I am currently taking an education class called, “Clinically Rich Multicultural Teacher Education” where we often discuss the importance of creating a multicultural classroom, so that children of different backgrounds feel like they belong and are accepted for who they are. Since many students in the class aspire to become a teacher one day, it is vital that we learn how to promote diversity in our classrooms.
As I was scrolling through new blog posts, I came across Emily’s, where she mentioned the disconnect she felt growing up because of the lack of books she encountered that included Chinese-American children. This immediately took me back to my EDUC 399 class because we are constantly discussing ways to improve the classroom and making it so no child feels invisible and ostracized. In education class, we discussed the quote, “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone…I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me…They see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination” from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. We engaged in a conversation about how those students of color may relate to this quote because of the lack of diversity in children’s literature. They do not see people that look similar to them, making them feel invisible. This invisibility does not just go away either, it follows them through all of their years of school and creates this loss of identity.
In the 1940s, an experiment was conducted called “The Doll Test” where Kenneth and Mamie Clark used “four dolls, identical except for color, to test children’s racial perceptions.” They then asked the children a series of questions. Some of the questions included were: Which doll is the black doll? Which doll is the white doll? Which doll is the pretty doll? Which doll is the nice doll? Which doll is the bad doll? Which doll looks most like me? Which doll do you like to play with best? Children between the ages three and seven were tested, and the majority of the children “preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it.”
From this experiment, we can see that young Black children are still internalizing the message that their society devalues and negatively stereotypes them. The same study was repeated in 2006 by Kiri Davis where he got almost identical results as well as again in 2011 by Kami Henley with the same results. Similar to how these children of color feel because of the lack of representation they have in schools, is how the narrator from chapter 10 of Invisible Man felt when he accidentally walked into the democratic union while trying to get his lunch. Those men apart of the democratic union did not give the narrator a chance to speak for himself and naturally assumed what kind of person he was because of the foreman he had. The narrator felt that his “defenses were negated, stripped away, checked at the door as the weapons, the knives and razors and owlhead pistols of the country boys were checked on Saturday night at the Golden Day.” It was if he was not even there to speak up for himself, invisible to the world.
Interestingly enough, we are never given the narrator’s name while reading chapter 10 of Invisible Man. I believe this has to do with the idea that the narrator feels like he is never seen and his lack of identity.