On Racial Disparity and an Unwillingness to Look Racism in the Eye.

In reviewing this tragic incident at Chaska high school this morning, I couldn’t help but feel some direct takeaways from the thread that follows this article. Clearly there is commentary that speaks to many sides of the issue, but the glaring reality for me is the ease we have with using blame and judgment to help us feel better about a situation that causes a certain anxiety in our lives.

With social media we are christened with an arm-chair response mentality, that we have seen can be as equally damning as the central idea of a topic. In this case a direct assessment of racial disparity in a public high school.

In the same article that speaks to the victims of the incident being asked to walk into a room and receive forced apologies from the students that created the mess, there is also reporting that suggests the administration sat on their hands about the incident at a timely Equity conference with parents and members of the community.

See this is the part I have a real hard time with. We cannot continue to hide ourselves behind the idea of racism when the reality of its impact occurs every day in our lives. We cannot simply hope incidents like this will go away without being dealt with directly. We cannot miss opportunities to open doors to this challenge of understanding how such moments interfere with our students of color and their desire to engage themselves in a community that openly ostracizes them, only to have the instigators receive perhaps public slaps on the hand for doing something they thought was ‘funny’ and harmless.

We cannot pretend that there is no harm that occurs beyond the incident of blatant racism itself. There is a great deal of damage that occurs when something of this level happens in any community. The traumatic nature of not being liked, or respected or appreciated for who we are cannot be measured in the eyes of a staged public apology. There has to be more.

Our students need to feel like they are being heard, their issues matter, they take the front seat and receive time and attention rather than a quiet dismissal to prevent a public outcry.

In reading the threads on Facebook that follow this article, I came across a number of personal assessments of the environment – “Oh (community) will never learn” or “same old ‘trash-**’ summarily beating the issue into the ground in such a manner to put it away, blow it off, call it unimportant, and try to put a ‘funny’ light on the issue. In fact, one thread noted, ‘this happened a week ago’ in a manner to suggest we move on. Really?

It is a sad reality that our students could continue to have such behaviors be condoned by society because of an internalized fear to have the difficult discussions. We cannot allow these moments to drift away because we are almost at the end of the school year. We cannot continue to rely upon our political horizon as the reason for such attitude and disparity in our communities across the country.

We must have the conversations and listen rather than simply join the outcry of ‘oh this is bad, but I have no commitment to helping change.’

We need to try to openly become a part of the change and move forward rather than continue to drift aimlessly backward.

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A Teenager Committed Suicide

Yesterday, a former student took his own life. The circumstances are horrific to realize that life had come to such terms. It is also ironic for many people including myself. We all have dark moments that cause us to imagine a deadly option. This young man somehow felt there was no one he could speak to that might help him through his crisis. In my life the issue of suicide has always been thought to be a cop-out and an easy option, a valueless choice for those around their lives.

I have students crying in the hallways today. I had a student contact me yesterday evening in tears – we spoke for several minutes, and I invited him to come by. This situation has impacted a lot of people including those that have the feelings themselves. Nobody really knows what a person is going through when they choose this deadly way to stop the pain. Nobody knows the tears in the final moments because we just don’t understand. I do.

I believe suicide is a mental illness beyond the circumstances of finality for a person suffering from inevitable mortality. That is the only time when such an act seems feasible. I say that again knowing in my own life there are times when the world I live in becomes exhausting and I no longer like the loneliness I feel. I am especially mortified by this situation with our student. He touched a lot of lives. I watched him laugh both in the classroom and with his friends. I watched him be successful in his love of sports in the events he participated. I watched people groom his life.

Today, I see the outcome. I sense the family and their reaction not as a close friend but as a person that appreciates the grief they feel. I understand why students are at a loss in their actions as they try to wrap their heads around his loss.

Suicide is something that everyone needs to acknowledge is a terrible way to end a person’s life. If someone reaches out be there for them, because the moment you take that for granted they may take action on something they didn’t have a chance to rethink or turn away from the act. Sadly one must though realize the end game is not their responsibility. A call, a visit, a wellness check may be all that is needed. Let them know they are not alone and they have a possible firm ledge to step back onto, let them find their own professional guidance.

