School Talk

A Birthday Reflection: My Heart is Full and Broken at the Same Time

*I wrote this on my personal Facebook page on May 30th. Feels right to share it here.

On this, my 47th birthday, my heart is full and broken at the same time. The sun is shining, my children are healthy, my parents are healthy and my husband is headed into major surgery in less than two weeks with THE surgeon who specializes in what he needs. These are blessings but also privileges. I was born on 3rd base.

Some of my dearest friends—people who have dedicated their lives to educational justice and racial justice—are in pain. They are weeping in their closets, feeling angry and numb at the same time, afraid for their sons and husbands who are too often seen as a threat, scary in some way because of the color of their skin. A hoodie on their son and a hoodie on mine are often not perceived in the same way. (I’ve personally and repeatedly witnessed the disparate reactions so I’m not going to argue this point today.)

We all have struggles, problems and burdens we carry. No one is saying we don’t. But none of those burdens for my sons, my husband, or me are because of the color of our skin.

And that is the difference.

Every single black man I know personally has been stopped by the police without cause.

Some have been held at gun point because they “fit the description.”

That has never happened to my father or to my husband. And I suspect it never will.

Do you know that in America today, 90% of black boys in 8th grade do not read on grade level? Or that 80% of the boys identified as needing special education services are black or Latino? We, collectively, have let that happen and that has perpetuated a world that feels hopeless and unfair to far too many people.

Do you know how many of my black friends and black students never thought they’d make it to see age 22? They offered two simple reasons — “I’m male and I’m black.” 💔

I can’t fathom hearing my sons say that they saw no future beyond 22.

I am not blaming and I am not shaming. The problems and the solutions are complex. But I am asking everyone to slow down for a minute and just imagine what life would be like with water that is not safe to drink or to bathe in, with schools that have never worked for students and are riddled with violence and vermin, and where way too many people may say the right thing and wear the right t-shirt but would never send their child to school with yours or even shop at your grocery store.

My friends — people I love—are in pain on my birthday. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, advocates and educators. Some are former students and colleagues.

So today, a very big piece of my heart is with all of them.

What do you think?

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