Last week, I sat at the second meeting regarding class rank at one of our schools. This was a policy I had fought to get implemented to assist our higher performing high schools but is now being implemented in a different way. A way that is going to hurt a significant number of students. And my heart just ached.
I had stood up to talk about the importance of this issue a week prior to this meeting… but I had done it in the context of my program and what we were able to do for students. I quickly found out that politics were coming into play and that I needed to fall in line. I struggled immensely with this, but ultimately I knew that everyone was right. The political forces were far too strong for me to take on… and this wasn’t the hill to die on (though I desperately wanted to do so).
I stared down at the #BlackLivesMatter bracelet that I haven’t taken off since an unlikely ally slipped it to me at NACAC. I wear this daily – not because it’s popular – but because it’s true. I work in a district that is 94% minority and not a single conversation is being had about why this movement is happening. I wear the bracelet to let our kids know that I care. That I’m an ally. That they matter to me. And last Wednesday night, all I felt was that I failed them by not speaking up and telling the truth about what dropping class rank would do at that particular school.
I thought about speaking up. I thought about what I was going to say. I thought I would do the same thing that I had the week before. I thought I had it all figured out. That is until the heavy hand of a district administrator placed itself on my shoulder and asked me to confirm that I knew why I was there and what I was supposed to say. And not say. And reminded me that I needed to get in line.
My neighbor’s house was on fire and I could do nothing to help.
I looked around the room at all those families who had no idea that a house was about to fall on them.
I felt sad. Torn. And my guilt nagged me from the inside, eating up bits of my soul as the meeting continued on.
I wondered what my dad would say. On one hand, I knew he would be proud of me for controlling my emotions. For supporting my principal. For being a professional. But on the other? What would he say? Would he be disappointed that I didn’t try to educate the decision makers? Would he have understood my fears or would he have told me that yes, kiddo, this is one of those times when you have to get in line?
In that moment (and not for the first time recently), I missed his wisdom. I felt like I was also letting him down by not doing more.
I came home ready to watch the debate…. for no other reason than because one of my mentors live tweets/Facebooks the entire thing and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, it’s gotten a little less funny because the things being said now are terrifying… but I enjoyed the debate while I was in Chicago and I was hoping for a repeat of that night. Minus the cookies (sadly).
There were a few laughs with my people. The admissions officer I love. The college counselor from New Orleans who slipped me the #BlackLivesMatter bracelet. My mentor. But it lacked the same laughs as before… because we are three weeks away from an election that terrifies me. One that my dad promised me a year ago would never ever happen… but that is here whether I like it or not.
And by the end of it, closing with a “nasty woman” comment and the discussion by disenfranchised voters who feel like this election is rigged and being stolen from them… I headed to the bathtub.
And I wept.
I wept for all the times that I’ve been called a bitch because I have a strong personality. If “nasty woman” had been a catchphrase, I probably would have been called that. I’ll probably be called that this year. I’m not the biggest Hillary Clinton fan but that moment crushed my soul.
I wept for the kids that I let down by not speaking up because #politics.
I wept for even having to make that choice.
I wept for the fact that I know a lot of people who continue to say that #BlackLivesMatter shouldn’t be a thing and because they don’t seem to know anyone who is deeply affected by that movement. My friends are hurting in a way that I can’t even possibly imagine, and so many people are telling them to sit down and shut up. That’s not okay.
I wept for the fear that a lot of people are going to wake up on November 9 and feel like an election was stolen from them… and I don’t know how they will retaliate. The call for intimidation and violence scares me. I feel like I’ve never seen anything like this… and I don’t like it at all.
I wept for the people who keep saying that we need to make America great again because I don’t know what the eff they are talking about… when we killed all the Indians and took their land? When we didn’t believe women or black people should be able to vote? When we hung black people? When we didn’t give them “equal” civil rights until the last 50 years? When my Egyptian friends were racially profiled after 9/11 because they looked Muslim despite the fact they are Christian? When we have to have federal mandates to desegregate public school systems because it STILL hasn’t been done in 2016? When we decided to use third grade reading levels to determine the number of jails to build? Yes, we have some really wonderful freedoms in this country, but I’m still trying to figure out when we were so great… because I’ve seen us do some really terrible things in this country that make us no better than the third world countries that we’ve tried to force democracy on.
I wept for the fact that my dad’s not here to explain all of this to me, talk me through it, and help me believe that it’s going to work out… because despite all the things that I keep telling myself, I’m having a hard time believing that we’re going to be united any time soon.
And that makes me miss my America.
Because, at one time, I did believe that it was possible.
(For the greatest moment in recent television history and highly applicable to this election/post, watch the introduction to The Newsroom here.)