people’s problems when your life is a mess?  Clean up the mess in your own house before you focus on the challenges other people face in their houses.

It can be amazing how people think they know so much about someone when they don’t really know anything about him or her.  Don’t be foolish enough to say things to others and in public that you’re basing off an inkling.  You damage any credibility you have left when you do things like this.  If you feel confident enough to make bold statements about someone, why not ask him or her to confirm your statements?  Why not confront the person first about what you have to say before you express it to others?  Are you really as real as you’re claiming or pretending to be?

Your words can do damage to relationships and that damage may not be able to be repaired.  This may not matter for some or many of your relationships.  There will be, however, some relationships that you have damaged that you will regret.  Without question, there’s nothing wrong with being bold.  We certainly need more truly bold people in America.  Let good judgment guide your efforts at being bold and “keeping it a hundred.”  A person may never let you know you damaged your relationship with him or her.  He or she may seem to act different and you will not really understand why, especially if you thought something you said didn’t get to him or her or went over his or her head.

You will always end up having to pay for your reckless choice of words.

When you call people out about the bold statements they made about you, they begin to become defensive about what they said, as if they’re the victim.  Really?  You’re the victim?  The moment you made the bold statements about someone while you were “keeping it a hundred,” “being real,” and demonstrating how bold you are you should have thought about being the victim then.  You should, therefore, own what you’ve said and not try to present yourself as a victim when you are the victimizer.

Yes, there’s nothing wrong with being yourself—just make sure you’re committed to owning up to all you do and say.  When you say things about people, they’re going to retaliate—be ready!  It’s only fair for those who you attempted to shame to give you a little of your own medicine.  Fair is fair, right?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sometimes You Need to Cry

Black Man Crying

I’m not shame to cry in front of you!

Many people see crying as a weakness.  You’re going to face times in your life when you will need to cry.  It’s healthy for you to cry occasionally.  When you allow yourself to let the tears roll down your face, this can be a moment of emotional and psychic cleansing.  This moment can also provide you with the clarity you need in your life.  Do not, however, allow crying to become your answer to all of your problems—let it be a part of the process of how you deal with many of your problems.

Even for those of you who say you don’t need to cry sometimes, it’s time to stop fooling yourself—you need to cry also!  Don’t let your “tough guy” persona or “strong woman” persona cause you to end up at the nearest insane asylum.  Life presents us with many heartbreaking and vexing experiences.  We have to be wise in our response to those experiences.  Shedding tears during the process of handling heartbreaking and vexing experiences can be cathartic.  Your tears have the potential to help you to see that things are going to be okay and a brighter day will come.

Your tears can cause you to engage in the critical thinking you’ve not given yourself time to do.

In no way am I advocating for us to turn into a nation of crybabies.  When you overly rely on crying, you end up losing the power of engaging in an appropriate amount of crying.  You can make yourself seriously ill by crying too much.  You will find that crying about everything will result in you feeling quite depressed often.  Crying is not a solution to your most challenging problems.  It is, however, a part of the process of successfully addressing many of your most challenging problems and it’s crucial to the healing process.

Have you every cried yourself to sleep?  Did you wake up feeling better the next morning?  I’m sure you felt at least somewhat better, considering your tears allowed you to release some of the emotion invested in what led you to cry in the first place.

If you experience a moment in public where you have to cry, don’t feel horrible about it.  Your emotions are your emotions.  You can always quickly excuse yourself to a restroom or private area (if one is available).

Recognizing that you don’t have to be afraid to cry in front of people is recognizing it’s great to be yourself.  If you’re too embarrassed to cry in front of people, you’re too embarrassed to simply be yourself.  What a shame!

People are going to do things to you that will make you cry.  Your enemies are going to do things to you that are going to make you cry.  Don’t think you’re weak when you feel compelled to cry.  Your crying is going to assist you in defeating the negative things that made you cry.

When you feel the need to cry, go ahead and do it!  Crying can be a vehicle for liberating yourself!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Black Male Teachers and the Shaming White Gaze

Although many people situated in the postmodern epoch posit that the election of President Obama signaled the transition of the nation to a “post-racial America,” the brutal legacies of White supremacy and Jim Crow persist across the nation.  In American K – higher education institutions, these legacies might be the most transparent and damaging.  Throughout the educational pipeline across the country, there exists a pervasive disregard for hiring a diverse faculty.  Although American schools are increasingly serving diverse student populations, many White administrators are not making a conscious effort to hire minority faculty to reflect this progressively burgeoning diversity.

