THINGS MY STUDENTS SAY THAT ALWAYS MAKE ME CRY
I teach 97 beautiful, intelligent, young black men and women every day. Here are some of the things that say that I always cry about on the way home from school.
- •"I'm not trying to be racist but..."When I ask questions like, "Why did the Native American populations decrease?" Or "why was slavery allowed in the constitution?" Or "what type of people were present at the signing of the Declaration?", it never fails that one of my kids sheepishly raises his/her hand and says "I don't mean to be racist, but white people?" I don't even know what to comment about this. I just know it breaks my heart.
- •"Black people don't do that."1. I grew up so isolated and privileged that there are so many aspects of black culture--my children's culture--that I do not understand. Heart breaking. 2. Their limited view of themselves sometimes stops me in my tracks. Society has told them so many things that just aren't true. They can be and are everything.
- •"I wanna be a trapper when I grow up."You are more. Don't make me stay up at nights worried about you. Don't become a statistic. Don't do "the things white people think are bad." Is it okay to want to keep them away from that life or am I pushing my perspective on them? I have no idea. I just want more for them.
- •"That's cause she's light skinned."Hearing the deep scars of white prejudice come out of their mouths--I'll never get over it. Every day watching systemic racism play out on a tiny scale. It's impossibly hard because I don't know what to say or do.
- •"What Thomas Jefferson did has nothing to do with me."BUT IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Thomas Jefferson cried for equality, but at home he put over 600 slaves to work as his personal property. His decision to declare equality only relevant to white people create the segregated system they still live in today. The decisions of these few white men shaped our whole history. Thomas Jefferson has everything to do with you.
- •"No"Sometimes I just want to scream at them to say yes sometimes. To trust me. To try. To work harder. To do the things that make you uncomfortable. To ask questions. But everyday I see why they say no. No is simpler. Yes is messy.