At an early age, I was taught to consider other points-of-view and was always encouraged to share ideas or questions. I owe my love, compassion, and empathy to my mother’s life and my father’s death. Through my father’s death I was forced to learn of the cruel, hard pain that stabs without warning, the kind that causes physical pain while you sleep at night. And through my mother’s life I learned of the love, light, and laughter that exists on the other side of pain. The two combined is no doubt the greatest lesson that I have been bestowed. Without either perspective I would perhaps be small-minded or boring or protected or privileged. None of those are true of me, and because of this today was a day filled with contemplating a different pair of shoes.
I, stereotypical, love shoes. I will try ones that are new, old, too small, too big; I do not discriminate. So walking into the bathroom at my training today at a local education service center, trying to draw in the persona of an African-American female teacher was not out of the norm for me.
For those of you who don’t know what an education service center is, let me explain. In Texas, there are so many laws regarding education that the state is divided into service centers as to disseminate this “valuable” knowledge of how to further “educate” our children. Of course everything is in “good faith” or so stated.
My finger is constantly on the pulse of an offended party. The ultimate irony is that I feel my very Southern roots require me to be cognizant to every whimper or whine of a house guest – well why not a “life guest” that passes through my world? I will listen to and acknowledge the stories, trials, and tribulations of points-of-view other than my own in order to gain an understanding outside of myself, my walls, and my country.
I immediately wondered if taxpayer dollars were responsible for the image above, white children eating chocolate littered with indifference on the bathroom floor of an ungrateful American child.
I have been in this bathroom before and had never bothered to really look at the images on the wall. And there lies my mistake, I was taught to feel, see, and contemplate my surroundings in order to say things that others could not.
But, how would I feel as an African-American or Latina teacher in this bathroom seeing images of white children eating chocolate? If I had never left my bubble then I perhaps would feel nothing; however, so many that I love do not look like me. So many that I love are from various walks of life. I am intentional about who I bring close in order to explore universal truths.
With a teaching force that is mostly white and female in America, we do not need to further encourage attitudes of elitism and privilege to a workforce that has not historically been able to step outside of their protected walls.
The key is seeking understanding that is not my own. Truth is like a sphere and can be approached from any angle. This is why math is my favorite subject to teach – I can explain the same concept in half a dozen different ways until one of my students understands.
Had my father not died when I was young, I am sure that I would never have been able to feel things so deeply or even want to be someone else for even a few seconds. Fortunately, my mother, his beloved wife that still wears her wedding ring, encouraged me to be me, always.
I know that I am the lucky one. I know that my life is better than most in this world. In order to bring light and justice to the voices that haunt me I am grateful each day that I can express myself and try to live in the light of love and compassion.
I encourage you, dear reader to talk to someone that is different from you. If you have to, make a new friend while picking out avocados or bandaids. Be a human. Lead with love, always.