As a white woman, I have been lucky enough not to encounter much discrimination in my life. I don’t fail to recognize the privilege under which I was born due to the color of my skin. I also don’t fail to recognize that I have at times, more than I would like to admit, held prejudice thoughts about people due to the way they look or act. I am not proud of this, but know it has happened due to the society in which I was raised. These facts do not keep me from tearing up every time we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I teach my students (whether they be kindergartners or 5th graders) about the social justice movement and the inequality people of color have faced for hundreds of years. They do not stop me from crying every time I watch a movie about social justice. They do not stop me from crying every time I read a news article about another person of color unjustly killed, no matter whom the killing was done by.
Sometimes I wonder if it is my place to teach my students, especially those of color, about the struggle people of color have gone through. I wonder if I can make as much of an impact as a person of color could. I also wonder if what I teach in my classroom will be enough to reverse what my white students may learn at home or in society. Can I teach them to “judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” as Dr. King stated in his “I Have a Dream” speech? It doesn’t feel like anything I could say or do in the classroom could be enough.
Is liking and sharing articles on Facebook about injustice; about people doing something about injustice; enough to help make our country a better place for all people? I state my opinions, I comment and have discussions on posts about the subject. But is this enough? I don’t know how to end racism, prejudice, poverty, violence. I don’t know how to create a society in which all people are born with the same opportunities. I don’t know if it is even possible.
What I do know, though, is that I don’t want my son to see his friend of color arrested, shot or killed simply because he isn’t white. I don’t want my son to judge anyone before he gets to know them. I want him to grow up in a society where he is an equal with all of his peers and has to work hard to get good grades, work hard to get into college, work hard to get a job, work hard to get a promotion. I don’t want him or anyone else to get any of those things, or not get any of those things because of the color of their skin. Equality means we should all be on an even playing field. The ball shouldn’t roll to one side more easily than the other. One team shouldn’t be bigger or stronger than the other unless they simply worked harder for it.
From this point on, I am determined to do more than speak. I am determined to do more than watch in disbelief and sadness. I am going to do. Action is what causes change, and our country needs a change. Everyone can agree on that. You may not agree with how our country should change, or even on what should change. But things are not going very well right now and something needs to be done. I am going to start doing more to help facilitate that change. I will attend rallies, I will join in peaceful demonstrations. I will help others I see in need. My son will grow up seeing his mother working towards a better future for him and his generation.