Monday, June 15, 2020

I Know Where I Stand

We marched, from the grass on the sled hill at the park district into the street.

TELL ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.

Past the library, past the fire station, towards the grocery store on the corner.

I saw you.

You were up on the sidewalk.

TELL ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.

I looked around. There were people I didn't know and others I did. A friend who I met when both our sons were in preschool. A former student and his family. A family we're friends with because our sons are also friends and because both parents are teachers like my husband and me. A former co-worker of my husband. Another family with parents who are teachers and kids similar in age to our own and a father who happens to serve on our school board. There were a lot of us marching.

But you.

You were up on the sidewalk still, arms crossed, face unmoved. You watched us.

We marched past you.

HANDS UP.
DON'T SHOOT.

HANDS UP.
DON'T SHOOT.

Past the grocery store on the corner, past the high school where we turned east.

WHAT DO WE WANT?
JUSTICE.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
JUSTICE.

We marched, past the middle school, up the hill, into town, past the Dunkin Donuts where we turned south.

WHAT DO WE WANT?
JUSTICE.
WHEN DO WE WANT IT?
NOW.

We marched down Lake Street until the crowd stopped in front of the police station. We chanted.

IF WE DON'T GET IT?
SHUT IT DOWN.
IF WE DON'T GET IT?
SHUT IT DOWN.
IF. WE. DON'T. GET. IT?
SHUT. IT. DOWN.

On we marched, down the street, past the McDonald's, into Kracklauer Park.

SAY HIS NAME
GEORGE FLOYD
SAY HIS NAME
GEORGE FLOYD

SAY HER NAME
BREONNA TAYLOR
SAY HER NAME
BREONNA TAYLOR

I walked next to my 13-year-old son, unable to shake the image of you watching as we walked by.

I send my children to school to be seen and loved, celebrated and nurtured.
I send my children to school to be embraced and nudged, held and free.
I send my children to school to be given knowledge to engage with the world, to learn how to make the world a better place, to be empowered.


I send my children to you.

Who watched us walk by.

I want to hope that you didn't know there was going to be a Black Lives Matter protest and just happened to discover us with our signs and our chants as
You watched us walk by.

I want to believe you were looking for a friend, waiting for them so you could join in alongside them and until then
You watched us walk by.

I want to give you the benefit of the doubt but I can't ignore the evidence.

You watched us walk by.

Here I am, days later, unable to shake that image.

I want to claw at the memory, shred it into bits and pieces so small that it no longer haunts me.

But what I saw cannot be unseen.

It's branded into my heart.
An ache I did not ask for but was forced upon me and will burn forever.
A scar that continues to sting.
I choke back tears of embarrassment and shame that you are one of us.
I slam the door on the memory, lock it up, shove it into the recesses of my heart.
I wish that was enough to save students from you. I wish it was that easy.

But I am not naive.

I promise to keep my heart open, arms reaching for the sky, accepting the light and shining it back into the world and onto the students who sit before me. I pray that my light will overpower any darkness that came before me and fend off any darkness that comes after. I wish it was that easy.

But I am not naive.

I do not pretend to be able to solve all the problems.
I do not pretend to be able to save my students.
I do not pretend to be able to protect them.


Instead
I promise to be there for them, to listen, and to be honest.
I promise to advocate, to speak up, to point out inequities.
I promise to fight for change.

I will stand alongside them.
Whether you watch us walk by or choose to join us.
I know what I stand for.
I know who I stand with.
I know where I stand.

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