In my 44 years of circling the sun, I have always been subjected to some sort of bias. It hasn’t always been racism, sometimes it’s sexism and misogyny. Sometimes it’s been ageism.
I’ve been hurt. I’ve been angered. I’ve risen up, fallen down and risen again to fight my own oppression. Somehow, along the way, I tripped into a career devoted largely to advancing social justice in graduate education.
I just returned from a conference devoted to social justice in education. I met lots of people, shared lots of things, commiserated, learned, talked and pondered. I consider this meeting my annual professional development meeting, and I always come back with some new ideas and contacts.
For the last few years, I have felt a ratcheting up of racist (and other “ism” oriented) language in the atmosphere. I look forward to this conference in late May to hear the latest, to verify and validate that what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling is in fact what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling.
On the real…it’s getting hot in here.
For me the ominous foreshadowing has been brewing almost since Obama was first elected and birtherism emerged. During this last 18 months, and the last 6 in particular, the season has opened to say all the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, horrible things that are on one’s mind under the guise of free speech and with little expectation of consequences.
We already saw that it was increasingly dangerous for black folk to, well, breathe, and now it’s just getting progressively worse. Just days after the 2016, election I allowed Hope to come home early because she had been subjected to horribly racist language by some of her classmates. She just crumbled.
Grammy, my mom, integrated her high school many years ago. It pains me to hear her say that the current national discourse is increasingly reminiscent of her youth in rural central Virginia.
And if she’s having flashbacks; I’m having flash-forwards.
I believe I can take care of myself, but Hope…
My daughter is on the precipice of adulthood. In a few short years, she will finish high school. She will likely go to college locally as she continues to take time to emotionally and academically catch up. She is among a cohort of kids who know a different kind of world than the one even I grew up in.
Born after 9/11, she may have recognized Bush II, but really, more than half of her life, Obama was president, and while that did not prevent “isms” from touching her…it gave her a different outlook.
And now…I can say that it’s radically different.
It’s hard to teach a child to show respect when there are major demonstrations that respect is a passé construct. The conflated notions of “tell it like it is” and free speech make it difficult to help her navigate how to engage socially. It’s also hard to teach her to turn the other cheek when she comes from a background that has already taught her that such grace just means she’ll get that one hurt too.
Hope desperately wants to be a “good” girl—her words not mine—but she already struggles with impulsiveness and many present public models are just fresh examples that impulsiveness rules the day.
Parenting is extraordinarily difficult. In what world are the current circumstances supposed to make us great (again) or even just a little easier? And are these the circumstances that are supposed to create an environment and culture that helps me and my daughter feel safer, provide a good education, not feel pushed out due to our cocoa colored skin? Is this behavior supposed to make us, me and Hope, great or even just feel great??
Does this make you feel great??
How about this?
Yeah, me neither. I could really, really go hard into the political, but really, I’m more worried about the crass culture war and what its long-term prognosis will be. How long will it be before we’re all great? How long before some leadership says hey, this is not how we should treat each other? How long before we acknowledge our individual and collective humanities? Is it in my lifetime? Is it in Hope’s?
In what world can I believe that my daughter and her brown and black friends and families will be consistently treated as though they are great? In what world will I be assured that their humanity will be seen and acknowledged?
In what world?