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The Modern-Day Monster of Racism

October 11, 2020

My seniors are in the process of reading Beowulf. One assignment they recently completed was a brief written speech assignment on a “modern-day monster” that adults often face in contemporary society.

One of my students, Janiya, chose racism as her “monster.” Here is her response, reproduced with her permission:

In Beowulf, Beowulf fights three monsters, all of which are physical and instill fear in the Danes. In modern society, adults still experience fear; however, modern-day monsters are often abstract. For example, a modern-day monster that black people have been fighting for so long is racism and discrimination. Despite having so many African American leaders who opened doors for all, black people are still judged by the color of their skin. This monster is the biggest of them all because as long as there are people encouraging and teaching this, the bigger it becomes. The petrifying part is that this monster is more than often protected by our own government. Innocent black people are being murdered for absolutely nothing at all. Meanwhile, ther killers can walk freely.

The feeling this monster instills is very hard to explain, and a lot of people will never understand no matter how much you explain it. Being judged for something you have no control over makes you question your self worth. People who feed into this monster are simply simple minded. I don’t want to say this monster can’t be defeated, but as there are racists there will be racism.

What stopped me in my tracks were Janiya’s words, “Being judged for something you have no control over makes you question your self worth.”

She questions her value as a human being for being born black.

The very thought grips my heart and makes me incredibly sad.

Is this where we are, America? In 2020?

James Victore. Racism. 1993.


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  1. Christine Langhoff permalink

    The insidiousness of racism brings daily affronts to the well-being of our students.

    One morning as I lumbered from the subway to my school, heavy with a twin pregnancy (I no longer drove because I didn’t fit behind the wheel), a student of mine came alongside me and said, “Your backpack is unzipped. Do you want me to close it?” I thanked him and asked if he could do so while I walked, because I needed to maintain my momentum.

    We were in the Back Bay of Boston, a well-to-do neighborhood, and the sidewalks were crowded with commuters. I was puzzled to see looks of fear and great concern directed towards me as the two of us moved along. Suddenly, I understood that people were not seeing the kind gesture of my polite, thoughtful, attentive student. They saw a tall Black man trying to rob a pregnant lady. My calmness and his sweet demeanor were invisible to them.

  2. Laura H.Chapman permalink

    Janiya, Thank you for allowing your teacher to post your speech. One day, and we hope soon, we will all be free of the burden of racism. You have the ability to speak truth to power, and your teacher is giving you wings to do that.

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