As a Christian, as a woman, as a Black American, as the child of immigrants, and most importantly, as a future educator of America’s children, I must stand up and speak truth. There is a groan in my heart, and a mourning in my spirit, for people do not recognize the time, nor the season. The Bible says, “…When the wicked rule, the people groan,” and “when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.” For far too long, certain voices have been marginalized; they have been suppressed and subordinated to those who exercise a supremacy that exists based on the color of their skin, and not the content of their character.
As an educator, I think of the children, who have yet to be exposed to the not-so new reality that many of us have been awake to for years: the daily and often blatant racial aggressions. I know, I do not stand alone when I say, I did not underestimate the power of hate. I did not underestimate the power of rage compounded by racist ideology. During the presidential primaries, I recognized early what many failed to comprehend – that hate was and still is winning, but we have a choice to say no. For, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but” as Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized, “it bends towards justice.”
I live by the proverb, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” Though I wish I did not have the burden of speaking up, the courage of my convictions outweighs any cowardice. Racially aggressive behavior is often perpetrated and perpetuated by people who live in the ignorant bubble of their dominance.
In first grade, I remember receiving a blackface doll, as part of a gift-exchange at school. Though I was only six years old, I knew that it was wrong. I knew that it was racist. I may not have known the word or ideology of racism, but in my heart I knew that a discourse took place without words; in a single moment in time I was “othered.” Today, I think of the children across America encountering very specific discourses about who they are, and who they are allowed to become.
I once told a professor that I do not consider myself a revolutionary. My goal as an educator has never been to lead some great reform movement. Yet, the more involved I become, the more I understand that there still is a cause, and there will continue to be a cause as long as people remain silent, in the face of insidious oppression, and the pervasive effects of privilege. For too long in America, people of color have faced the constant need to legitimize our presence. From the classroom to the boardroom, even when our presence is accepted or more likely tolerated, we are exoticized or fetishized, often treated as tokens. When gross statements are made, and stand uncorrected by voices in authority, it allows people who are certain, to remain certainly wrong.
It happened that a fire broke out backstage at a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was just a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke. -Soren Kierkegaard
I may be considered Kierkegaard’s clown, ringing the alarm, but the implications of race and the nature of schools, and the future education of America’s children are not a joke. It’s also important that I actively resist and dismantle the many institutionalized and interpersonal ways in which I as a woman of color experience my beloved country.
Let us remember the words of Martin Niemöller:
An American Educator