Black male teachers are endangered species.  A dismal number of Black male teachers serve in K – higher education institutions.  The reality is the majority of Black male teacher candidates will have to be hired by White people, especially White men.  An extensive body of empirical and scholarly literature has documented the discrimination and racism minority applicants face during the hiring process.  More attention, however, needs to be devoted to the retention of Black male teachers.

Many White administrators employ a shaming gaze to attempt to intimidate Black male teachers and make them feel inferior.  Many White administrators and others will try to pretend that this gaze does not exist and will manufacture a baffled countenance about this gaze.  They will assert that one is making a desperate effort to use the “race card” in his favor to achieve his desired outcome(s).  Although many Whites suggest that the idea of a shaming white gaze, as is characterized in this piece, victimizes them by calling into question every motive they have for looking at a Black male, we need to look only to early American history and Jim Crow America to gain a deep understanding of how real, detrimental, and important the shaming White gaze is to Black people.

Black male teachers are not divorced from reality: most of their paychecks are signed by White male administrators.  When White administrators try to communicate shameful messages to Black male teachers through their mean-spirited gaze, Black male teachers realize their careers are not safe.  Many Black male teachers, therefore, begin to internalize racial self-loathing and self-hatred, considering they feel powerless against a power structure that does not favor them.  These Black male teachers become docile bodies easily exploited by many White administrators who love nothing more than to show them they determine how long they will be employed and the conditions of their employment.

For those Black male teachers who are unwilling to be docile bodies easily exploited by those White administrators wishing to unfairly treat them, they, unfortunately, become tangible causalities of the shaming gaze.  It is through Black male teachers who are unwilling to just be “good Negroes” that we have a chance to witness the brutal motives explicit in the shaming gaze.  The shaming White gaze articulates to Black male teachers that they are not wanted as educators and every effort will be made to see that they are terminated.

The shaming White gaze inevitably results in discriminatory actions.  In higher education institutions, many Black male teachers’ academic work gets unfairly critiqued and viewed with contempt, especially since many White administrators don’t understand it and don’t have a desire to invest time in attempting to understand it.  In K-12 institutions, the shaming White gaze results in Black male teachers being unfairly judged as grossly unprofessional and defiant.

Many White administrators are going to have to learn that having a diverse faculty is not about “being politically correct”—having a diverse faculty ameliorates academic achievement.  When students are able to benefit from a diverse faculty, they are able to learn from the sundry talents, experiences, backgrounds, teaching styles, and etc. a diverse faculty offers.

At the local level, we have to place more pressure on local leadership to hire more Black male teachers and to create a more diverse faculty in general.  As you advocate for the hiring of more Black male teachers, make sure you include support for the retention of extant Black male teachers.  We must demand our local leaders to support the hiring, promoting, and retention of Black male teachers.

Black male teachers are endangered species.  Let’s fight against this national crisis that must be fought first at the local level!  Here is evidence that when we fight against efforts to not hire, support, and retain Black male teachers at the local level, we will be successful:

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Race in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

In The Bluest Eye (1970), Toni Morrison’s first novel, the reader encounters Pecola Breedlove, the protagonist of the novel who has to confront the dominant culture’s oppressive standard of beauty. As Morrison’s narrative is situated in 1941, this time period featured tremendous racial discrimination against African-Americans. Since the dominant culture’s standard of beauty did not allow African-Americans in 1941 to be considered as beautiful because of their dark (non-white) skin color, Pecola Breedlove experiences great racial shame, resulting from this oppressive standard of beauty. She desires to be liberated from the manacles of race. Pecola does not long to be considered simply beautiful; she desires to be the most beautiful person. Therefore, in order to become the most beautiful person, Pecola aspires to have the bluest eye (a physical characteristic of the dominant culture) to enable her to escape the oppressive bondage and limitations that race places on her ability to see herself as the most beautiful individual. For Pecola, the only way that she sees that she will be able to be perceived as beautiful is to live imaginatively in a world where she does have the bluest eye—biologically impossible in the world in which she physically resides. In helping the reader to understand how Pecola perceives how the dominant culture views her, Morrison writes: “She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all white people. So. The distaste must be for her, her blackness. All things are in her are flux and anticipation. But her blackness is static and dread. And it is the blackness that accounts for, that creates, the vacuum edged with distaste in white eyes” (49).

