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.
8 thoughts on “Why We All Can’t Just Get Along”
God bless you, dear. I’m fighting that same fight. My husband and I have a beautiful black princess, age 14, starting highschool in the fall. We’ve hovered over her like helicopters (in the school systems she’s attended), over the years. The issues that required a fight were over race and class.
She’s entering a new school system this fall. We are prepared for issues there, too. It’s something we are all charged to do for the little angels God blessed us with. Stay strong, don’t lose heart, eat right, parent well and fight the good fight. This is what we need to agree to when we have children. They deserve the best of our time, energy, money and ability to set things right in the hearts and minds of people who believe the stereotypes about them.
Thanks Patricia – keep fighting too.
Have you ever attended the White Privilege Conference? Over 2,000 foot soldiers consulting on best practices for identifying and rooting out white privilege from our institutions, especially the educational system. http://www.whiteprivilegeconference.com/. Next one is March 28-31 in Albuquerque.
Phyllis – this is a great idea. I’ll definitely look into it.
Thank you. I also live in a large urban school district that is among the worst in the country. I have a 4 year old who misses the cut for entering kindergarden this Fall but have become OBSESSED with education inequality in DFW. However, up until this point, I’ve also been a bystander- I refuse to let my child slip through the cracks and would like to help improve the situation as a whole but I’m unsure how to go about that. Perhaps you could shed some light on what I can do as a concerned parent/citizen to evoke change in the educational system because I’m at a loss. In fact, my co-parent and I had given up on the public school system here and had begun to look for alternative education options. I’d rather fight for better public schools that do home schooling or hope for a private school scholarship. So, Im down for being a foot soldier but what beyond being informed shouldI be doing?
Hi Bri – thanks for being willing to take up the fight! I would suggest first researching what already exists. I joined a parental equity group that was already working on these issues when my kids were 3 and 2, and since then have just continued to work up until now, when my oldest is entering kindergarten. From that group, I’ve identified other issues that they aren’t so focused on, and collaborated with other interested parents. But first, connect with likeminded individuals, and do what you can.
Foot solider, marching right here! My eldest son will be starting Kindergarten this Fall, too. My husband and I are on a mission and we got my arsenal, ready. High expectations is our standard. LEFT, LEFT, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT!