As a part of my classroom visits this week, I walked into a high school English classroom. I had not yet visited this teacher, and was interested to see what was happening in her course.
I left humbled and inspired and determined to return to the next class meeting. Why? This class was discussing the "n" word, through the lens of To Kill a Mockingbird.
On Thursday, February 1, 2018, we became the first high school in the United States (that we know of) to fly a Black Lives Matter flag on campus. It was a day full of emotion. The weeks leading up to this event and after it were littered with hate and vitriol, both for our students and for the Leadership Team. Yet overwhelmingly, the messages we got were ones of love and admiration.
A substantial part of the work done at the high school around this momentous occasion, was the commitment to carry the labor of equity and justice forward. We promised that this would not be a one-off, a single moment in time. We know that events, no matter how substantive and unique, are just that: events.
The real work happens when no one is looking. The real work happens in conversations. The real work happens in relationships. The real work is in being uncomfortable. The real work means being open to being wrong. The real work is in the humility that we do not have all the answers.
I saw the real work this week. I saw students and teacher grappling with hard truths, with harsh words, with the reality of fractured race relations in our world. I listened to human beings genuinely struggle with how to respond to the "n" word in literature, whether or not it should be replaced with "slave," and the implications of both replacing it and leaving it in.
I felt it. I felt the discomfort of our shameful history. I felt the pit in my stomach. I felt the guilt of my white skin.
But I was buoyed by the hope that filled me as I left the classroom both days. There is hope every time we have the courage to address this. There is hope every time one speaks up about injustice. There is hope with every hard conversation we initiate and participate in.
We must have the hard conversations.
If we don't... Who will?