Although Peocla is able to see the “distaste” that the dominant culture has for her “blackness,” Morrison is able to offer readers one of her most pervasive themes that permeate all of her novels: African-Americans must seek alternatives to the oppressive social reality that the social construction of race has caused them to experience. While Morrison’s narrative interrogates salient issues surrounding race through Pecola, her focus on the racial shame of Claudia McTeer, one of Pecola’s closest friends and the novel’s narrator, operates powerfully in illuminating her multifarious and nuanced ways of exploring race in The Bluest Eye.

One of the most important ways in which Morrison has Claudia McTeer to interface with the theme of race is through her interaction with Maureen Peal, a young African-American female of a brighter hue than Claudia and Pecola. Through the interactions between Claudia and Maureen, the reader learns that Claudia has internalized her racial shame and she does not want Pecola to reveal her racial shame in the presence of Maureen. In a pivotal encounter where Claudia, Pecola, and Frieda (Claudia’s sister) have an argument with Maureen about Maureen’s claim that light-complexioned blacks are beautiful and dark-complexioned blacks are ugly, Pecola’s disheartened and silent reaction that endorses the claim that Maureen espouses about the relationship between skin color and beauty unveils and accentuates Claudia’s great internalized racial shame. In demonstrating her tremendous indignation for Pecola’s conspicuous endorsement of Maureen’s reprehensible claim, Claudia states, “She seemed to fold into herself, like a pleated wing. Her pain antagonized me. I wanted to open her up, crisp her edges, ram a stick down that hunched and curving spine, force her to stand erect and spit the misery out on the street” (73). Claudia’s internalized racial shame is vividly clear as she expresses her anger with Pecola for giving Maureen’s disgraceful claim the validity that Maureen hopes that it will be given. While Claudia and Frieda attempt to conceal their racial shame through their incensed retorts to Maureen’s claim, Claudia becomes increasingly angry with Pecola because she identifies with the transparent way in which Pecola sinks under “the wisdom, accuracy, and relevance” of Maureen’s shameful and painful claim (74).

Morrison’s treatment of racial shame in the novel enables her readers to not only unearth the significant psychological impact of Pecola and Claudia perceiving themselves as racially inferior, but her larger use of the theme of race also affords readers an opportunity to understand the oppressive economic, social, and cultural milieu and problems that have plagued blacks historically. Pecola and Claudia are two of the most important characters Morrison employs in the novel to offer critical revelations about race. The novel is an instructive denunciation of the social construction of race.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Pain of Knowing You Did the Wrong Thing

Did the Wrong Thing

When you know that you have done the wrong thing to someone, you should ask for God’s forgiveness and should ask the person for forgiveness. God will forgive you. The person may forgive you too. You should ask the person for forgiveness in person to allow him or her to see that it is a genuine request for forgiveness—if this is at all possible. People will respect you more when you just come out and genuinely apologize for the things that you have done wrong. Don’t try to make excuses for what you have done wrong—just apologize. When you try to make excuses for what you have done wrong or try to engage in a debate about whether or not what you did was really wrong, then you cause even more pain for your victim or victims and run the risk of never getting forgiveness from that person.

Although some people may never forgive you, you should try your best to get their forgiveness because you are the person who caused the pain in the first place. The one thing that you can do in the future to prevent causing people pain is to simply not strive to intentionally hurt people. When you have developed a reputation for being compassionate, then the times where you unintentionally hurt people will be less of a problem because people will automatically excuse you because your compassionate reputation precedes you.

One thing that makes me angry about people who intentionally hurt others is when they try to cover up the hurt that they have caused. When they attempt to make it appear like they had nothing to do with the hurt that they caused, this represents the essence of cowardice. I have a difficult time not going wild on someone who knows that he or she has intentionally inflicted pain on me, but comes around me acting like everything is okay—like nothing has happened.

Let’s be better people and not intentionally hurt people. If we would not intentionally hurt people, we would not have to carry with us the pain of knowing that we have done the wrong thing to somebody, and what a pain that is.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison