Monday, October 14, 2013

Metamorphosis in America pt 1 – The Frustration

I’m starting a new series of blog posts which aim to address the following questions:
  1. Do things really need to get any worse in our country before we start to see real change?
  2. What are the conditions that can cause a collective whole to create societal change?
  3. What are some examples of progressive change happening in America?

All that said…I’ll start with how I’m feeling now about the topic of change in America…FRUSTRATED.

Over the summer I had the pleasure of teaching third and sixth grade students more about the Civil Rights movement. While doing that, I also educated myself quite a bit.

I’ve always had a breadth of knowledge about different experiences and stories of the Civil Rights movement; At the same time, having learned about the Civil Rights Movement with a “breadth-of-stories” approach, I think I missed out in learning the specificity of adversity, contributions and admirable character traits which shape so many of the narratives of this time. It sort of all got lumped together in – things were really bad, and these people did great things so you can have a great life.

Through teaching the specific story of the lunch-counter sit-ins to my students, I learned more about the strategic efforts that went into enacting the change those particular participants in the movement wanted to see. I was amazed by the sense of dedication, passion and resilience that those participants possessed, and also impressed by the results of their efforts.  When I saw The Butler movie that recently came out, I let out a quick/small burst of excitement when I saw the Woolworth’s restaurant because I actually knew what this was about and could speak to the efforts those college students placed in arranging the sit-ins and having to deal with pepper  being thrown at them, being spat on, having ketchup and hot coffee poured over them all for a greater purpose.

I begin this post with a lens of the Civil Rights movement for many reasons.  The Civil Rights movement is a movement loaded with rich history, amazing leadership and unsung heroes. The collective whole brought about a change to a society which was in dire need of change.  In my opinion…my country is still in DIRE NEED OF CHANGE.  I want to be a part of a movement that causes change. The only problem is…I DON’T KNOW HOW OR WHAT TO DO TO CAUSE CHANGE? And I should clarify…there has been a lot of positive change and progress that has been made for several causes. Gay marriage is a great example of people rallying together for a cause and creating some results. The changes I want to see have more to do with gun violence, racial profiling, and unfair legislation and systemic racism which keeps blacks and other persons of color disenfranchised.

 Despite the apathetic and complacent attitudes usually associated towards racial socio-political affairs, there are plenty of people who want to enact change in our society. I  think there are a good number of people who may share my feeling of wanting to help change the landscape regarding these issues, but usually get caught up trying to tackle the following hurdles:

  • I don’t know who the enemy is – so unlike during the times of the 1960’s Civil Rights era, there doesn’t seem to be a clear antagonist or singular piece of legislation that could/can magically make things better for the plight of the racially oppressed or countless gun violence victims living in America.  It appears that the “enemy” has taken on a stealth persona caught up in bureaucratic red tape. Not to mention all of the people that believe we live in a post-racial society, and/or those who avidly seek to maintain/protect our current gun laws. This feeling of a nebulous/invisible enemy is troubling and unsettling for someone who wants to see change.  Regardless of the enemy’s visibility factor, the outcomes and repercussions of the “enemy’s” presence is very visible and has had real dire consequences on our communities and lives. 

  • What is our Approach? In the event that there are clear and precise targets to go after that will change the systems of racial oppression and gun violence, the question then becomes, what is the approach change agents should use to catalyze and sustain the desired results? This was often something that was debated during the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. I personally can’t see a “by any means necessary” in tow with a gun in hand as the most reasonable way to address gun violence. As ridiculous as that sounds, I use it to illustrate the point in that a strategic approach is one that can capture people’s attention, rally support and create change.  The approach to the Civil Rights movement has often been studied and revered for its keen approach in creating the results it sought to garner. If there is indeed going to be change regarding systems of racial oppression and gun violence, what does it look like to create that change?

  • Immediacy of Results : The last hurdle that I feel like blows out my candle to create change is the immediacy of results. Even if there were to be a clear target to suitably approach to create change…how long would it take for real change to take place and what would be the long-term sustainability of that change? I often question the immediacy factor because as someone who grew up in the “microwave” generation, I expect to see things must faster.  There’s a “fruits of my labor/return on investment” mentality that I can’t help to shake. As a teacher that works at a school in crisis, I constantly am wrestling with the education reform approach taken to address the school’s needs and wondering about the results we’ll see. Sure, some of the kids test scores have gone up, but many of the students are significantly behind academically, and let’s not even begin to talk about the social-emotional pieces which need to be addressed. Will gun violence really be reduced because of new gun laws? Will racial oppression just find a new way to mask itself into the fabric of society if other systemic pillars are challenged and destabilized?  How do we champion the progress made with Obama and yet recognize the journey ahead with Trayvon Martin?

I’m not an expert, but I’m open to suggestions and ways I can educate myself. I take a risk in sharing this because I could come off extremely ignorant to current movements/organizations that are trying to address the issues I mentioned. Either way, I believe this country is in dire need of change. I will exchange looking ignorant for a way to look involved in creating change. Yes I’m a teacher…and I don’t discount the work I’m doing to bring about positive changes in the lives of young people… I’m seeking an additional affiliation though. I want to be a part of an urgent macro-level change movement that reduces gun violence and helps uplift racially oppressed people economically and socially. I know it may sound lofty…but if Dr. King can dream….why can’t I?

Please listen to the words in the video below which really capture my sentiment. 

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