On Racism, Schools & Awareness

Whenever an act of racism occurs in my community, or in the world around me, I never know quite how to respond. My natural reaction is to be appalled and disappointed, then fear settles in, then uneasiness, followed by confusion. My gut tells me I want to figure out who to blame first, and then I want to understand how this impacts the people around me, specifically the students in my classroom.

1

Being a high school teacher has its perks. We see immediately what is on a young child’s mind, whether positive or negative. When something so blatant happens that shakes the community, it is sometimes difficult to get a read on how the message is interpreted. What rolls off one’s back as minor might plant a seed of contention in another’s. There certainly always seems to be a level of response to the ignorance of the action, specifically in this case, the desecrating of school walls with epitaphs and racial hatred. The important message to recognize is that it is out there for people to respond to, whether consciously driven or designed by unintentional circumstances. It is difficult to imagine racial epitaphs to be accidental; however, the motivation is unique in this situation.

The initial reports of this most recent incident are that the student was not fully aware of their actions. One could argue this is an attempt to save credibility as an organization, or the truth of the matter might be as simple and basic as it is being described. Whatever the answer to the action, the bottom line is that this unfortunate moment exposes a frightening part of our society that we would sometimes rather quiet than provide a voice of reaction.  As it is, this should be handled as a teaching moment for students, wherever and however involved.

Ironically, we are living in a present society that is increasingly accepting the notion of ‘alternative’ or fake news. Such terms are being bandied about with such frequency that the phrases, ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ and ‘Last night’s terrorism in Sweden’ have become household maxims, and the terrifying truth is they are believed statements by many, despite the originators coming out with statements otherwise.

The reality is that words of hatred have appeared on walls that our youth will see with frequency and then naturally react to afterward. So how do we go about repairing thescreen-shot-2017-02-28-at-5-11-55-pm damage? I think the real solution lies in what are the reasons these events occur, and how can we raise the consciousness of our young people to such a degree they begin to recognize the dangerous precedent of accepting racism rather than fighting to overcome its venomous impact on our society.

Accepting racism is the failure of our society to identify it as problematic to our youths’ value system. What this means is that rather than confront the issue, if we can quietly just pretend it away and not put dramatic focus upon a real issue, maybe it will simply go away. That is about as relevant as imagining that inane rhetoric is more reasonable than the truth from the leaders of our country. There is a saying that suggests, if it said enough times, then people begin to believe it as true. In the case of racism on the bathroom walls of our schools, there is a percentage of students that will certainly ‘buy into’ the hatred rather than recognize it is damaging to our society’s value system. This is where open discussion needs to begin.

When we speak of teaching moments, we have to clarify when and how these opportunities are going to happen. Rather than using band-aids on a segment of our society, we need to rally around the bigger picture. Our youth are the most impressionable people in our world, and their actions will be the foundation of the future of this country, one that is chock full of immediate change and adjustment as that mosaic of assimilation continues to take hold. Rather than rely upon hope without dialogue, we need to begin the conversations and continue to encourage them in meaningful and thoughtful ways. Perhaps then, words on a wall, or rhetoric meant to sway our society will become less and less powerful and the truth will begin to matter.

Is This Really Liberal Thinking?

Last night I had a conversation with two people I have tremendous respect for, the subject quickly turned to politics, and I openly expressed my dislike of our current state of affairs. I spoke of my dismay with our current POTUS’s views and motives, and the dialogue took an icy turn to defense and validation. The three of us bandied back and forth for many minutes about the pros and cons of what we believed in earnest. The positive takeaway from the conversation is the three of us finished forty five minutes later, and together walked out of the room, smiling, and said good bye for the night. I think it is important to recognize that people can have honest, often animated conversations that include their views, without the fear of character assassination afterward. That was my takeaway from yesterday’s debate with two people whose opinion I value.

A concern that evolved from our dialogue is their personal anxiety with the inability to be open about their views around their own community, specifically the school they attend. I’ve heard this conversation before, and the tone has been similar in that there is a general fear with expressing one’s political views no matter the side that someone carries or believes, because someone on the other side is always going to be waiting to pounce with wrath and indignation. The subject of a divisive culture is prevalent in our American society today, and both sides of the argument are easily persuaded to lay the blame for this current mindset upon the other, rather than step back for a minute and process their own contribution.

In a democratic society, the true definition of democracy is to suggest an open debate always exists that merits argument and opinion from all sides. Democracy itself is dependent upon actions that inherently support social equality. I wonder if anyone can look about their own personal world beyond their backyard and see this belief in action. I’m afraid not. Instead we are talking about walls, and bans, and now steadfast agreements of a scorned party to vote down another party’s proposals in a unified attempt to recreate what we as a people have witnessed for decades upon decades of political ignorance. I’m afraid putting a narcissistic, megalomaniac into a position of power will not change things anytime soon. In fact, even if I could be in complete agreement with any of the current administration’s  proposals, which I am not, I just cannot believe that ‘the people’ will rise to support those ideals in a complete and unified manner any time too soon. There is far too much anger in people’s minds right now, and it is evident first, in the children.

