Lessons Learned.

I (along with my wonderful friend, Mr. L ) advise a group at my school called Equality Matters.  Equality Matters stemmed from an idea to have a Gay Straight Alliance, but then there was a need for more than just discussions of equality across the lines of sexual orientation.

The group began with myself, Mr. L, two 6th graders, and one 7th grader. It has grown to two sections (6th grade and then 7th/8th grade) with around  21 students involved all together.  Today, my 6th grade group watched a series of videos dealing with racial inequality.  We discussed the differences in the points being made between Jada Pinkett Smith & Janet Hubert.  We discussed Christopher Columbus “discovering” America and how normal schools are taught to not talk about parts of history that are poor representations of our “free nation.”  We discussed the Japanese internment camps, segregation, and the books that portray slavery with smiling faces.  We talked about what schools really teach children, and how its not always in the material but in the things we convey to them.  I feel teaching these kids must go far beyond how to write a research paper or how to solve for x.  It must teach them to think. To question. To be curious about the world around them.  To defy what they have been engrained to believe and think in.  These kids below said it perfectly….so, I’m just going to leave this here:

 

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Tamir – As 12 year olds do…

When I was little, I used to run around my neighborhood with toy guns – water guns, cap guns, wimpy bb guns. I used to shoottamir plastic BBs with my friends-a scraggly crew consisting of 2 little white boys (brothers, if I remember correctly) that were always so dirty from full spring days of tackle football, a black kid with a gap between his front teeth but a nice smile, a freckly tow headed pale girl who helped me navigate the neighborhood, and my best friend at the time would sometimes make an appearance when she was spending time with her dad.  There was a smattering of brothers and sisters older and younger than us that clung on the outskirts of our little group, whether to wrestle with us when we did something wrong, or to point us in the “right direction.”   I felt like we had our own little ecosystem and honestly didn’t think much went on outside our world.  I didn’t pay attention to the cars that drove by and I didn’t wonder what they thought – were we a danger to our community? No. Did we look like it at times? I’m sure.

We played football, we raced bicycles, we drank kool-aid, we played hide and seek, told ghost stories in the old woods, and caught crawdads behind our house, played tag, chased one another around with the BBguns that didn’t even sting when they hit you.

At times we would sit around and wait for one another. Sometimes with BBgun in hand, practice shooting the different imaginary mind made targets around us.  I’d even go as far as to say that I probably pointed it at people driving by, crouched down in the grass being as incognito as possible. Pretending. Alone and pretending, as 12 year olds do.

Like Tamir Rice was doing. Maybe he was alone. Maybe he was waiting for his friends, as 12 year olds do.   As I did.  As many kids do.  Children now have airsoft guns, that look a lot like real guns but so did ours back then.  They have BBguns.  They play with and against one another.  They shoot at targets alone.   What’s changed?

Despite time changing throughout the years (although in this  I must admit I’ve seen kids be so enveloped in the games they are playing that they forget the reality around them – as in, stop playing that game and listen to me teach you things!!), I still see kids playing outside. Cops and robbers. Good guys and bad guys.  Pretending. Playing. As 12 year olds do.  As Tamir Rice was doing, sitting on the playground.

The difference? I was a white kid living in a low to middle class neighborhood.  He’s a black kid.  A black CHILD, age 12, with an air-soft gun.  Maybe he didn’t have parents who told him to not point it at people, maybe that would make things different, maybe not.  Hell, as an adult I’ve rolled around in the leaves hiding from my nephews in Tennessee pretending to shoot things at one another.

It makes me sick that Tamir was killed not just for being a child, but mainly for being black.

Look at me, I’m not untitled anymore!

“I find I am distracted! I am stark raving mad!” – Henry Fielding in The Intriguing Chambermaid (1734) 

I appreciate your initial use of this phrase, Mr. Fielding. I don’t know who you are, but I now know that google knows you as a pioneer of this phrase (that seems to sum up part of my not-so-interesting life.)

I’m not stark, raving mad – I prefer to own up to the phrase stark raving PLAID, as in I’m so gay I must be wearing plaid…because ya know, us lesbians like our plaid, our tools, and our subarus.  Actually, I don’t drive a subaru; I drive a truck. Soooo, maybe I’m a little more gay than I thought. And please, before you lesbians that don’t identify with my cargo short hammer wielding genre of gayness, realize that I am being purposefully ridiculous in labeling and stereotyping.

I’m also not just stark raving mad about plaid, I’m stark raving something or other for a lot of things. Maybe a little unhinged, a smidge quirky, a lot of opinions rolled into a nice little southern belle without the hair and makeup and that scary looking dress. No thank you, I don’t do lace and such. Ask my mom…she knows.

I mold minds (by teaching, not brainwashing of course). I’m an atheist and simultaneously obsessed with Catholicism and its mysticism. I’m the trupe that feels bad when an automatic door opens and I don’t go through it. Seriously. I sometimes whisper “I’m sorry” or if I feel real guilty, I go in the door and back out. I don’t split poles when walking with friends. I’m easily distracted – my psychiatrist diagnosed me with adult ADD (among a plethora of other fun things), and my therapist and physician both whole heartedly agree. This is lovely, because I’m much more focused, much more productive, and much less irritable anxious and stressed now that I take medication.

Among all my quirks and oddities, I’m just me. I’m learning to love myself despite my downfalls because at least I’m passionate. I love my job. I love my home and the people in it. I love the lifestyle I lead and the people that make me proud to identify as a member in the lgbtq community. I’m a big mouth piece for taking away the stigma of mental illness.  I’m a supporter of equality for all, no matter your sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, zip code, religion, etc.

Most of all, I’m just stark raving about this life I walk through. I’m grateful to the mother who loves me, cares for me, and normally realizes that something is up with me despite our 9 hours apart. I’m thankful for my father, who forged a relationship with me after my parents divorced and who has always stood beside me even when I’m wrong.

Enough of the sap, I’m getting teary eyed and smiling at the same time while sitting here waiting for L & T so I can go home… People will think I’m real unsteady if I’m crying and smiling at myselt in a hospital atrium. That would be just so stark raving mad.