I Get One Shot.

Two nights ago, there was a meeting held at our local school to discuss the current district plan for closing the achievement gap between African-American, Latino students and students of lower socioeconomic status and, well, students not of this background.  I came home feeling the same way I usually feel, so resoundingly disconnected from what I might have been if I didn’t have a reason that this gap personally affects some of the people I love most in my life.

Just so that the people out there who might be interested understand the gap I’m talking about,because it’s not just happening in my community, there is a proven gap between achievement of Asian and white students and black and latino students in this country.  This gap also occurs between kids of higher and lower socioeconomic statuses.  Parents are now demanding the closure of this gap.  Unfortunately, it isn’t an easy fix.  You can read a little background about the gap in this 2010 New York Times article.  There is even an institute within Harvard that is dedicated to studying and closing this gap.  Their info can be found here.  It’s an important issue for our society as a whole.

Unfortunately, I walked away with a very clear picture of how little people understand about WHY closing this gap is such an important issue.  It turns out, some people not only don’t understand, they don’t care, because they don’t feel this affects their child directly.  Yes, one parent actually had the audacity to say that they wondered how closing the achievement gap might benefit their child.  Well, I have a typically developing child or two, so special education programs don’t necessarily benefit them.  We should get rid of them then, right?  School district money is better spent on other things.

Wait…WHAT?

I watched every African-American parent, parent of African-American children and African-American Administrator in the room let out a collective sigh.  This is going to be an uphill battle.  We live in a medium-sized city that, while some might choose to pretend it doesn’t exist, has an inner city.  A population of kids that because of race/socioeconomic status will fall into a gap that they can’t get out of on their own.  If one chooses not to do a dang thing about it, asking why you should care is a definite don’t in my book.

As a human, you should care because other humans around you are struggling.

As a Christian, if you are one, you should care because the bible commands, in several places, that you should stand up for those that are “weaker and less able to defend themselves.”

And, as a parent of several of my children’s friends, you should care because the kids that may fall into this gap aren’t nameless, or faceless, they’re pictured predominantly right in the sidebar of this blog.  They’re the kids your kids play with every.single.day. 

But, that’s the way I raise my kids.  And, since I live in reality, and not utopia, I squeezed the arm of the understanding (and now probably nerve damaged) friend next to me and kept my mouth shut.  After all, I’m white, so I shouldn’t say anything, right?

As I listened to the only African-American people in the room debrief afterwards about how that discussion, the one about why we should care about children of their race, made them feel, I learned that I should have said something.  Even as the tears pricked my eyes and my throat clogged in a way that rendered me totally speechless, I should have said something. I learned so much about what this felt like from the people who are hurt most by it every single blessed day.  These educated, smart, women deal with this every day.  These women could be my daughters someday. 

I learned a lot.

Then, I asked what I could do.  Turns out, the first thing I should have done is spoken up.  I should have said something the minute my ignorance warning light flashed.  I should have asked the person what they meant by that comment, never assuming intent, and then I should have used that moment to teach.  I do it when I hear profoundly ignorant comments about large families, or adoption, or a lot of other things.  Why am I so afraid to speak up when it comes to race?  Ummm…because I’m not black.  So, one of the first things I was told I could do, because I’m a roll up my sleeves kind of gal and I don’t like to see a problem and not feel like I’m doing something, is get myself some training in diversity and equity so that I feel more comfortable speaking when the moment presents itself. 

Yes, you heard me correctly. 

The mom of seven African/African-American children and one Asian child is going to an all day institute for equity and diversity with our local school district administrators and teachers.  I’m doing this in hopes that it won’t be my daughters, or sons, sitting in that room after a PTO Meeting, wondering what in the heck they should do about what just happened. 
I had to go home, swear about it all to FPD, and get a grip.  I told him that there was NO earthly way I was going to change the world in my finite amount of time on this planet when faced with the amount of ignorance that was presented to me that night.  But, remember those eight children I mentioned?  If I do this well enough, if I make the most of my one shot here on earth, to make them understand, then they’ll go forward and teach it to their kids, who will teach it to their kids, and slowly, it will change.  And, along the way, if I manage to teach it to a few others, well, then bonus for me! 

This is a subject I am absolutely passionate about.  I should learn how to speak to others about it.  I should learn what I can do, and teach, to make this better, so I plan to do just that. 

–FullPlateMom,
who can’t WAIT to share with you all she’s learned. 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. 2plus2mom says:

    “As a human, you should care because other humans around you are struggling.”Yes. This.

    Like

  2. I can’t wait to hear what you learn…and I wish I could attend that all day institute with you!

    Like

  3. Chasidy Brooks says:

    I am super passionate about this as well, and also… white. I find it hard to make a difference. Considering that you wrote this a few years ago, my guess is you’ve figured it out a little. I would love to hear your thoughts on how I, a middle class white woman with three white kiddos can make a difference for a community that I care deeply about.

    Like

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