Deciding how to compose my thoughts for public consumption has been a challenge. Not because they’re jumbled or nonsensical, but because the sorrow I feel, the empathy I have, and the experiences in my life make them painful.
I got a massage today. Now that life is reopening, I felt that my mental health needed to take a moment in the front seat. I wore my “Don’t Forget to Love Each Other” shirt from Critical Role, which resonates in my soul. I am so glad I did. My massage therapist is an incredibly talented black woman, about a year older than me, and I had one of the most open and honest conversations with her about the state of our country. Her love and giving heart welcomed my perspective, encouraged my questions, and I learned from her in my session so much more than how much tension I’ve been holding in various muscle groups. She is elegance and grace and compassion, and I am lucky to know her.
I told her today that I was fortunate to grow up in a home like mine. Where color and background didn’t matter, where all were, and are, welcome. I am blessed to have a brother who gathers friends like a shepherd gathers sheep, no matter their troubles or origins or the color they present to the world. I have more black brothers because of my blood brother than I can imagine; strong, intelligent, wonderful men who I love and trust. All of my brothers fill my memories growing up in a small town in Texas. Stories of their escapades as adolescents, watching them play sports together, seeing their unity, their bond, and their love for each other shaped who I am and how I view those around me.
In the past 9 years as a teacher, I’ve seen nearly 1,500 children walk through my doors. A significant portion of them were children of color, who have now grown into adults navigating a world that is cruelly injust based on the melanin in their skin. It tears me apart to think of any of my babies (because they will always be my children) being hurt by people blinded by hate. I have been privileged to be a part of their lives, to encourage them to be greater than their own misgivings and the lies fed to them by a system that has failed them on the basest level.
As a white woman, I am trying to be the best ally I can be for those in pain around me. I see the fear and anger, I see the perspective that I have been sheltered from, and I see the problems in a government that should be doing more to erase issues that exacerbate socioeconomic differences in racially biased culture.
As a teacher, I WILL do more. I will ensure my students understand, even at the young age of 12 to 14, that their world needs them to believe that they are enough, that they matter, that their voices make a difference, and that the shade of their skin does not determine their worth, but adds to their strength. My children are hurting. This mama’s heart is hurting with them. I always make it my goal to create a safe space for my students to be themselves, to find their truth, and to live it. Their narratives are different than mine, but they are no less vital. Sharing those narratives, opening the conversations that are painful and honest, fighting back against a system that is designed to oppress, will begin with me, in my classroom, with those beautiful faces of every color looking at me for guidance. I pray that I can facilitate a change for good, create a better understanding and a better future for all of my students, through acknowledgement, compassion, and an open conversation.
As the parable in Luke, chapter 15 illustrates, the shepherd will go search for the one sheep in trouble and rejoice when he is safe. The people of color in our country are the one sheep in need of assistance while the others sit safely together in the herd.
When a parent has many children and one is being hurt and persecuted, the parent comforts and cares for the injured child, rallying the siblings to join in that comfort. Our brothers and sisters of color are being injured, and we will rally to their side, to their cause, to their aid, not because they are above us, but because they are equal in every way, and they are in need.
Division and racism, ingrained prejudices and preconceived judgement have no place in my classroom or in my world. Only love. Always love. Because my children matter. Black futures matter. Black education matters. Black lives matter. Don’t forget to love each other.