I'm distraught by what I see happening in our world. I'm heart broken to see that at the peak of my adulthood, we are in a societal war with hate, bigotry, and divisiveness. I've always quietly made my stances known-with my words and mostly my actions. I practice love and openness, knowing my life might be the example someone needs to resolve the hate, prejudice, or ignorance they knowingly or arguably-unknowingly carry.
I'm determined to be the light, but I cannot be that light by being silent about what I am seeing, hearing, and have experienced first hand. What's happening on a national political level is on display for all the world to see, but my experiences with racism and bigotry aren't new. As an educator, I've had some pretty unfortunate and painful experiences with racism. From being told by an employee that her resignation was due to my being "colored", from being publicly referred to as a "token", to being asked "are all the black principals as smart as you are?", to being given a memoir authored by a school board member and told, "the N word is all throughout because that's just the way I grew up" as a way of preparing you for reading his published work. There are no words that I can string together that can articulate the pain and hurt that stem from multiple experiences such as the ones shared here. In fact, until this point, it has been a rare occasion that I've shared some of these experiences with my closest friends.
What I can tell you is that having experiences like this, changes a person. You quickly come to realize that for some individuals, it is terribly difficult for them to see you. They don't see a person. They don't see a scholar. They don't see a passionate educator who wants to make a difference for all children. I'm not sure what they see, but whatever it is it incites ignorance and an unconscious behavior that highlights that which they don't understand, and perhaps, don't care to understand. I'm not always certain if it's willful ignorance or unconscious covert racism and bigotry. What I am certain of is that every time I have an experience like this, I feel something that hurts and affirms for me that there is so much work for us left to do in our world. I must be the light.
It is true that we often fear what we don't understand, but if fear is an illusion, then is the lack of understanding due to a lack of courage? So I am watching the courage of others in times like these and I am wondering what keeps others from speaking out on what seems so clear to me-hatred is alive and well in our world. Perhaps it always will be, but I am eternally committed to exhibiting a love and acceptance of all people, even if they don't accept me. What I also know is that understanding of those who are different than you goes far beyond tolerance. It's about appreciating the differences in others but recognizing that humanity is the common thread. It's about entering into an authentic relationship with someone who is not just like you and brings a different perspective to situations based on their experiences, and seeking to understand. It's about understanding that being graceful in the face of this kind of treatment requires a great deal of strength, courage, and resolve that I didn't even know I could have. You live and you learn. You learn that some of us are here to bear the burden of helping others develop a better understanding of those who are not just like them. You reach deep and you find the courage you need to keep being the light in the face of it all. You do it because it's the right thing to do, and our children are watching us.
I cannot sit idly and not speak out about these things. As educators, and moreover as human beings, we have a responsibility to show courage because our children are watching us. When we are silent about the things that matter, we send a most powerful message. Perhaps a message that is more powerful than saying anything at all. We communicate what we think and what we believe by as much of what we aren't willing to say as we do by what we say or do.
If we believe in our hearts and soul, in the things we'll stand by when we meet our maker, in what we want to be held accountable for at the pearly gates, then we must never be silent about hate, bigotry, or ignorance. The experiences I've shared here aren't the only ones that I've had, but they are some of the ones that have forever changed me and helped me come to know that I can only be a light in this world if I am willing to shine bright.
I'm willing. Will you join me?
Until next time, be you, be true, be a hope builder!