I’m tired. And it’s not because I’ve almost entirely lost interest in continuing on with the flawed form of teaching we call remote learning or emergency education. Losing interest is merely a symptom of the deeper anguish I feel from simply Being. I’m tired because every time I open my eyes I’ve become conditioned, sadly, to open my Instagram. When I scroll, despite seeing wonderful resources for community healing or support for a collective anti-racist mood, I am bombarded with the reminder of why the images in the little squares or the 15-second clips are saturated with sentiments of what I just mentioned. I guess we are compelled to move forward only when we are reminded of the past.
For the black man, it has literally become a life-threatening decision every time he chooses to leave his home – especially in America. I can sympathize with my brothers state-side, being a black man living in a city with perpetual scores of both overt and subtle racism. But I also cannot easily empathize with them, because there is a small mental schism that occurs when I know that although what I am seeing on CNN and social media can happen to me, I do live in another country and it is not quite the same.* So when I speak with friends that live over there, I try my best to respond not with what I think they would want to hear but with true vulnerability. Because this isn’t a time for clichés and platitudes. This isn’t a time for aphorisms and old adages. It isn’t a time to send or receive meaningless communication. So yeah, don’t send me a message saying “just checking in to see how you’re really doing” if you’ve never checked in with me before all of this. Like there ever even was a before, for me.
This is a time for direction without directives. A time to stop pretending like we have the answers. We don’t. There is no right way to move forward, only the understanding that staying still is kin to complying with the status quo. That goes for all sectors of our society: business, government, sports, arts, media, culture, education. Especially education.
Teachers are not cops. The institution of learning and education is not the same as the institution of justice and law enforcement. But I’ll be damned if you try to tell me that there are not parallels and, at times, overlaps. Because society is inherently racist, school, like law enforcement, is as well. This is not up for debate. This is also not the easy, gentle “bad apples” conversation – we’re talking about the whole damn tree, down to the roots. When those bad apples are borne into classrooms, responsible for the learning of our future generations, they beget the reproduction of system injustice again and again. These teachers don’t literally kneel on the necks of children but some suffocate them of future opportunity by their mere position of privilege and power and pretentiousness. Schools are not physically harming children, but make no mistake, there is a bevy of psychological violence that is and has been enacted on certain bodies for decades. Maybe George Floyd, the fires, protests, social media blackouts and the zeitgeist of 2020 will spark public education to wake up and walk forward.
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