My students are brilliant, energetic, creative, but victims of the same frame of thinking I was taught and I know how this story goes. I work a program with students grades 6th-8th. Every Wednesday we do Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), and my group is all boys of color. My task is to lead them in conversations and activities that address current events, personal issues, and collective growth. We start each session by going around the room and sharing how our day or week is going and what is on our minds. Recently while getting the room settled, I asked “Before we start the game, does anyone want to share how they are feeling?” Just about all of them yelled “No!” I asked them why they do not want to share how they feel and one of the students with agreement from the group said “No one cares how another man feels.” This shocked me a bit so I took a poll, “Who in this room cares about feelings?” No hands go up. From all over I hear multiple shouts of disdain with one student saying, “Caring for another man’s feelings is creepy.”
What are we doing to our boys? What are we teaching them? I cannot act too surprised by any of the comments because I received the same lessons. Which is, feelings are not for boys, and sharing feelings has the power to relegate a boy to creep. They say “Feelings are for girls” or “That’s gay,” and I do not know if I should introduce them to bell hooks or read them down (definitely both). Although we see this everyday, something in me still breaks when I see young boys posture themselves unbreakable when all they want is a hug. All they want is to cry and emote even if they do not realize or remember. We tell boys not to cry, not to get too close to another boy, which is to say, do not feel anything. Which is to say, be Black brute and calloused being.
One of my students goes to hug his friend before they leave school and his friend stops him and asks, “What are you doing.” The light breaks behind my students eyes and he daps him up. We have to stop teaching our boys that to feel means to be weak. To be vulnerable means to be less than. To be “feminine” means to be less than. We are raising “men” with lessons to NOT be, which makes them what, then? Lonely and a grown man that is bound to run with no way to explain the running. Let our boys be children so we can heal some of this generational unfeeling shit. So they can flourish and be honest. So they can live the full breadth that life has to offer and be able to say, I love you man. And be able to say, I live.
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