Unknown by Elizabeth White

“I can’t be a scientist. I’m black.” Rewind 10 years. August. Grade 7. Science. Room 111. 3rd block. Left side. 2 seats back. The sound waves of these quietly uttered words vibrating at nearly 343 m/s into my ears, and settling upon my heart with immeasurable weight. Sadness.

For 2/3 of this child’s life, electromagnetic waves transmitting the world of science have somehow missed him and failed to connect. How could this child identify a world in which he has traits of a scientist, when he believes it is his genetics that make him unqualified? Why would this child invest in understanding the natural around him, when he believes it is unnatural for him to be there? Anger.

Science is predictable. What predictions can be made about the success of a student who never feels a connection to what they are learning? What undiscovered variable will engage that student in wanting to make that connection? Wonder.

Fast-forward. Is this student who uttered those words a decade ago, now pursuing a degree in science? For you, that will remain an unknown. What can be concluded, is that together through trial and error, we discovered the many variables inhibiting his connection to science as an African American. Empowered.

Are the words vibrating through our classrooms connecting or simply just passing through? Motivated.

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