Just when you think the last weeks of school couldn’t get any harder…2020 you are really something! My mind is a such a jumble of thoughts right now.
I am a Black woman in America.
I am a Black teacher in America.
I teach Black students in America.
I am mother to a Black son in America.
Yet I don’t feel angry right now. For me, anger requires surprise. I don’t feel angry because none of this surprises me. I have been teaching about state-sponsored oppression and terrorism all year long and really for the last 15 years. There is an entire museum in Montgomery, Alabama dedicated to over 4,000 lynchings – 3 of which took place in my county. There has never been a day when racist white supremacists weren’t trying to kill Black people.
Mostly, I just feel sad. America has been breaking my heart since I was 12 years old and a middle school student in Los Angeles. I have mourned injustice and seen my city on fire before. My students are 12 years old. I imagine many of their hearts are breaking for the first time too. These latest murders and riots probably won’t be my last, or theirs. The United States has perhaps never risen from the ashes of its beginnings. There are penances to pay for its original sins. We are still being forged in the fire. Somewhere, Rodney King is probably looking around and still wondering if we can all get along. Or maybe he has answered that question.
Right now I am protecting my peace, my joy, my sanity. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. I still have a family to care for. My health is still my greatest asset and it deserves my attention. I won’t be joining any protests. I am choosing to stay home. Every day already requires so much strength.
I find that strength in focusing on what I can control. The Serenity Prayer is truly a mantra for this year, for these times. So what I will talk to my students about today are the things they can control. The list is pretty short, to be honest. But it’s something. I take solace in the fact that I have done my best all year long to prepare my students for this moment. I have offered them knowledge of history and respect for different perspectives. I have offered them strategies for listening and for asking questions. I have told them their voice matters. I teach because I need to believe in possibilities. This is the end of year test.