DISCLAIMER: After reflecting on some dialogue on Twitter, I took some time to process last night. I then started reading the bible to find some reference on dealing with ‘conflict,’ because we tend to shut people out when we disagree (2 Corinthians 7). I checked my ‘cliff notes’ in the margin of my bible and found this explanation: ‘First, believers are expected to cleanse themselves by turning from everything that contaminates the body or spirit- including every person who bends the truth.’ That was my confirmation that I had to write this blog, today. I need to get this off of my heart so that I can move forward. This blog post will include some very direct and honest insight. If you are sensitive or concerned about not offending your supporters, I suggest you turn the channel. Please understand that there is an urgency with the state of public education, so I refuse to pussy-foot or sugarcoat anything for the sake of making others feel comfortable. I am interested in the truth, the whole truth, so help me God. Thank you.
I think I am starting to get the hang of this blog-thing. I have connected with some really great intellectuals (Black, White, and everyone in between), who are also fighting to change education for those who need it most: Kids living in America’s urban cities and attending the some (not all) of the worst-performing schools. In my very first blog, I stated that I am not an expert but I do have a great deal of common sense. I do not claim to know everything that veterans with 20+ years’ experience know, but I know some things they do not. I have experiences they do not. I have the natural ability to relate to groups of parents and students they cannot. Shared experiences do matter in many instances. Am I claiming that a ‘non-member’ (insert any race/ethnic group) cannot contribute or help a member? Not at all. What I do know is that, as a single parent, I would never tell another single parent that his or her child will never amount to anything because there is only one parent present. I also know many people who have defied the statistics. It can be done. I am blessed that I never bought into other peoples’ limits on me simply because I was born to a single woman. My kids will never buy-into other peoples’ limits simply because they were born to a single woman. Why? Because I don’t believe in being a stereotype. Yes, I am a single mother. But, the description does not and will not stop there. I also happen to be a well-read, analytical, doctorate degree-seeking college graduate. Yeah, I belong to a very exclusive club. My integrity, principles, and refusal to label all single mothers and their children make me a very unique kind of educator. I would even go so far as to say that I am the kind of educator single parents would want on their side. I am not going to sell you out for a headline, a check, or a pat on the head by a group of old, White men studying ‘inner-city, disadvantaged, low-performing youth.’ Nope. Not gon’ do it.
Now that states are vying for Race to the Top funds, everybody and they damn mamma (excuse the slang, sometimes it’s the only way to accurately convey my true feelings) is an expert on education. Nevermind the fact that some of these yahoos have either never been in the classroom or have not been in a classroom in 20+ years. How about the fact that you cannot always treat people like statistics? Yes, as a researcher I understand that some things need to be quantified, but we cannot assign numbers to kids all willy-nilly. When discussing academic performance or graduation rates, it is acceptable to use numbers. When speaking about kids and their potential, we must view them as individuals. Every child has a name and a story. Just because society has written them off, does not mean that we have to continue the trend. Think about it. If you were told that you would never amount to anything, everyday, at some point you would begin to believe it. That is proven psychology. Don’t believe me? Look at all the young girls who don’t eat or make themselves sick because they want to look like the emaciated chicks on tv. They receive messages that they are not thin enough to be considered beautiful so they starve or make themselves vomit. The kids being written off are no different. Why do you think it’s so easy for 15, 16, and 17 year-olds to kill each other, with crowds of people watching? They know no one cares about them. How many times have we mentioned Derrion Albert in the past 3 weeks? Probably none because Tiger Woods was front and center, but I digress.
I have a challenge for you, especially those of you of the same hue: The next time you fix your lips to say “These single parents don’t care about education…” stop and ask yourself these questions:
1. How would I feel if someone were saying that about my mom/grandmother/aunt?
2. Is it better for a woman to remain in a physically/emotionally abusive relationship for the sake of the kids? (That’s the next biggest cop-out after people who say ‘I am not a racist. My best friend is Black, White, Asian, Latino!’)
3. Who are they (someone outside the group) to pretend to be an expert on something of which they have no knowledge?
4. What about the kids from two-parent homes who go to school strapped and kill their classmates and teachers? (Note: It’s not us)
5. What about the privileged kids who develop addictions to their parents pain killers? They are simply imitating what they see.
6. What about the kids ‘sexting’ and harassing each other to the point of suicide?
As I said before, I am not an expert on anything but I know a little about everything. Since I am African American, I can only write about that experience and what it means to me. I can only write about what I have seen as an African American educator of African American kids, mostly those tracked into Special Education. I do not know how the ‘other half’ lives because I don’t live near them.
My grandmother always talked to me about being able to spend time by myself; not to be with the ‘in-crowd’ all the time. As a kid, we don’t understand those gems that our elders pass down to us. As an adult, I can honestly say that now I understand. Being honest, especially when you have to ‘call-out’ your own, is a lonely journey but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I need to be able to look at myself, and like what I see, everyday. I need to be able to humble myself before God (and God only) and honestly say that I did what I thought would be pleasing to Him. After reading the disparaging remarks about single parents and their children, I can say that there are not a lot of other people who can do that. I wonder how many people would make those same remarks about President Obama’s mother? I mean, after all, she was a single mother of two biracial children. Food for thought.
The next time you fix your lips to verbally assault your race and its future, ask yourself: What would Jesus do? If you are not a believer, here are some worldly translations: Why do I feel the need to attack/kick a group of people who are already down? What will my negative comments accomplish? Who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to gain? Do I really feel this way, or am I just going with the flow?
Until next time, I’m out!