Friday, August 22, 2014

Walk in My Shoes
By:  Lucianna Sanson
For the past couple of days, actually, to be more accurate, the past week, I have spent some time practicing what I teach: that genuine learning occurs when we build relationships with other people, spend some time in other people’s shoes, and remove the Ego and Self from a situation so that we may “see” with another’s perspective without the bias and prejudice of our own set of
beliefs overriding the learning experience. As an English language arts teacher, I spend the beginning of each semester preparing my students, all seniors, to engage in dialogue on diverse and divisive topics, to take an open-minded approach to learning, and to look at situations from multiple perspectives.
In order to reach, and in order to teach, my students how to hone these skills, I model them in the classroom and then we practice them using multiple techniques, such as socratic seminar circles, point-of -view journaling, and real-world-event-role-play. Hence, my spending some time in other people’s shoes this week. This week, I have endeavored to walk in the shoes of  Michael Brown, his Mother, his Father, and the police officer that shot and killed Michael. You see, last week, eighteen-year old Michael Brown, a black youth, was shot and killed by a white man, a police officer, in the town of Ferguson, Missouri. Last week, I wrote the following post in the National BadAss Teachers Association group in response to Michael’s shooting:
“Hey WHITE PEOPLE. Yes, you. I am talking to you. I am a White teacher here. I am a woman too. I want to say that all of you White folks need to stand in solidarity with your Black brothers and sisters during this time of pain and suffering. The murders of black people are not going to stop until White people Stand Up and Speak Up and Take Up for our fellow man. We are all Mothers and Fathers, Sisters and Brothers. What is wrong with you White folks that when children are murdered, you sweep it under the rug- or ignore it or say "Badass Teachers is no forum for this?" I am CALLING OUT my WHITE BRETHREN to acknowledge injustice and Fight for Freedom for all PEOPLE.”
What kind of response did my post illicite from the 51,000 member BATs group?  Shock and awe? Yes. Outrage? Yes. Blowback from, specifically the White community? Yes. Did I know my post would engender these responses when I wrote it? Yes.
Why then, did I write such a post? What would lead me to, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet laments in the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, “take up arms against a sea of troubles?” What was my rationale, my reasoning, for asking other White folks -specifically other teachers-  to stand up with Black folks in support of Michael Brown and his family? Who am I to wield the pen and flourish it as a call to solidarity?
( Internal dialogue between Ego and Self  )
Ego: “Who Are You?”

Self: “I am a privileged white woman who has black friends and black students and black family members.”
Ego: “Why should I care about people that I don’t know? Why should any of us care?”
Self: “I care because I am a woman, a mother, a teacher, and a human being. I care because I am a member of the human race and I believe that, as humans, it is our duty to help each other during times of pain, suffering, and deprivation.”
In this instance, in my internal dialogue, Self won out over Ego. So, I posted my one woman call to action and, stripping away Ego and Self, proceeded to monitor and engage in dialogue with many other individuals in the BATs group. Posting, as it turns out, was the easiest part. Sitting for hours, engaging in dialogue, reading posts from those that disagreed and from those that agreed with me, took up the better part of the night and morning. What did I learn from writing that post? Was it worth it? If I knew then that #Ferguson was going to turn into endless nights of people vs. police, of riots and tear gas, of rubber bullets, of arrests, would I have posted those words? Would I have posted those words knowing the blowback in BATs and the hours of moderation and patience that my fellow mods would have to endure in the days ahead?
After re-living multiple scenarios in my head, on paper, in discussions and dialogue, after removing Ego and the Self, after checking my privilege repeatedly, I have to answer with a resounding YES. I would post the same words again- knowing the cause and effect they would have- knowing the strife it would bring to my beloved BATs, I would do it in a minute. I would do it because the police officer who shot Michael can’t take his shots back, Michael Brown can’t be resurrected and brought back to life, and Michael’s parents have forever lost a child.
Walk in My Shoes.

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