I stopped blogging maybe 2 months ago and I don't think I'll go back and fill in the details. But here's the brief recap.
The school year finished online. I felt frustrated by these limitations. Co-teaching was hard. It was hard for me to get students to participate consistently in my well-funded district where learning with technology was already a routine part of learning. To say this was an equitable and accessible form of teaching is laughable. Many students fell off the grid. Some came on video calls every single chance they had. One student came on only once to tell me her Grandma died and she hadn't been able to go see her even though she lived nearby.
Starting maybe the third week I stopped seeing anyone outside my house in person. It just didn't feel safe. The exceptions were Max's parents and the grocery store. We would go on walks with Max's parents in masks in an unpopulated park with wooded trails where we could spread out. The housemates would take turns braving the grocery store, where capacity was limited, there were lines to get in, masks were required, and in some cases, there were arrows on the grounds of aisles denoting which way to walk. These were largely ignored. I kept myself busy teaching and playing cello and doing yoga and reading and hanging out with the roommates. It was a good situation.
America cares more about the wealth of its rich than the lives of its poor.
Basically, America decided it was done with the coronavirus because people were tired of not being able to get a haircut. Or at least that’s what the protesters organized by the right-wing said as they gathered with their guns and MAGA hats at the Michigan Capitol. States re-opened prematurely and then there were spikes of Covid cases in those states. Re-opening disproportionately affects people who cannot work from home and people who have to work. These people are more likely to be poor, and, due to systemic racism, more likely to be Black. Black and Indigenous people have less access to quality health care. Black people are more likely to be living in area with less access to food, more condensed housing, and are more likely to rely on public transportation. But America doesn’t care about that. America cares that the stock market looks okay.
America Awakening: Black Lives Matter
Posting this is why I have put a password on this blog. I am not here to write this chapter of American history from my white perspective. This is for me.
The phrase Black Lives Matter has been around since I was in high school, but the history behind the phrase is 400+ years old. This new awakening to the phrase, along with the statement “Defund/Abolish the Police” has taken the national spotlight in recent weeks following the murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis. This was nothing new. This had happened in America over and over and over again. But this murder was captured on video. And there was some direct lead-up to this outrage. Ahmaud Aubrey was killed in Febuary while jogging in a white neighborhood. When that video resurfaced, the people were outraged. Breonna Taylor, an EMT risking her life to save others during Covid, was murdered in her home while she slept. By Police. Who were looking for someone who DID NOT LIVE THERE and WHO HAD ALREADY BEEN PUT IN CUSTODY. When the police entered, Breonna’s boyfriend thought the house was being broken into. He tried to defend the house. Now he is in custody and Breonna is dead. The cops are still on the force, four months later.
After the death of George Floyd people took to the streets. Riots ensued. Police were by far the most violent at these events, tear-gassing crowds, running people over in cars, beating people with batons, murdering, and shooting crowds with rubber bullets as the people demanded justice for police brutality. But sure, Black people looting Target are the problem. Okay.
Overnight Instagram and other social media transformed. Instead of selfies on porches and throwbacks to pre-quarantine life, it was resources for people protesting, information on Black Lives Matter, research about defunding the police, and calls for justice. It became against the social code to post a picture of you fishing unless it was directly tied to justice for Black lives. It was amazing. And for people in my close circle, it’s still that way. For Black activists, it’s always been that way. And for some people, it never changed. I know which friends haven’t posted a damn thing about Black lives, but have continued to post their home cooking and hunting pictures.
In the family meeting for Crescendo Detroit just a few days after the death of George Floyd and resurgence of BLM, Angel invited Alexandra, the U-M dance teacher and a young Black activist to speak. She told the Zoom room of entirely Black families (minus me, the U-M choir teacher, and the literacy teacher) they needed to take action in the government, to run for positions, to vote, and to make their voices heard. Then one high school student asked her question. She struggled to put it into words. “I’m not saying this is a good thing, but, well, I mean it just seems like these riots are the only thing getting anyone’s attention. So, if it’s all that is working, is it really a bad thing? I mean I don’t want to condone violence, I’m not saying it’s good, but, well yeah.” Alexandra responded vaguely with a statement about how making noise in the street only matters if [we] have a voice in the government. An elderly member of a family told the kids of the group to stop their friends from going out in the street and destroying [our] community.
Then the leader of the organization, Damien, spoke. He didn’t directly contradict his elder, but he did tell a story.
He told the story of being a young teacher at band camp. There was a student that had a problem with a staff member and wanted to complain to Damien about it. Damien would not hear it. He shrugged him off. Later in the day, the student tried again. It was not the time, Damien said. At the end of the day, the student punched a giant hole in the wall. Damien said he was sorry he hadn’t listened earlier. The student was not punished. The parents were furious at him for not sending the kid home.
We have been asking nicely over and over. But sometimes, asking nicely, protesting peacefully, doesn’t get anyone’s attention. If punching a hole in the wall is what it takes, then so be it. But don’t say it was our fault when you didn’t listen.