I am a Black woman, married to a Black man, and WE are raising our Black son.
From the moment the doctor revealed that the sex of the precious little baby growing in my womb was a boy I have been terrified. As a Black person living in the United States of America I have known the realities that our people have endured and the realities that await us each day. That history, that context, and those realities have been taught to me since my childhood. Understanding those realities are almost like a right of passage into adulthood but knowing that those realities would be even more magnified for our most prized possession, our son, struck me to my very core. In the age of Trayvon Martin, and the countless number of Black males who have been the victim of senseless violence just because they were Black, I was terrified at the thought of raising a Black male in this society.
At the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Reverend Joseph Lowery stated,
“…a lot has changed, but nothing has changed…”
and that statement has never been more true and more evidenced than by the events that we have seen unfold in Ferguson, Missouri.
(One of my best friend’s, Errin Haines Whack, is a phenomenal journalist, also a Black woman, who was on the ground in Ferguson reporting – check out her account.)
The scenes from Ferguson were reminiscent of the Civil Rights images that many want to believe belong to a generation past. Many want to believe that we are living in a post racial society, that we no longer need safeguards in place to ensure fairness, protection and equity. For heaven’s sake, we have a Black President.
The images of Ferguson, that I watched in horror and pain on MSNBC Wednesday night will forever be etched in my memory and on my soul. The images of Ferguson, and so many stories alike, remind us of the racial issues that our country is plagued by. This is the reality that Black children have been warned of by their parents. This is the peeling back of the veil of ignorance and a level of exposure that so many needed to see. This is one of the many stories that I will make sure to share with my son, among countless others. This is the United States of America.
This America is the reality that many of our public education students face on a daily basis and we wonder why they can’t focus when they sit in their seats in, you-name-the-public-school-USA. This is the reason why inequities persist and achievement gaps widen. This is the reality that we, as educators and stakeholders in education, have to understand in order to ‘reform’ our public education systems nationwide. Without understanding historical context, perspective, and the realities that face our children outside of the classroom we will never be able to make the advancements that we claim we want to make. We have to look inside and BEYOND the classroom. We have to reform not only our classrooms, schools and districts…we have to transform our society. Without looking beyond the classroom we will miss the myriad of barriers and challenges that face our students outside of the school walls.
Ferguson is not an anomaly. Ferguson is an appalling reality. Ferguson is not only about Michael Brown, it is about the realities of Black America. We have to continue to watch, feel the emotions, and act.