“Why don’t they like us?”

My neighbor Crystal brought me to my knees. I am new to the neighborhood, and she’s been the most inviting.

Crystal is a Black woman, a strong, affable, beautiful mother of three elementary-age children.

We stood on the side of the porch, talking about plants, vacations to the beach, schooling at home, her trampoline and my crazy barking dogs. We talked about books and bonded over Victorian romance novels.

She told me her background–how her family doesn’t understand why she moved to the country “to live with the whites,” how she wants her children to have more than she ever had growing up, how she works from home, so she can “always be there for my kids.”

Crystal told me of the neighbor across the street and three doors down who called the cops on her son when he got in a scuffle with his friend, a little white girl who hit him first.

He was six.

Then she grinned and told me how she loves to walk by that house, and while the kids are “no longer friends,” her family smiles and waves as they walk by.

That “incident” was three years ago.

Crystal then got solemn. She looked over at her daughter, looked back at me and said, “I’m so glad to talk to you this way this morning. Last night we watched CNN–all that’s on the news–and my kids ask me: ‘Why don’t they like us?’ You talking to me is good. My kids need to see us talking.”

My, God.

Like you, I imagine, my thoughts and emotions are a mess. Nothing compared to my Black friends, I’m sure, but a mess nonetheless.

My family is interracial. My grandsons bleed Black blood. The injustice I see is personal. But even if it wasn’t, my soul would scream for an end to all the cruelty, the disparity, the inequity and inequality. The destruction of Black lives.

It has for the years I’ve spent in the classroom, teaching mostly children of color–learning about their lives, hopes, plans, and dreams–and hoping, somehow, I can help them achieve, what seems to be all too often, the impossible.

Therein lies the problem. Their Lives should always be possible.

Black Lives Matter.

And as an educator and as a white woman, I will keep listening and learning. I will keep advocating for authentic and humane teaching practices that honor the lives of the most vulnerable until they are not most vulnerable. I hope I see that day in my lifetime. Today would be good.

I know social media has been inundated with resources of late–many solid reading lists, much needed as white people work to educate ourselves. I offer three more:

This article lists Black owned bookstores. I ask that you support these enterprises. If you read this blog, you already know the power of books and reading. Please support these business owners and invest in this power.

This article includes an interview with Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the book Just Mercy. I read this book in 2014 when it was first published. It’s one of a handful of books that have challenged and changed my core.

Follow #31daysIBPOC on Twitter and read the posts by these brilliant, passionate, inspiring educators. They challenge, charge, and call for change. They have helped shape my thinking both professionally and personally, and I am grateful for their voices.

We cannot remain silent, sheltered, or shrug off the responsibility. We must be actively anti-tacist in thought, word, and deed. All the time.

Crystal and her children deserve more. And they deserve it every second of every day. Never should a Black child anywhere at any time ever feel “Why don’t they like us?” Ever.

In my heart, it’s as bad as “I can’t breathe.”

3 thoughts on ““Why don’t they like us?”

  1. Lori McQuillen June 3, 2020 at 5:58 pm Reply

    Amy, the link to Black-owned bookstores doesn’t open anything for me.

    Like

  2. arheitmann June 3, 2020 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Thank you, Amy, for this heartfelt and insightful post. Also, regarding Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, there is a young adult version that is perfect for high school classes. I was also excited to see that the movie adaptation has just been made available to sream free through June. Thank you again for your words and resources.

    Like

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