Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Tragedy of Ferguson

I am a white Missouri girl that has spent the last ten years teaching mostly America's minority students. As the events from Ferguson unfolded last night, I was left with my own conflicting emotions. As my newsfeed would fill with everything from compassionate posts to racial posts, I could feel my emotional response to the events simmering. Just as my students need time to process this, I gave myself a little time and here's what I've come up with so far.

The tragedy of Ferguson is so much more than black and white; it's so much more than right and wrong. There are so many shades of gray; so many blurred lines. And so many hurt people. I'm not even go to discuss whether I think the jury's decision was the right or wrong one because I feel that the media did such a poor job of reporting on this and manipulated things to play up the emotional dramatic appeal to the people.

There were victims in this tragedy. So many victims. White victims, black victims, human victims of all races and colors. Here's what I have come to learn. We do have a fight on our hands. But the fight shouldn't be about black vs white. It's about education verse ignorance. Here's what I've learned from our youth- they feel imprisoned by the stereotypes our society has placed on them. Every human in this country fights the injustice of these stereotypes in some way. Every white person is not a racist; every black kid is not a gangster or criminal; every Muslim is not a terrorist; every Hispanic is not an illegal immigrant here to mooch off the system. But too many buy into these stereotypes and pass judgment before they ever allow themselves to stop and think about learning and experiencing any kind of truth to who a person or even a culture really is.

The only way to overcome this I truly believe is through education. I'm not just speaking of the education we can get in the classroom either. I'm talking about the kind where you step outside your comfort zone, you stop and listen, you open your eyes without the blinders of stereotypes and judgments blinding you to truths and realities, and open your heart to learning this thing called perspective and acceptance. We have to start to teach love and not hate. Nothing will change until we do.

We've been studying the Declaration of Independence in my classes this past week. The founding belief of our country can be found in this one line: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." I asked my students to focus on this idea of equality. It's been over 238 years since the Declaration of Independence and as we can all clearly see this is a continued work in progress. The toughest question I asked them and you now too is "Is this idea of true equality a reality we can one day see?"

I believe one of the first things we have to accept is we are not born into equal situations, but we are all born with free will and choice. We all have the choice whether to be a victim of our circumstances or not. The thing I have learned from my students and whether it's the discriminated against immigrant, the poor "white" trash kid, the "black" boy from the hood, the kid of a teenage mother and no father is they made a choice to rise above their circumstances. Along the way they had to break free of those stereotypes and low expectations. But let me tell you they do it every day. I see them.
What I hate to see for these students I've come to admire over the years is sometimes no matter how hard they work to prove themselves, to educate themselves, to pursue this wonderful idea of freedom, opportunity, and equality, is that they are still shackled at times like this by the stereotypes and judgments that are placed on them by society due to the inconsiderate and wrongful acts of some. Some will spend their whole lives fighting these labels to get people to accept them for who they truly are. It is that judgment and the hate that results from these ignorant judgments that will keep us from reaching a reality of equality, and these are the victims I mourn for at times like this.

 The holidays are coming. Be sure to check out Gymboree, Crazy 8, Little Passports, and Shutterfly for holiday shopping deals.  Also Moms, Monsters, Media & Margaritas  is on sale for $8 through the holidays.   The book is also now available on the Amazon kindle for $3.99 and the Barnes and Noble Nook for $4.99. All sales through the holidays are going to a project for a child in need this holiday season.

1 comment:

  1. So true. We need to learn better and we need to teach better.
    Thank you for linking up at WUW!

    Hugs from party co-host,