Every semester, I assign two nerve-wracking essays for my students to read. These narrative essays are penned by black authors who share their respective discomfort, anxiety, and anger they feel around police officers on a pretty regular basis. These essays are great because they are well written, on-topic for the narrative-style essays I want my own students to write, and, best of all, they discuss serious issues and ideas that currently exist in the world around them. A no-bullshit college education! Or so I like to think.
I bring this up because every semester I get so nervous to discuss these essays, and yet every semester I feel their importance tap me on the shoulder. This issue in particular is complex and divisive, and bringing it up in a 101 class is similarly complex and divisive. Every semester leaves me wondering if I should just give up and assign some Shakespearean sonnets or something else snooze-inducing.
And yet, this month is Black History Month, which makes the conversation fit pretty well. But also, who gives a fuck? Shouldn’t any essay fit in during any time of the year? Shouldn’t the perspectives of others always matter, especially in a collegiate setting, and especially when the perspective is that of a large group of people who feel the need to voice their opinion about a possible injustice in society? Isn’t the core of this country the opinion that voices matter, and that voices against injustice matter even more? (I’m looking at you, Thomas Jefferson.)
As a side note, I hate rhetorical questions. On a more focused note, it’s important to listen to and to talk about problems in our society, even if they make everyone involved a little bit uncomfortable. I personally hate being uncomfortable, but I did choose teaching, so I guess I fumbled the whole choosing-a-career thing. Nevertheless, teach on I will. And teach things important, I will forever.
If you’re interested in reading the two essays I assign, they are below. They are extremely worthwhile.