I’m comfortable with who I am and what I believe in. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer for the same naive reasons I guess a lot of kids say they want to be lawyers: I truly believe in justice and fairness. As someone yesterday said to me, “Right is right.” I’ve never heard more true words.
I used to wonder why justice was so important to me. Why the littlest amount of unfairness touched me in a place so deep. So there was a time in my life where I routinely took personality tests. I was obsessed with knowing about myself, trying to understand what made me tick. My favorite test is the MBTI, which splits people into 16 personality types based on combinations of pairs of four dyads: Introverted or Extroverted; Sensing or iNtuitive; Thinking or Feeling; and Judging or Perceiving. My type has changed slightly over the years, and I’m an almost even split between both Introverted/Extroverted and Perceiving/Judging. But as I’ve gotten older, I think I gravate more toward a particular “type.”
I am an ENFP: The Champion.
As a Champion, I’m an easy person to get along with. I smile, I laugh, I joke. I’m charming, in my most humble opinion. I make friends easily too, everywhere I go. But there are some things that I believe in, and when you mess with me and those things, when you mess with one of my values, then…well, all bets are off.
And so my life is one of a strong dichotomy. I’ve been accused of being too serious. I’ve been told to lighten up, take a chill pill, relax, calm down, and breathe. I’ve been told to choose my battles, that nothing in life is that serious, and that I just get too worked up. I’ve been told that I am intimidating, aggressive, overbearing, argumentative, contrary and loud-mouthed.
For telling my truth. For saying what I believe to be right.
I’m working this summer for a large urban school district that ranks at the almost bottom for educational equity. The opportunity and achievement gaps in this district are shameful. So when I go to work every day, and when I interact with my fellow interns who are working at other educational institutions this summer, I’m not always smiling. I’m not agreeing to so-called “community agreements” on how I’m supposed to talk about race, class, and power. I’m not giving everyone the benefit of the doubt that folks have good intentions. I’m not assuming that no one in the room is a racist.
I’m thinking about what needs to be said and done right here, right now, to get it across to these people that a crime is being committed again children – who look like my kids – every single day in the school that’s right down the block.
I’m thinking about what needs to be said right here, right now, to get these folks to stop experimenting on our kids and just teach them to read, write, and count. I’m thinking about wanting them to stop hiding the real issues of racism and classism and white privilege behind hollow conversations of “results-based-budgeting” that have no student results actually driving it.
That’s what I’m doing.
We can’t all just get along because getting along often means being silent. Getting along means being a bystander. Getting along means, if you want to keep it real, making white folks feel comfortable. Well, I’m not here to make you comfortable. I’m not here to make you feel good that you’ve chosen to work in education. I’m not here to sing fucking kumbaya. For me, while I’ve always had a passion for justice, now it’s personal.
See, my baby …
… my beautiful black boy. . .
is starting kindergarten in the fall. And I’m scared as hell.
Look, I don’t need friends, I need foot soldiers. I don’t care if you like me or not. I just want you to be as mad as I am that children like him are undervalued because of the color of their skin.
So I need you to be ready to work for change. I’ll be right there with you. If I have to piss you off to move you toward action, then so be it.
Let’s get it started.