I don’t care who you or what you do or what you look like or where you are from. You matter. The other night when things were in flames in Baltimore and the riots were happening I was so furious. I was listening to head banging Metallica and wanting to scream in the streets. I was not at all supporting anarchy and chaos. I wasn’t supporting the mom who later went down and tried to smack sense into her kid.
I was mad because there is a problem and no one wants to talk about it. No one and why? Why can’t we? I wrote a blog post and still felt unresolved and frankly I still do. I went to school yesterday and thought nothing more of it but an ember was burning. If I don’t talk about it who will?
Then I read Jackie’s post and I thought yes. This is it. So many of my students idolize Martin Luther King Jr. I teach college speech and rhetoric so yes MLK comes up. Always. Then that MLK quote just resonated with me. It actually caught fire on my heart and my mind on my way to work and I was overcome by tears. I was overcome by all the same emotions from my blog post. And thought to myself….I NEED TO LISTEN TO WHAT THE WORLD IS TELLING US.
And guess what I did. I did just that. I spent 80 minutes of my class today talking with my students about this. We didn’t just talk about this. We talked about the hard parts of this. We talked about our own prejudices. We talked about our own stereotypes and I listened and I said 800x your voice matters despite what the world tells you. We cried. We comforted. We giggled. We had sympathy and we realized. We talked about what it was like to live in a diverse community and more importantly what it is like to be a teenager. It was raw. It was real and my eyes were open.
At the end of the class period we left the room congratulating ourselves for talking about the tough stuff and a reminder from me that they do matter. That we all matter. They finally understood why I don’t allow the words, “Shut up” in my room and I never will. They may never remember the lessons I taught them on grammar and american literature, but I guarantee they will always remember that conversation. We all will.
The biggest lesson I received out of it was that we have so very much further to go and together with our generation and this next generation we have the ability. We just have to listen.