Ever since Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012, I have made it my business to educate black youth about what exactly went wrong in the situation. It was then that I learned that our youth are sponges as it pertains to the media, and they actually tried to rationalize what Fox News was telling them. Since this time, it appears that an all-out war has been declared on young black men and women in this country. The most common occurrence happens as it pertains to dealings with the police. The exposure of so many killings at the hands of police officers caused alarm within me. The fact that in most of these cases, there was no justifiable reason for the death of anyone. Yet these officers keep their jobs, they are not convicted of any crimes. There are police officers sending threatening messages to black civilians regarding the safety of their children. A former white congressman had the au-damn-dacity to declare war against Black Lives Matter protesters and President Obama after the shooting of police officers in Dallas. I could have sworn that threatening the President was against the law, but all he received was his twitter account privileges revoked and a segment on television shows. He recanted of course. Yet, let that have been a black man threatening a white president and all hell would break lose. The damage has already been done.
This past school year, my team mate (who is white) and I decided to educate our students as to what the Black Lives Matter Movement is about, and how it is similar and different from the Civil Right Movement. To emphasize my point, I had all of the black boys in my classroom stand at the front of the room, and I started listing all of the things that would get them killed by the hands of the police just because of their skin. I had to give my students, who are preparing to begin their driver education training instructions as to how to make sure they come home at night after dealing with the police!
I also had to talk to them about their behavior and how they choose to be selectively defiant of authority at times. (uniform, tardiness, disruptive behavior) I had to lecture them about choosing their battles and fighting back in a manner that would ensure that they live to fight another day. I taught them about the different ways the media teaches black people to fear one another. They learned what ethos, pathos, and logos are and how the three logical vehicles for persuasion are used within written and visual media. Every newspaper or broadcast that we read will want us to walk away after reading or watching with a certain viewpoint. A viewpoint that will bring us back to publication or show for ratings. I had to teach them about bias and the sad fact that almost everyone has an agenda and they have to research for themselves.
I had to tell my students, that in 3 years when they graduate they will have to go out into the world that hates them, had prejudged them, and has stacked all of the odds against them because of the color of their skin. I had to let them know that they do not even have the freedom that I did to just be a “kid” and knock my head against the wall sometimes. I had to tell them, that while there were mandates in place such as Affirmative Action that assured that Black people and women received equal treatment and opportunities for college and employment when I graduated from high school, that this is no longer the case. I had to tell them that although any school that you venture into in the city of Detroit is lacking the curriculums to keep up with the demand of today’s education reforms, and the technology to be competitive, that they are still expected to stand toe to toe with their white counterparts across 8 mile who have access to it all.
There is no room for failure. There is no room for black children to go through the growing pains of learning to love themselves and embracing success. There is no time for childish squabbles over who said what on twitter or snap chat. They have to make it happen and work three times as hard. They have to debunk what the media has defined them as. They have to stand strong and define themselves. They are the next leaders of our community. They are invaluable. Every person reading this right now who shares the hue of my skin needs them to survive. My students understood, they “get it” and they internalized it. For that, I am thankful… but it nagging question in the back of my mind still bothers me….
WHY WAS IT THAT ALL THAT I MENTIONED ABOVE….
WHY DID THEY HEAR IT FIRST FROM ME?