Tuesday, July 26, 2016

two steps forward, two steps back

Someday, I'll have 28 minutes to watch Bernie's speech at the DNC last night, and will watch Michelle Obama's speech again and again.  As a parent, I needed to get up this morning and read the text again, though, after I wrote 5 pages of my own book.  It's been a really frustrating, hurtful and difficult few weeks, as I've been watching so much happen in the way of police brutality, attacks on police officers in the U.S., attacks in Nice, in Munich, in Kabul (84 people were killed in a blast and I barely heard a blip about it as the U.S. media focused on the literal wrestling match entry of Donald Trump at the RNC in Cleveland last week).  It was Sandra Bland's 28th birthday, Aiyana Jones' 14th birthday, Emmett Till's 75th birthday, the anniversary of the beginning of the '67 riots in Detroit.

All of this leaves me in a strange place, as I reach back to my 21 year old self to work on completing a book I started way back then.  In a professional transition and feeling very strong in terms of work, we have been visiting my family in Michigan for a few weeks and I have been focusing the part of my identity that I am least confident in -- that of being a parent.  So Michelle's speech last night hit me particularly in the feels, as I wrestle with who I was at the outset of my education career, and reflect upon how much I've grown.  I am now a parent, a wife, a veteran teacher, have a Master's Degree, have developed my consciousness and speak and teach about race, class, gender, sexuality and so many other aspects of my identity as they face the characters we read, view and write.

So, as we move toward this election, as I'm considering what it means to be raising children in this world, I am moved by the role of a president being a role model of perseverance, and struggling again with a two party system that has never spoken to what I believe in, I find myself again in that minority of people who want to open up and examine the wounds of our country, collectively.  Figure out and re-trace our steps.  How did we get here?  How do we move forward?  Why do folks want to "go back" and what does that mean in a national context?

I have been arguing with folks and Audre Lorde's infamous quote popped up, the one that I use to begin each year in my classroom.  The one I will use for United Playaz this year, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."  It expresses where I'm at right now, because I'm struggling with being called naive when I'm questioning the "fall in line" and #imwithher posts from many of my democrat friends.  I am troubled by the request to fall into line and reinscribe the status quo, even if the request is being made by a woman who has been in politics for decades, who I generally like.  I am tired of settling for a politician who has recently shifted her views to the left and taken up issues that are important to me, but who chose a VP who is actively anti-gay and anti-woman.

All in all, I know what I must do, because it does come down to the kind of country we are leaving for our children, one of whom is just waking up from a nap.  As I comfort her tears and attempt to make her giggle, I am not worried about her shattering glass ceilings:  her fists are poised to break any barrier in her way.  I find myself worrying about her life mattering to a legislature who still doesn't see her as human, and won't regulate keeping guns out of our neighborhoods. I find myself worrying about students in Highbridge who are facing funeral after funeral in this deadly Bronx summer.  Chicago summer.  Detroit summer.

My friend Samirah said it best when she said that she already lives in the kind of world that Trump proposes, as a black woman.  I want this ceiling shattered for all girls, all boys, all students around the world, who need their families home from prison for petty crimes, who need rebuilding and funding in their communities to build the village that it will take to raise these children right.  Michelle's resounding ending about America already being great is the ache in my heart right now:  I so wish this weren't fiction.  I want to believe in a dream like this, I want my kids to see this, but it's just so hard to trust a system that is designed to deceive and reinforce who is already in power.

We will be organizing around gun violence, congressional seats, local elections, making connections and trying to make an impact in our community, where I do not feel lost, but feel like I can empower students, other teachers and families to take a step forward, even when we threaten as a nation to stumble backward.

Yours in struggle,
a reticent and exhausted mom

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