Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bursting the Bubble


I’m putting my heart on the line today. While you are getting up and beginning your day tomorrow I will be getting ready to have surgery, getting checked in, receiving anesthesia. Those who know me in real life know that I have been ill for the past seven months, not enough to kill me, obviously, but enough to prevent me from doing many things I love, what with the pandemic.

So I’m just going to lay this post out there for you to read while I’m unconscious. I’m trying not to be maudlin, but in case anything should happen, I’d like to have taken leave of this space with some forethought. Later I may look back on this with some embarrassment, but I know I won’t regret it.

This post is for my moderate friends and acquaintances. Your careful weighing of issues of race these days has been breaking my heart. You are so knowledgable, you bring so much life experience to your decisions and you mean well.

But even with all of your years of good works and nuanced thinking you cannot see what an enormous an obstacle your whiteness is. You cannot see over it. It is your filter, your daily view, your world. You say that issues about SRO’s in our schools aren’t “black and white.” You are proud to say that. It makes you feel better than people with loud voices and strong opinions. Process matters a lot to you. People who make demands make you uncomfortable. In your world, they’re not crusaders for justice. They’re bullies. Sneaky. Mean.

If you recognize yourself even an inkling in my description I ask you this: what are your Black and Brown friends saying about this issue?When you have discussions with the parents of Black and Brown students - -  or the students themselves - -  about how school policing affects them, what do they say? 

From what I can see you aren’t having those conversations because those people aren’t in your “bubble”. If you do have any non-white friends in your circle they may not feel comfortable having these conversations with you. Or you just don’t know these people at all.

There are plenty of reasons why we as whites people are perpetually self-insulating from those who are not like us. Right now, as I see our community wrestle with the racist repercussions from school policing, I think that most of all we don’t want to see the reality and feel the injustice on the inside. On our side of the bubble. For a white person to draw a line in between themselves as a sort of high-minded “moderate” on an issue which is harmful almost entirely to Black and Brown students and families is not intellectually admirable. It is morally bankrupt. 

There’s a reason people are loud and angry. There’s a reason people make demands: because we have hurt them and hurt them and put their concerns on the outside of our fluffy bubble of process and politeness and whiteness. 

If you are having heart-to-heart talks with your friends on social media about how people don’t understand how complicated this SRO thing is, and your good friends are holding your hands and reassuring you about it, and all of you are white, white, white: something is wrong. Look at the people who are harmed by school policing. Are these people in your bubble? Would you be willing to have uncomfortable conversations with them? Are you willing to make mistakes and learn you are wrong, get your feelings hurt and still push yourself to be better and work for justice?

Even if justice makes you uncomfortable?

I’ve said that I’m not going to write about the Board of Education race this year, and so far I’ve held to that. But I’d like to leave you with one thought: no one should be serving students and families in Howard County and still feel content to operate almost completely in a world of whiteness. That is not what the job entails. We cannot keep electing people who can insulate themselves from the harm being done to others. 

I admit that the events on my schedule for tomorrow are weighing heavily on me. It’s been a rough seven months. Maybe we can do some work together after I’m on the mend.

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