Sunday, February 4, 2018

Standing Out

My kids had a family themed event at their school this week. We make it a point to attend most of the festivities the school facilitates so as to foster a sense of community for our children in the place where they spend so much time.

On this night there was a full house , with no shortage of children and adults idly milling about while awaiting further instruction. There was a friendly vibe though as the kids & I walked amongst people we saw regularly. I like our school and quite a few of the families in it. It’s more diverse than many of the schools in our area with a small enough population to allow everyone to make friends easily if they try.
Before long, I bumped into a woman I speak to regularly but, to be honest, don’t know intimately. We engaged in a bit of small talk when my kindergartener - who’d been threading his way between my legs - interrupted her. “I like your buttons,” he said marveling at her jacket & purse, “what’s that one say?”

She looked down and asked “You tell me. Read it.”

I found the object that caught his attention and stared in surprise at the bold white print while he sounded out, “Black Lives Matter. What does that mean?”

She looked back at me as I touched his shoulder and said, “It means you’re important, buddy. And your sisters and mommy too.”

The white woman in front of me held my gaze, “Yeah...and it means *I* know that too.”

Just then, the intercom sounded directing us to our individual classrooms. I smiled a slight goodbye at her as we parted ways and found myself (embarrassingly) tearing up.

My husband & I have always been concerned with both the level of education our kids receive as well as the level of inclusion at whatever schools we choose. All the book smarts in the world amount to nothing unless they are given the opportunity to flourish amongst people that value their humanity. I don’t want them fighting the idea of “otherness” at this young age or being singled out as “the black kids” in class all while trying to learn 2nd grade math.

I also don’t like the notion of colorblindness as a cure to all the world’s problems because there’s nothing about my family’s color that should be ignored. It’s beautiful. And while I tell my kids that they are worthy and valuable day in and day out, it warms my heart to know there are a few other families purposely standing with me and recognizing that same notion; not just during a Black History Month program in class or by politely complimenting me on whatever head scarf I don while volunteering at the school.

An argument can be made that some things go without saying. And, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everyone has to march on Washington to prove their commitment to equality. Hell, I can respect your right to have your own views on how the economy should be fixed or how to provide healthcare to the masses but when you shout about all the things wrong with our country today and somehow pointedly ignoring the abysmal state of race relations, I see you a little more clearly.

So this woman and her button meant a lot to me whether she realized it or not. And I’m proud to know my kids are learning alongside children who’s parents speak up and stand out; not for acknowledgment but because saying it out loud means you don’t mind taking a stand and being included in the number.

And that comforts me during some of the more questionable times because it means we (as a people) are doing alright after all.

“I will respect your opinion as long as your opinion doesn’t disrespect anyone else’s existence.” -Unknown

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