Faculty Publications

Managing Emotions In The Classroom

Document Type


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Teaching Race and Anti-Racism in Contemporary America: Adding Context to Colorblindness

First Page


Last Page



Classrooms are racialized social settings where status and power play out through emotions. Studying racism evokes unique emotions to manage. Students of color may feel overwhelmed, depressed, and angry while studying stereotypes or racism across social institutions, or they may feel “under the microscope." Other times, students may feel excitement at the opportunity to have a voice or validation for their feelings regarding accomplishment or discrimination. White-identified students, on the other hand, may feel confused if they have never studied whiteness as cultural or oppressive (Perry 2007), or neglected when they are not the focus of attention. Research suggests white-identified individuals often struggle with shame or guilt when trying to make sense of their own racist actions or those of their family members or ancestors (Bonilla-Silva et al. 2004). Other times, they may feel relief for being given an opportunity for self-reflection or hopeful for forging new relationships (Welp 2002). Teachers occupy positions of authority that allow us to shape the emotional content of classes. We not only create feeling rules for students but enforce their observance of them in interactions with each other. We also structure the emotional arc of the semester when we organize our readings, in-class activities, and assignments. How we do so not only directly affects the emotional experiences of students but can reproduce and challenge racism as a social structure. Given these complex emotional dynamics, this chapter highlights some of the biggest challenges in trying to meet students’ emotional needs for validation, while pushing them outside of their comfort zones. It covers ways to create safe spaces within the classroom and to allow every student to succeed.


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version