We live in a pretend away society. The sort that would suggest if we don’t talk about it, then the repercussions will not impact us directly. Until it does, when the ramifications of our society begin to knock on our front door. In the meantime, let’s sit in sidewalk cafes and debate the subject until we are lacking oxygen due to vitriolic fuels slapped back and forth between good souls trying to justify and rationalize their own way of thinking. I sat in that very coffeeshop this morning, in between two paired conversations, where one side lauded the efforts of our current administration, while the other decried the present swing of governmental bureaucracy. If the two pair had literally gotten up and walked through each other they would have magically disappeared as their parallel universe would have quietly combusted with little fanfare.

Growing up as a child I had a certain advantage. I was raised in a divisive household, a political separatist movement. My mother and father had differing views, and for most of my childhood and well into my teens, and later adult life they proudly canceled each other out at the ballot box. Here’s the important thing to remember though. No matter how differing their views were, and there certainly were heated debates over the years, they at the end of the day, had respect for one another’s viewpoint. So me, I learned how to weigh both sides without forgetting that people could actually get along together, quite well actually with differing opinions.

How do we possibly get started with our current state of affairs? I think our first objective is to recognize that liberal or conservative thinking do and will cancel each other out forever. That’s not the issue. I think the solution exists elsewhere and somehow we as a society need to recognize that path, together.

 

 

Deep Scars

Always when truth allows,

there is a certain peace,

while in the throes, not readily,

long afterward.

The idea of healing,

perhaps a salve, a wrapping,

the comforting

of a bruised ego,

shall never share the same leverage,

as the damaging nature of

victimizing the human condition,

for personal gain,

personal growth,

personally I’d rather have been

ordained.

Finding Spiritual Balance

A Good Match

yin

In trying to understand the world,

we seem only to find balance,

upon a vast field of simple grain,

the sort indistinguishable yet soft

enough to hold our mind, our body,

our greatest fear and smallest burden.

 

Always a fascination has existed

with the design of our lives together,

an ability to negotiate, process a life,

or find fortune in the memory beyond

who we were today when yesterday

we began a similar journey alone.

 

A circle exists we speak of in unison,

sometimes disparity reminds the foil

to hearken back to another energy

quite similar yet different again,

we respond accordingly to a symbolic

moment, the sort we might write about.

 

Well before the eternal design of our lives

might truly be the answer in knowing Eyes.

On Bowling Green, Sweden and Massacres

 

I read in the news today they’re rioting in Stockholm,

days later, days beyond the triumphant ballast

of an egomaniac struggling with air time,

community, credibility, condescension, cowardice.

 

I suggested to a friend, ‘perhaps this is the plan’

that the idea was fed to the giant orange,

and he spoke too soon,

he wanted the moment before it occurred.

 

Before it occurred, before the wall falls,

long before anyone of any realistic frame of mind,

even has a chance to process the ordeal.

and then today, they followed through to save face.

 

Think about the magical kingdom we live underneath,

the one with false pretense, ignorant lashes, lined pockets,

oh but then I’m a crybaby for not having my share,

meanwhile people in worse position than me are new believers.

 

The New Believers – seems like a ripe old cliche

fittingly frightening factual news,

wait fake news, fake news, fake news

bad call!

 

When the ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ occurred,

as devastating a reality that sacrifice was,

it was the actual resignation of truth that hurt us all,

meanwhile we packed our bags for Sweden, oh no!!

Feed My Starving Ego

I am that man,
quiet exterior,
turbulent insides that mock,
the true nature of my kind, soft,
demeanor.
Give me something to chew on,
I will respond,
sustenance is my substance, of course,
that’s what they tell me,
I strive to organize my plate
with all the resources available,
give me strength,
let me value the grace of
a well fed ego before the reality around me
turns my insides out.

I walk amongst the people,
the ones I choose,
and they feed me with wrath, avarice, confusion,
so when I react,
when time comes upon me to be a leader,
I will starve you all
with my own satisfaction,
until my appetite,
my enormous caverns of self-righteous
ego
can far outweigh the needs around me,
ah, calorie counters,
I love calorie counters,
they’re my favorite people.

Give me the liberty to react
with my own agenda
so I can satisfy my own hunger
for the eyes,
the fabulous eyes,
that allow me to think I have
ignited the fires,
set in motion the movement,
while beyond the green screen facade,
the real starvation continues,
just beyond my scope of vision.
Let them eat cake.

Waking Without The News

latest-news-abstract-7761499.jpg

I awoke this morning with a certain calm,

the quiet heartbeat of my dog nearby,

the sun just beginning to radiate the room,

life seemed a slow melodic sort of tune.

 

Oh, there are certain ideals on my mind

that weigh heavily to be understood

yet for that moment, that initial lull

I could appreciate the sound of life alone.

 

Nowhere shouted the proclamatory pundits

wreaking havoc upon my state of mind

while millions of others like me would stir

to begin our daily frenzy of not knowing where.

 

I wonder sometime if it is that simple

to allow ourselves to breathe rather than

respond to the horrific mongering, albeit

I woke up today without the news.

 

* Photo found on Pinterest