Figure I put it out there.
As most folks know by now, I’m on a long-term paid leave of absence from BPS. In keeping in touch with contacts at the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) and educators at several schools in Boston, I feel my decision to move on from Education was the right call for me. In an industry that for years unfairly and systematically targets male educators–specifically educators of color–I’m more comfortable with my decision to publicly say I’m leaning toward parting ways with BPS.
While yes I’ve said many times I’m ready to move on, I never outright said I am or what my next plan is.
Now I can.
Before I talk about my next step, I do want to address some things I know some folks who follow me on Facebook have been waiting for me to say.
- I left the Mission Hill School in April because the stress I was under at the time was too much for me to handle. The combination of work-related stress as well as stress at home–the latter of which I still have to contend with–threatened to send me back to a place I’m in no rush to return to. A very dark place mentally and emotionally. Everyone deals with different types of stress differently. The key is balance. For me, there was simply too much bad stress I was dealing with.
- Some might call my departure from MHS almost a month after a former colleague quit more than a coincidence. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I won’t speak to his reasons for leaving. It’s not for me to put someone else’s businss out there without their permission and more importantly, I wouldn’t do it anyway. That said, as I said above I had my own reasons for leaving. Unlike my former classroom partner, the school community knew in advance when I was leaving. It’s just not my style to leave without saying anything personally. Call it an ego thing or chivalry if you want.
- I’d be lying if I said I don’t hold ill will toward BPS for some of the things I experienced over the last 10 years. What I will also say is I don’t think it was because of my race. I am not prepared to say what forms of discrimination I think was at play at this time because I’m still trying to figure that part out. Actually even if I did, I wouldn’t share that detail publicly until well after I’ve sought legal counsel.
- I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say recent incidents in Education involving male educators have made me more and more self-conscious of my being in the minority in an industry dominated by white females. Something the American education system failed to pay attention to during the 80s and 90s were the children/students of single mothers and the unique needs of those students. Specifically minority families. This is not the time to drive male minority educators out of schools. This is the time to bring them in and most importantly, KEEP THEM IN. This is a disproportionate problem nationwide that can no longer be ignored or “kicked to the next person in charge”.
I learned alot over the years. This much is true. I learned alot of important life lessons my two years at Mass Bay Community College failed to teach me: Experience is the Greatest Teacher one can ever have. There are ALOT of things you will never learn just sitting in a classroom and that includes grade school. Going with my final point above, I’ve gone as far as I could this year. Looking back at this year, I feel if I leave BPS, I’m leaving in a good place mentally. I gave it my best and there’s not much to be said beyond that.
The most important lesson that I learmed–and a very hard one, at that–is it’s ok to be selfish when it comes to your personal goals. Until four years ago, I was content giving up my own goals in life to just focus on working in classrooms for the next 30 years. Then I met student teeachers and high school students whose dream was to become teachers. That was when I realized I really didnt’t want to work in classrooms for the rest of my professional life. After all, my colleagues could tell at first glance I would be better suited doing something I really wanted to do. Something I was both passionate about and something where I could make better use of my unique skillset.
So I am taking steps to make that happen. For the first time since I left high school, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. Most importantly, its time I got started.
From the shooting itself, the way the national media is falling over themselves trying to characterize it to the shooter’s manifesto to the public outrage against such a horrific act of violence. I’d say last week’s mass shooting proved beyond reasonable doubt the desire to carry out racism-driven acts of mass murder never faded away. The shooter himself pointed out in his manifesto the White Supremacist groups have simply moved their activities to the internet where it’s easier to keep what they talk about and plan hidden from the Feds.
This might surprise some of people (but I don’t think it will surprise that many folks) but I first learned about this history of racism in America when I was in the 4th Grade. I didn’t learn it in school though we did have social studies. I learned it from what was then a 10-year old history book I found in the school library the librarian let me keep. The book, which covered pre-American history to Reagan’s first term didn’t mince words in the topics of the Slavery, the Civil War, The Holocaust and what I call The Old Civil Rights Era.
