I have no idea.

I can't turn my brain off tonight; I have no idea what to make of what is happening in the world right now. I am truly shocked at how desensitized I've become. I used to pray that I would be less sensitive. Events would leave me so unnerved, I'd be reeling about them for days and weeks. I had to find a way to shutdown and restart because the weight of some news was so debilitating to my system.

I didn't shed a tear over Orlando. Not one. I don't know exactly why, but I think it's because it wasn't a surprise. It wasn't just a hate crime, it wasn't just an act of terror, it wasn't just an example of our country's obsession with firearms, nor was it solely an example of religious fundamentalism going awry. It was all of it. Everything we've grown so used to. I hate that I'm used to it.

The most recent headline grabbing shootings (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police shootings) are what I'm thinking about right now. 

Black Lives Matter. Yes.
Systemic racism is prevelent and harmful. Yes.
The color of my skin affords me a certain privilege. Yes.
What do I do about any of this? I have no idea.

It's that last part that is keeping me up. I'm a big picture person. I need to have an idea of how all the parts work together to see how something can work better. I feel like there are so many issues at play in the national conversation that boiling it down to Black and White is where I get stuck. 

I keep thinking about one of my former students, and a paradox in which I found myself. She is black and lives in a wealthy, predominately white neighborhood in Los Angeles. She told several stories of people walking by yelling out racial slurs while she and her siblings were playing in the front yard. Or being questioned by neighbors as to why she was walking around the neighborhood. One asked where she lived, and when she pointed to her house, that person didn't believe her. None of that is okay. It makes me so angry and frustrated and sad. She also talked about how when people are always expecting the worst from you, it's easier to let that show. 

The paradox:
This is also a student who said in class that her dad hates gay people. I know she's struggling with where to stand on the issue, but she still resides in a place of using her faith in God to justify her belief that homosexuality is a sin. I would stand up for this brave, bright, lovely girl any day of the week to someone who let their prejudices and fear rule the way they treat her. And I would also stand up for any of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters when they're faced with her prejudices and fear. 

At the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, there's a point at which one can pass through two doors. One is for those who have prejudices, and the other is for those who have none; you get to choose the door you go through, but [spoiler alert] the unprejudiced door is locked. We all have them. We all carry fear of the Other, though what constitutes other is different for all of us. 

I know that Black Lives Matter is a very specific movement talking about a very specific issue (police brutality unfairly and disproportionately affecting the Black Community), but it's a specific issue that requires tackling a whole host of issues for progress to be made. Because I'm a big picture person, I can't just look at one part without seeing how it fits into the whole, or, if viewing one part as the whole, how all of the other parts fit together to create it.

When breaking down all of the parts, my answer is always Fear less and Love more. I have to work harder at seeing how to apply that answer in any given situation, but I know that's always the answer to which I come. That also looks different to different people. Fearing less and loving more might happen in a conversation with open hearts and open minds. It might come in a stand of solidarity at a rally. It might come when you're up late and have no idea what to do about any of it, but suddenly burst into tears. I do my best to move through these issues [with no easy answers] in my work as a teacher. 

My students and I read To Kill a Mockinbird by Harper Lee and Night by Elie Wiesel during the last trimester of the school year. Their final project was called "My Commitment," and it needed to include significant parts from both novels that inspired them to stand up against injustices they see in the world. The writing project was done in the form of a letter to whomever they desired, many chose to write theirs to Elie Wiesel. These letters ended up being powerful pieces of writing. They came up with tangible ways to combat fear and work towards standing up against oppression. This came after amazing class conversations where we asked really hard questions. An open dialogue around important ideas is so important. One of the hardest parts is knowing how to start, but I've never seen a good conversation not move people to a new place of understanding.

And because I'm still awake and my mind is still rolling over so many, many parts, and because I spent so much time with Wiesel's words recently, and because I'm still mourning his loss, I'll leave you with a quote from him that seems especially fitting right now:

"Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."

1 comment:

  1. The state of our world has been so much on my mind lately, too. I have been studying the "sign of the times" because I really feel the love of man has waxed cold. I watched this video the other night:


    "It's time for an honest conversation about one of the most important issues of our time. By silencing the debate about radical Islamist's beliefs (really insert debates about race, religion, sexual orientation, BLM movement), we abandon our own core beliefs of truth, free speech, and tolerance. And, we abandon human rights in favor of political correctness." Media has focused so much on the Ben Afflecks, or Donald Trumps,(or black and cops, gay and anti gay, atheists and believers) that all of us in the middle are left with nowhere to turn to have those conversations. It's really disheartening.

    IT is time to realize we all have work to do, things that we can change. The doors in the museum are so telling. The other day I was shopping and a Hispanic woman who was well dressed and her children too, walked by. My reaction surprised me! Because, I was surprised that she was so well dressed and seemed to "have money." After that thought crept in, I was so ashamed, but also glad that I had enough humility to lecture myself. I work with Latino people everyday and love them! But, I work with those who are in a much different circumstance. Our experiences shape our prejudices. I reminded myself to always be aware of that. The world will change when we can all admit that when we need to admit it.



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