Thursday, July 7, 2016

All Lives Matter... except for the ones that take the lives of others.

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows that I have an incredibly strong sense of social justice. All my life I have fought for what our society deemed the underdogs. All my career I have advocated for those that might not have looked or acted like the dominant culture. All my energy in my life has been spent on righting the wrongs of both the past and the present in our country. My mark has been small, but I do believe I have made a mark. At least I hope so....

So please do not think that the events of our country in the last few years have angered me because I am now fortunate enough to have 2 African American boys to call my sons. These events have angered me because of who I am deep down in my core being.

I was raised to leave things better than I found them, so my entire life has been committed to doing just that-- leaving my community better than I found it, leaving my school (and school district) better than I found it, and honestly, leaving my country and my world better....again, not because I am a mom to two black children, but having them in my life does fuel my already BURNING fire.

I have read a great deal in my life.

Sure, I read for fun, but honestly, more than that, I read to stay informed and to know what I am talking about when I open my mouth (which I do quite often).
Want to know what I am currently reading?  These 3 books pictured below are the ones I am actually DEVOURING right now... not because the media keeps showing stories about black men being killed by white cops, but because I work in school district where our teachers and our students have a hard time connecting with one another because they come from such drastically different backgrounds and cultures. I want to arm myself with as much knowledge and information as possible so I can equip the teachers I work with each day with what they need to reach out and meet the social, emotional, AND academic needs of the kids and families we SERVE every single day.

Yes, I am part of the DOMINANT white culture. I own that. I am white and I cannot change that (nor should I want to). But I willingly recognize (and own) that for generations, our dominant white culture has deemed what is right, what is moral, & what is appropriate for the rest of our nation. And how dare we?! 

We have oppressed groups of people for centuries and set ourselves above them and then judged them for acting with a mindset of oppression. 

We have held education from groups of people and then judged them for not being educated. 

We have told groups of people that they are not as good as we are and then judged them for doing things we deem to be bad.

And then when the children of those groups of people enter our schools, we judge those children for not trusting us. How dare they not respect us? We are here to educate them. To make them better. How can they not appreciate this gift we have to offer them?


I love public education. 
I have committed 24 years of my adult life to it. 
I believe in it.
But I also believe that our teaching staff has to be equipped to teach a group of kids who have grown up with images of Treyvon Martin splashed across their social media pages again and again. Kids who have grown up with parents who have shoved YouTube videos of white police officers doing awful things in their faces again and again. Kids who have grown up in a culture that teaches them not to trust and then gives them reasons not to trust again and again.  

So that is why I wake up each day. I wake up to equip teachers (and ideally every person I get the chance to encounter) with knowledge and tools to meet those "Treyvon Martin" generation of kids with love and acceptance and with nonjudgmental understanding about the mental models that they possess. 

I wake up to make the staff of our school district the best it can be NOW for Jacob and Esau and the best it can be in the FUTURE for Corrie. I wake up to change the hearts of adults in our community so that they can see the work that lies before us and realize that if we work together, we can leave things better than we found them. 

But I also wake up to say NO MORE.
I have never tolerated racism in my life.
In fact when my grandparents (yes, MoMo, the first) continued to use the N word (which I heard all my life) in front of my very impressionable 2-year old daughter, I told them that if they continued to do that, I would not bring her back into their home....the 2 people who raised me when my 16-year-old mom gave birth to me... yes, I told them NO MORE. And guess what...they stopped. They loved me and Jess enough to stop. 

There are so many other things I want to say NO MORE to.
NO MORE judgment of people in poverty who "won't work hard enough to get out". Really? You try changing your station in life at 8 bucks an hour.

NO MORE condemnation of people for "not valuing education" the way "we" do. Really? If you lived in a very concrete world that operates from the PRESENT mindset, would you be able to think about a future that includes going to college?

NO MORE intolerance of children who are born into generational poverty. Two things will get them out.... education AND authentic relationships with key adults.... not education OR relationships. It has to be BOTH. So yes, teachers are the key!

And finally.... NO MORE JIM CROW. I am quite certain he was abolished in 1965, but I see still evidence of him every single day. You think things are fair and equitable in our society?  Come walk in our family's shoes someday and I will show you how alive and well Jim Crow is today.  

Just a small (seemingly stupid) example-- Jacob and I have an agreement... when we enter a store, he takes off his hood. 

As a typical teenage boy in the 21st century, he wears his hood all.the.dang.time. But I have explained to him what many people "see" when a black boy enters their store wearing a hood. I HATE THAT I have to ask him to do that, but I am not about to let him be judged any more than he already is because I have watched the faces of those retail employees scan him and judge him before they realize he is with me. IT SICKENS ME because it is so blatant. So overt. SO DISGUSTING. And SO 1965. So even though he thinks it's stupid, he complies... for me.  Because honestly, right now, I have bigger fights to fight than convincing the owner of some shop that he is really a good kid "even though he's black and he's wearing a hoodie"...I'll save that battle for another day. 

So yes, the events of the last 36 hours in America ANGER me because like Ron Clark said- "My heart breaks when I think how the beautiful and strong students I work with every day are just one bullet away from becoming a hashtag". 
Black people are not going to end racism in the United States. 
Because they. did. not. start. it.

It's up to us...the self-appointed dominant culture.
It's time to clean up the mess we made.
Otherwise we have no chance of leaving this world better than we found it.

It's time. Now.

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