After I finished that book for the first time, I remember seeing the 1988 movie Glory. That was when I was reminded I’d seen the Confederate Flag in black & white pictures taken during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and asked someone who was in high school during the 1960s about it. The person I asked lived in my neighborhood and they were White. I just can’t remember if it was a man or a woman. Anyway, they said after World War II some people felt Adolf Hitler was right about in Whites being the one pure race. They said some people felt the only people who should be allowed to be called Americans were those with blonde hair, blue eyes and were born in the U.S.A. They said some people felt blacks and other minorities were to blame for all the country’s problems. They said some people feel America should make black people slaves again because that’s how the country was at the time it was formed. They said some white people feel it’s in their right to hurt black people just for being black. They said some white people feel black people enjoy getting mistreated by white people.
…Mind you, I was 9 at the time. Even so, I remember being pretty impressed with how they summed up the history White Supremacists in like 5 minutes! The amazing this is until last week, I had convinced myself 1960s-era racism was just that: history. Then I saw the age of the Charleston Church shooter. That’s when I realized racism never left in the first place.
…This was when I really should have paid attention. Looking back at the ’08 election and the ’10 midterms, I wish I took a more serious look at the rise of the National Tea Party Movement for what it REALLY was: A front for White Surpremacist groups. Tea Party leaders claim the group was founded in Boston during the American Revolution. The problem with that arguement is I live in Boston and I obviously know my history. There’s not a shred of truth to back that claim up. Plus, no one even HEARD of the Tea Party until a few weeks after the ’08 election.
I think back to that moment when Jessie Jackson wept once Obama’s ’08 victory was confirmed. When a journalist asked him why he was crying, he said it’s going to be very hard for Obama and was afraid for what he would have to go through. Looking back now, THIS is what he really meant. The White Supremacists are out in force and they are deeply embedded in American Politics now.
Mind you, there have been mass shootings in the past. Until Sandy Hook, Columbine was the worst. After every mass shooting since Obama became president, there’s been a sharp increase in gun sales in certain parts of the country immediately aterward. There have always been anti-government millitant groups in the U.S., the majority based on the west coast and in the southwest. These groups have become more radicalized ever since Obama became president. One of these groups, who call themselves “The People’s Millitia” say their their mission is to be ready to remove the president or any other politician by force “for the good of the country”. These groups were pretty quiet when Bush 43 was in office. The Feds have noted a dramatic increase in chatter by these groups ever since Obama became president.
Not a coincidence.
The numbers are static but notice which states have the highest numbers. Most were formerly Confederate States. I forgot to mention this before but in the first two years of Obama’s presidency, a word unheard since the years leading to the Civil War has been uttered: Cecession. The hate is so strong, people are saying states should break from the rest of the country because they don’t like the fact a black man is in the White House.
This is also the true reason behind the whole “Birther Movement” when he was running for president. The racists did everything they could think of to disqualify him from before and the election in ’08. Yet, no one said a thing when Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and Rafiel “Ted” Cruz” were running for president even though both were not born in the US. Jindal’s citizenship was not vetted until after he became an adult and Cruz was actually born in Canada. The irony, of course is the GOP was noticably silent. One thing Obama should be given credit for is simply by being president, the whole world was reminded America still has a race problem.
The Media and the Government both want you to believe ISIS, Iran, Russia, Al Qaeda, China and North Korea are all the biggest threats to our country. These hate groups are the REAL enemy. They have always been here, patiently biding their time. The Charleston Church Shooter–and by the way I’m not saying his name on purpose–said he wanted to start a race war. In his manifesto, he said he wanted to be the one to move the Neo Nazis, Skinheads and other groups to violence against blacks and other minority groups. The conditions have been in place ever since Obama became president. It’s not widely talked about on the media but President Obama has gotten more death threats than every other president before him COMBINED. The majority laced with racial epiphets and obscenities.
Let’s go back to the ghost from the past that was buried in 1865 but refuses to rest: The Confederate States of America.