Do not abandon a person when they are at their seeming lowest. Look for the signs and be there no matter the effect the notion might have on your own life.

The victim needs your real love.

Pachelbel’s Dream

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When I was just a kid,

I watched a movie,

about a choir,

a group of talented expectations

each one that had reason,

though the focus upon one another.

 

They all grew up together,

lived similar lives,

went to the lake in the summer,

played games meant to

out wit one another.

 

This one day, during a storm,

one of them slipped

why does it always have to be

the tougher of the two

he let go

leaving just the one to hang on.

 

The moment left him changed

he never went back

always found himself to be

the easy one to blame,

it was just a boat on a lake for crying out loud

how can mystery be so powerful.

 

Anyway, a story began to be told

and a song could be heard

a life of its own,

and ironically he heard it resonate

one day

after meeting her,

she was so beautiful

and he knew it to be true

 

he sang the melody of her elegance

inside the irony of a cemetery

all the way home,

he’d found a new life

and she was his muse

long before he might ever know

the mystique of a woman’s touch.

 

Until he might one day understand her beauty,

he left his fantasy in a place he’d call Pachelbel

 

his dream.

For There Is Love

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We are taught to know love,

a spectacular spiritual solemnity

we embrace

wonder

wander through our lives

with a constant

in some evaluative sojourn.

 

We know lives

touch the spirit of others

in quiet encounters

a silence can speak so

tenderly in its clarity

to know her,

answer him,

wander through a myriad

of human condition

centered proclivities.

 

Yet in the quiet

of loss

of tragedy

of the knowledge

we do not have,

though sometimes protest

to hold the key

to why it is

who we are

what we might become

in such judgment

we can never really know

beyond our ability

to show compassion

in the eyes of hope

 

For it is this confusion that draws

the most stolid heart to tears.

Two Lives – A Cultural Divide

Dedicated to the short lives of Bushra Abdi, 19, and Zeynab (Hapsa) Abdalla 19


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There are already open wounds

two young women lost their lives

their final moments

in a panic with 911.

 

We have these preliminary assumptions

the dead can no longer speak

a certain beauty will now forever

encompass the memory of their lives.

 

What happens in the middle of the morning

to find the soul and heart

crying for safety, lost in a certain mire

unable to see, perhaps without ability.

 

Now we have to listen

we have to hope in the midst of tragedy

no foul play, only the reality

of two lives ending in such a tragic way.

 

They perished in a city

in a hot bed of controversy

the marginalization of a society

lived and breathed until this day.

 

We will wonder the bystander

if there are questions to remain

perhaps two children in the throes

of living each day like their last.

 

They will be, were, are always loved

ours is not a place to judge

only find the peace of finding Grace

finding paths for their soul to rise.

A Reaction of Feeling

A young boy has been shot,

he’s dead,

a police force became another list,

not the boy,

no list attached,

a living human being,

now dead,

shot to death,

after wielding motive suggests

he was suicidal,

didn’t want a recital,

simply wanted to die,

or at least in the mind of a boy,

thought it might work,

wanted something,

wanted someone

to know,

his hurt,

and now …

nobody knows,

but we all realize

he’s dead.

Always Practical

Was it always this simple

The practical practice

Of knowing one another

So the strengths and weakness

Might somehow balance

 

Were we that naïve in beginnings

A trip to Europe

See the world and imagine life

From a perspective beyond

The normalcy we are taught to hold.

 

I remember the time I came

Down early, the hostel,

One of the last really crowded ones,

I saw him,

Sitting across from you with interest.

 

I’d noticed that look before

A short smile

Guarded yet with an innocence that

Suggested,

Yes this is the way it can be.

 

I wonder about practicality,

Sitting in the sunroom,

A cigarette burns to imagine

Statues as a sort of hip décor,

When inside a human being despaired.

 

I tried to tell you that quiet morning,

When reddened your eyes

Wouldn’t change their hue

We no longer, well I didn’t

We hadn’t been whom we knew.