The Chasm

Photo of two sides of a mountain pass

It’s been a day, Friends.

Today, Derek Chauvin was convicted on all charges related to the murder of George Floyd. While this is a clear legal victory, as many (including me) have noted, it is not justice.

We don’t live in a just society when the killing of unarmed Black men and women happen on a regular basis at the hands of police.

We don’t live in a just society when people are being shot while they are going to work, at home, at school, at their places of worship, almost daily.

We don’t live in a just society when we begin to assassinate the character of the victims almost immediately after they die because we value our rights more than humanity.

So, it’s heavy even though there was a legal victory today.

Today, I also felt like I failed my child.

My 15 year old brought home an assignment on upstander memoir. I wasn’t happy with the reading list provided, so I offered an alternative title, The Song Poet by Kao Kalia Yang as an alternative. That alternative was rejected despite my son’s attempt via e-mail to explain how the book fit the prompt.

My child has read one book, in 10 years of schooling that had an Asian protagonist (in 5th grade, Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shardbut in his 3 of years of secondary schooling at his middle-high school, he has read only novels written by white authors, and only one by a woman.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that #RepresentationMatters could pretty much be my middle name so really, this is not acceptable.

I was done today after my son received the e-mail that he could not, in fact, do his project on this alternative title, for the reason that the book had not been read by the teacher. The other books on the list, while not only by white men, had problematic portrayals of Muslim culture that I felt reified Muslim fundamentalism in ways that were troubling.

I wrote a direct and clear e-mail to the teacher about the importance of representation and my concern about the curriculum and his denial of my child’s alternative text (after I google searched for his email address and realized he was on Twitter and had most recently retweeted a tweet that blamed critical race theory and remote learning for making American students stupid among other incredibly problematic tweets).

He was nice about it, let me know that there were some diverse text that had gotten cut out because of the pandemic, and then let me know that, for him, teaching thematically around our “common humanity” and asking students to put “themselves in another’s shoes” was more essential than identity, although identity should always be considered.

It was a very diplomatic answer.

He also canceled the assignment, basically taking away the opportunity for extra credit from all students because two parents raised concerns.

I’m so tired.

I wonder how many times kids of color have to put themselves in another’s shoes without ever seeing themselves represented in texts?

I wonder about whether our common humanity when always filtered through one worldview is really common or is simply reproducing the dominant culture.

I wonder about how my child is in a room with a teacher who believes that antiracism is indoctrination, but that conversely seeing the world only through a white canonical lens is building empathy.

I am so tired.

And I feel like, in so many ways, even though this is my life work, if I am failing my own child, am I really making a difference?

I offered proactive alternative solutions — facilitating a book club with representative texts, integrating more diverse book sets into the curriculum, advocating for more diverse texts in the classroom.

I can take next steps — leave the school, write the school board, use my platform to launch a protest, keep working with new generations of teachers to ensure that they do better.

But I am SO TIRED.

I am tired of trying to justify to people that young people need their identities affirmed. I am tired of fighting and finding views that I wish I could unsee.

And my exhaustion is on top of so many things that I am not at liberty to say about my life right now because I worry about endangering people I love when I speak out.

The physical stress and strain of today on top of so many days is too much.

That’s it. That’s the post.

I’m just so freaking tired.