Now, for those who don’t know their history, 13 states ceceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America immediately after Abraham Lincoln (Republican) was sworn in as the 16th President of the United States. The reason: They were afraid Lincoln was going to abolish Slavery (which he did but out of desparation to win the war). They felt the federal government had no right to interfere with their way of life and so they formed the Confederacy using the Union’s constitution as a blueprint for theirs. Fortunately–more for the Union Army–Europe stayed out of it and didn’t get involved with either side.
Fast forward to the war’s end: The Confederacy was defeated and rejoined the Union. In a move that can only be viewed as classy, Lincoln pardoned all of the Confederate soldiers taken prisoner at the end of the war. Rather than punish the Confederacy for the cost of the war, all was forgiven. Now let’s fast forward to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The story goes, Confederate vets dressed in white sheets walked in on blacks meeting in a church. The vets said they were the ghosts of Confederate soldiers who died during the war. Terrified, the meeting ended immediately and the blacks fled for their lives. To say the KKK is the spiritual successor to the Confederate Army would be no understatement. Throughout history, they are often seen with the Stars and Bars: A clear sign of their anti-black and anti minority ideology.
The Confederate flag joined the swastika and the Nazi Flag as a symbol for White Supremacy in America after World War II. Speaking of, alot of people seem to have forgotten when WWII started in 1939, Hitler made a call for “all purebloods to come to the motherland” to fight for Germany. Thousands of Americans answered that call and fought FOR Nazi Germany under “The Eagle Corps”. After the war, many brought their White Supremacist views with them back to the U.S.–just in time for the Civil Rights Movement.
Switching gears, one (White) pundit said it right on CNN a few days ago: More White Americans need to stand with Black Americans in solidarity. They need to do it more and they need to do it proudly. The reverse is also true: Black Americans need to stand with White Americans in solidarity. They need to do it more and they need to do it proudly. This is the most effective way to show the racists on BOTH SIDES they are not welcome in this country. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said either we learn to live together in peace or we will perish together as fools.
The first step is admitting America STILL has a problem with racism. It never went away. It’s not history. It’s here. It’s happening now. It’s not a problem that one person or one group of people can confront alone. It requires a strong, unified response to defeat it and claim the victory over it. Until that happens, America will never truly be free of this aspect of its past.
Me and my City Year Team during my 2003-04 Corps Year
Me and my City Year Yeam during my 2004-05 Corps Year.
The City Year program shows it’s definitely possible for people of different walks of life to come together, work together and share their struggles together. In my case, I thought it was so nice I did it twice: The red jacket I’m wearing in the second picture? They’re from my first year, which was City Year’s 15th Anniversary. I still keep in touch with most of my team mates from both of my teams via Facebook.
Getting to the point I want to make with these pictures, at the very beginning each Corps Year, the whole corps goes to a weeklong retreat. At the retreat, we confront the hatreds and biases that separate us as human beings head on. The three most powerful topics were the workshops on race, sexual orientation and gender equality.
For the race workshop, the facilitators separated the group by race. They took out big sheets of flipchart paper and had the group list every racial slur and things they didn’t like about the other races that they could think of. Both years, the slurs for whites done by the black corps members spanned two pages. My first year, I noticed none of the second year corps members participated. That made more sense when the group came back together and saw what the other groups had come up with. Then we were challenged to talk about the lists, how it made us feel and how we would feel if someone called us one of the listed slurs. These were biases team mates who would be working closely with for the next 10 months felt towards members of other races.
Everyone knew coming in that they would be working with a diverse team. No one thought they would deal with such a personal matter in such a public way. I think it was effective and did what it was designed to do: Give us pause as for some corps members–and this is gonna be hard to believe–this would be their first time working closely with blacks or whites. My second year doing this workshop is the one I will never forget. Not just because of how it ended but who made it so memorable: My team mate and brother Marcos Antonio set the tone for that week. After we finished, he stood up and said “I think we should take all of these lists, put them together and burn them.”
And that is exactly what we did. The retreat was at a summer camp so naturally, there were campfires. We threw the lists into a fire pit, lit them and watched them burn to ashes. No one moved until the fire burned itself out. I STILL can’t put into words what that felt like 10 years later. It was amazing.
I think something like that needs to be done today.