While I am no longer a teacher, I have the luxury (and responsibility) of leading teachers during these unprecedented times. The atmosphere has been thick lately, with discrimination and biases present in all aspects of remote learning.
In being a school leader this year, I am able to move amongst classrooms more freely than before and be “a fly on the wall” when the conversations are deepened between students and teachers.
The day after the “election,” I continued my observations to see how many teachers went on with “business as usual.”
“I don’t know why Trump hates Black people?”
“I heard that if he wins, they will start killing us more than before.”
“My sister told me that Trump will start trafficking children and sending all the Hispanic kids back to Mexico”
“I’m scared…what if he wins again?”
The previous quotes are from seventh and eighth-grader students in a classroom discussion. Direct quotes that stung me in ways unimaginable, more than the tears that fell from my face upon hearing them. Thankfully, my camera was off, because it was in that moment that I not only heard the fear in their voices, masked by the chuckles of laughter as a defense at the end of their words, but I couldn’t contain the anger that ensued, understanding that these words are bore out of being a part of a world that doesn’t accept them—nor one that they feel safe in.
The current election and the uncertainty of the leadership that we will have is not just an adult thing. Our students, especially my Black and Brown students, have not been allowed to be kids. Instead they walk under the cloud of unwarranted violence against Black and Brown bodies.
MY Black and brown babies are not allowed to exhibit pure JOY—without wearing a disclaimer of such things like “Black Girl Magic” or “Black Boy Joy” as the written permission to just be those things organically- because it is a right.
These same students are also embarking on a mandate of learning the United States Constitution, where they are living out the pure dichotomy and oxymoronic words that this country was built on.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
What justice do our students see? What tranquility is present for them as an inalienable right?
They see the murdering of men, women and children who look like them almost daily, with the subsequent lack of responsibility by those who killed them. And then, they are met with the explicit and implicit biases in education, from the lowered expectations or the learned helplessness within the classroom and the educational system.
This election and the last four years of President Trump’s tenure is “murdering the spirit” of our students.
One columnist, Bettina Love, comments on the spirit murdering Black and Brown students face within the society, pointing out the many ways in which our students are under attack, even in the classroom. The looming uncertainty of the election and the undercurrents of the words spewed by the leadership of our country many times grants permission for people of privilege – even our educators, to participate in the (conscious) and unconscious murdering of the spirit of our students.
The lens in which we see the world, colored in the different hues of our experience, lends itself to being what allows us to either speak or be silent when we are met with questions that are not only hard to answer but more difficult to do so when we can’t glean from an experience that connects to the feelings within the words.
After those questions, there was a long pause…one where I gathered myself together enough to show my face on camera and authentically allow the mask to be removed—not just for the students but also the teacher.
In that moment, the teacher recognized the need to allow a different voice to be heard. She acknowledged how the smiles of comfort can be misinterpreted to lighten the mood of something that is SO heavy. And while she recognized the need for students to have the space to elevate their voices and concerns and to speak their innermost wonderings—she also identified, through her allowance of me to step in and address students in “her” classroom, that this work isn’t intended to be carried alone.
In this fight for equity and to be seen and heard, especially in education—we must understand that it can’t be the Black and brown community and leaders charged up, leading the fight. We carry the weight of this daily, not just from living it but to also be beacons of hope for our younger generations who are brighter than we ever give them credit for. The closeness of this race identifies more than ever the mindset of where we are—and that if there are those that are really allies—they have to do more than just provide space for the conversations, they have to do the work.
I don’t ever exclaim to have all the answers. But what I do know is, my spirit is being poisoned…not murdered because I know the purpose on my life. But just like Batman needed a Robin and the Avengers had each other, we must do more to restore the faith in our babies— before we don’t have babies that grow old to be elders that lead the next generation.