I was standing in the shower the other day, resting my head on the wall. More like holding myself up really. I was hoping the shower would provide me something I don't feel much any more, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Calm, safety, quiet? It was Sunday and the prefunctory "peace be with you" round robin at my church popped into my head. As I stood in the shower, I wondered when was the last time I felt at peace, REALLY at peace. I couldn't remember. Not only that, I wasn't quite sure what it would feel like if I did. When was the last time I was completely emersed in what I was doing, happily in the moment, not thinking about masks, or online school, or safety, or money, or job security, or the fall of democracy, or the house no longer being a sanctuary at the end of the day but now a smaller and smaller sandbox the neighborhood cat keeps visiting. Exhaustion comes in waves even when I haven't moved all day. Especially when I haven't moved all day. With no end in sight it's hard to find peace and calm and comfort. But it just started raining. And Q's is playing in it. I think I'm gonna go let it wash off this stickiness I feel, I hope it sinks in.
Dear Student From Hell:
I see you. I see your struggles every day. When other people call you “the student from hell” what they mean is that you create hell for them in their classroom. I know that you are, actually, living in hellish circumstances. I see that your mother works three jobs and that you are responsible for your younger brothers and sisters even though you are only nine. I see that you work at your family’s business for longer hours than are legally allowed and don’t have time to finish your homework.
I see that, yesterday, you didn’t eat dinner, but you did watch your dad drink so much he passed out, but not until after he roughed up you and your mother. I see that your clothes are dirty, and I smell your house. I know that you don’t have a washer and dryer and no car and the Laundromat is three miles away and your water gets shut off every few weeks, intermingling its arrival and departure with electricity.
I see your grandma struggle with her arthritis, and peer out the curtains at the pitfalls and stray dogs, and tell you ‘no, you can’t go outside, it’s too dangerous out there,’ so you squirm in your seat all day trying to physically escape the prison of your desk.
I see you over react to even small slights, determined to create and defend a sense of your own honor. I see teachers and neighbors watch with baited breath for you to make a wrong move, and reinforce for themselves that you are what they thought.
I see that this constant stress and anxiety has literally altered the structure of your brain. That learning is harder; that self-control takes more effort; that memory is fleeting, and trust is foreign.
But now hear this: I also see promise. Even if in just small victories. Your voice many not carry, you might not know yet how to use it. For every demand in test scores, I will demand compassion. For every cry of failure, I will push. A school isn’t a failure because there are many of you in attendance. A failing school is a failing community. I will, to the best of my ability, push people to confront their notions that you are the problem. I will, to the best of my ability, let you know that I see you; that I see your hell, that I see you shine in spite of it, maybe even, sometimes, because of it. I see your hell, and raise you hope.
Originally published on InnovatorsinEducation.org
I have been thinking hard about how to respond to people who are so angry about this march, about the show of solidarity. What makes you so angry? What makes you so scared? Are you embarrassed? Embarrassed that women in the United States were marching for rights they already had? Embarrassed that we are focusing on ourselves when women in other parts of the world are suffering? See, I am confused that all of sudden, after months of your vitriol about “America First” and “ban the Muslims” you are so concerned about the quality of life of women around the world. When did you start caring? Was it before or after you said that the young black and brown boys gunned down in the street deserved it? Was it when you shamed women for wanting access to birth control and told them if they were too poor to take care of a child and buy their own pills they shouldn’t have sex? Was it when you said people should lighten up when a disabled person is made fun of? Was it when you equated all Muslims with terrorists and all black people with gangsters? Was it when you said writing vagina on a sign was profanity, but excused away “locker room” talk? Was it when you supported building a wall around our country, like prison? Was it when you wished harm to those that exert their First Amendment rights? So forgive me if I don’t buy into your spontaneous sanctimony on human rights.
The Women’s March wasn’t a march just for women’s rights. And it wasn’t just a march for women in America. And it wasn’t a march against men. It was a march for the poor black men whose oppression is generational and heavy as cement. It was for the women who are sexualized and paraded on posters and around poles. It was for children whose zip code determines the quality of their school. For the white men in the middle of America whose fear and trouble was caused by a corporate greed that turned around and used it to grab more power. It was for my lesbian and gay friends who want to make health care decisions for each other and be able to raise their children together without fear. It was for the transgender people in my life that are minimized and criticized. It was for the women in other parts of the world who are victimized and who are now wondering if we will continue to stand up for the wrongs against them now that we are focusing only on “American First”. It is for the immigrants who risk their lives and divide their families to get here.
So keep asking yourself why we marched. Keep wondering why the world marched with us. Why the world put you on watch. But I can tell you: it was against the hate that comes out of your pores when you see us stand up to people like you. If you want to know why we march, look in the mirror.
For months we have been told to accept, give a chance and honor the process. Our feelings, concerns and fears aren’t validated; reinforcing decades of oppression. Decades of being told how to think, what to think, where to talk, what to say, what not to say, and where we belong. The kitchen, barefoot, not kneeling at a football game, not on our nations mall, not on pipelines. Not on Facebook, not on our t-shirts, not in the streets or on picket lines.
We were told that our whining was a leftist liberal syndrome, born of privilege and sensitivity and snowflakes. That demanding basic decency was being too sensitive. For women, for minorities, and for single mothers. For poor children, for disabled sisters and for our immigrant brothers.
Yesterday we were told that our country had found its savior. We will be safe again, rich again, Right again, and great again. Today I saw felt all those things. Not because of him, but in spite of him. Safely ushering my daughter through a sea of smiling, giving faces. Rich with family and friends from each walk of my life. Righteous in our demands for peace and acceptance. And greatness in our numbers.
Today we see we are not a small part of our great country. We are millions strong, not just here, but around the world. Through dust and shadows and fear, we are constant and rising. We love. We are committed. We are accepting. We are watching. The whole world is watching and standing with us. We are not the fringe. Love is not the fringe.