I am speechless

June 3, 2020

It’s rare that I raise my voice. Some people get scared when that happens. It’s that rare.


The reality is, though, that when I am angry enough to be speechless, that is when the depth of my rage is scary.


I am not violent. Not even when I am enraged to the point of speechlessness. I understand the impulse to destroy fueled by rage though.


I teach. I teach teachers. I advocate for equity in education through policy, through instructional strategies, through educating people… all people. 


This is what I do day in and day out, every day of the year. Every day I meet with children of every shade, of every background, who live in countries all over the world. Every one of them has a light in their eyes that burns with curiosity. That is the food of education. Curiosity. It is universal. Everyone has it. Not everyone has access to educators who will feed that fire though. 


I feed the fire in every students’ eyes every day because they all deserve that attention, that opportunity. All of them. I am warmed by the heat of their focus, of the work, of their striving and that warmth in turn feeds me and keeps me going.


And then every once in a while, something happens. Something that stops the world. A video. A story. A death. A beating. An unjust act of some kind. A horror.


Then the knot in my stomach returns. It tugs at me as I struggle to continue to provide the same light-hearted escape from the realities of the world to my students- a safe place where they can go and learn no matter what horrors face them at every other moment of the day.


Today was one of those days.


I look into the eyes of my brilliant students whose bodies make more melanin than mine, knowing that that one characteristic alone is enough to place them in certain danger on a daily basis. These beautiful children with so much burning curiosity, so much potential, so much intellect, so much strength, so much… just so much- as much as every other student in any of my classes… but with something extra- a burden. The burden of not being able to ever relax- really and truly relax- ever. Why? Because we never know when some lunatic will use their idea that they have some kind of superiority, some kind of power and authority from somewhere, to cut off the life of a vibrant, curious person in the act of nothing more than living an ordinary life. And the knot tightens.


I can’t get rid of the terror of waiting for the day when the victim in the video is one of the people I love, one of the people I teach, one of my friends; it’s inevitable and I hate that. I live in fear every day that the next time won’t be a stranger. The worst part of it is knowing that every one of my friends, my students, my colleagues who happens to be a person of color has lived with that feeling every day of their lives for so many generations that they felt it even before they were born.


As I watch the world around me unravel, knowing this moment was inevitable and is necessary, knowing that the rage is justified, knowing the feeling of just wanting to destroy something because there is nothing left to say…and I have no words. Nothing that will help. Nothing that will change what needs to be changed.


I sit here feeling powerless, wanting to go out and march and yell and protest and yet, fearing leaving my child motherless when the autocrat-wanna-be in the White House turns the military loose as he already has done. And I know that that feeling of fearing leaving my child motherless is a feeling that my friends have every time they see flashing lights in their rearview mirror or a uniformed person taking an interest in them. That thought runs through their mind. ‘Is this the day that I leave my children motherless- not by choice, but by sanctioned murder?’


Then there are the discussions I have to have with my child. Trying to explain why this happens with no words, with no understanding myself really. Trying to explain the difference between people who are moved to destroy by valid feelings of rage from years upon years of undue daily stress and the people who have come to make trouble. Some taking advantage of the chaos to act out their own destructive (for no reason) impulses. Some intentionally trying to frame the very people who are already feeling so much pain and fear. How do I explain why it’s ok to be mad at one set of destructive people and why it is ok for other people to want to destroy things?


How do I make sense of something so complicated with so many levels?


How do I teach him to think about it without stuffing people into categories and pre-judging?


How do I keep him open-minded and fair?


How do I keep myself going when I just want to curl up in the corner and cry?


What do I do if we wind up in a full scale civil war with the military threatening our existence?


How do I support the people in my life who have carried this burden around with them without sounding trite?


How do I use my privilege to build equity and eventually undermine that same privilege?


How do I fix this mess that I didn’t make but that it is my responsibility to reverse?


I am usually full of lots of answers but today, in spite of the many words I have used to fill this screen, I am speechless.


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