Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

I went to bed with a heavy heart last night, virtually unable to tell my remote control to shut down the television and resist enigmatic pull of Anderson Cooper and all the madness exploding in Ferguson, Missouri. I even took a shower, convinced that by the time I exited the hot steam and poured myself my favorite glass of milk, it would all be winding down.

It was not.

Amidst videos of people pouring iced water over their heads, a darker tragedy of a volatile nature has reemerged. As Chris Blow, a political commentator for CNN and reporter for the New York Times mentioned yesterday, the nation has essentially been simmering on this issue of race relations, and as previous tragedies have intimated, the pot is preparing to boil over. Trayvon Martin’s tragic situation and the trial that followed, along with other instances around the country, coupled with the immigration beast issues have created a maelstrom of seething anger and divisiveness in the United States.

How will this country withstand so much happening on the homefront, whilst President Obama deals with assaults from Republicans AND all the Middle East issues looming larger each day? Is our African American president really crippled as many seem to think, when it comes to taking a stand on the treatment of Black people in America? I don’t think so. I believe that there is still time for Obama to make his mark in his last years as president, especially since he cannot be reelected. He still has time to shed the politically correct cloak he’s been wearing and roll up his sleeves.

Nevertheless, my milk didn’t taste as delicious as it usually does as I saw the instigators and rabble-rousers manage to achieve their malicious intent to disrupt peaceful protestors and incite the authorities in Ferguson to use their riot tactics before I heaved a sigh and shut it down for the night.

This is another incident where everybody loses. Michael Brown, clearly a lost youth heading down the unfortunate but all too prevalent path towards a jail cell, was breaking the law with petty foolishness and lost any chance he had to live a productive and satisfying life by being gunned down unnecessarily. My partner says he should have been playing football somewhere, using his strength productively, perhaps on a scholarship somewhere. That’s how Mike Tyson got a chance to get off the streets and use his natural talents proactively. But he had mentors and people who snatched him up and steered him towards a better life.

The police officer who shot Mr. Brown also lost, because he is probably going to face charges for this recklessness on his part and his life will never be the same again. I don’t believe he started his shift that day with the intent to “take a nigger down” as someone told me recently. It seems like this situation escalated on knee-jerk reactions, some of it based on the young man’s size and combined with adrenaline, led to an unfortunate end. Clearly police protocol and sufficient back-up personnel were not in place as this nightmare unfolded so rapidly.

From the perspective of humanity, not race factors, both these men have lost their lives.

But who am I? I’m not the mother who lost a son, or the cop who is probably watching everything he had ever hoped for get flushed down the toilet. I’m not even the relative of either of these men.

I am however, the partner and lover of a Black man, who stares racial discrimination in the face every day. I am the mother of two bi-racial girls, girls who I would give my life for, who I fiercely try to protect from a Southern environment where they are judged instantly by White people. Yesterday, for instance, we went to the library and my daughter in her excitement to get in the door, exclaimed that when she grew up she wanted to own her own library (I laughed) because she wanted to be able to walk up and down the aisles and be able to read any book she wanted. For the three of us the online card catalogue is a shrine and we love searching for books that interest us. Sadly, the computer database was down yesterday and we moped over to the librarian at the counter, who was happily smiling at the lady in front of us in line and helping her with her search. When it was our turn however, the librarian’s smile was nonexistent and her answer to our questions were curt and dismissive. Condescending, as though our brown skin would somehow infiltrate the books entrusted in her care.

At a base level, I wanted to leap over the counter and shake her fat face, kick her in her fat ass and tell her, “Do you know who I am??? I have an IQ triple those of you and your whole entire redneck family. I was born and raised in New York City and can crush you. I have defied stereotypes and paid my way through college, survived abuse and given birth to six beautiful, intelligent children. Don’t you dare speak to us this way!”

But my upbringing and my education squelched my baser instincts and forced me to square my shoulders, check myself and enunciate extra carefully to this small-minded librarian our needs.

As the mother of two beautiful brown-skinned intelligent young ladies, and a woman who loves fiercely this strong, proud Black man, who has served his country, educated himself, and is striving to protect and provide for his family, I am a woman who worries.

Ultimately, I also carry guilt because as an educator who has taught in inner city schools and seen the hopelessness prevalent in these teenagers — as I once devoted my life to doing — I feel I should be back on those front lines. I should be using my degree and teaching license to serve those who really need someone to give a damn about them because I firmly believe that education is the key to rising above tragic situations like Michael Brown’s. Education is the key to bringing communities together, to working towards a better life. When you are educated about men like Ghandi, and study cultures who historically have faced adversity through sticking together, then they can inspire revolutions of hope and maybe, just maybe African Americans can begin the process of breaking the hard-wired chains of slavery that still linger generationally and keep them from realizing their true strength and power as human beings.

When I was almost 20 years old I got pregnant.  Despite my father’s objection three years before to me going away to college (“The only thing happening at colleges is sex, drugs, and alcohol!”), I went away…but it looks like he was right.  Naturally, I was shunned by my super Catholic family for the duration of my pregnancy, but I persevered.

The father? Uh, yeah, he’s of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion…another reason to place me in the pen with the black sheep all over the world.   The ever-independent New Yorker, I pounded my chest (carefully) with conviction, and proceeded to finish my senior year of college, have a baby, snatch up my diploma and conquer the world.  I abandoned my “next step” options of The Peace Corp or Harvard’s graduate program, and prepared to become a single mom with a college degree.

Then, while recovering with a colicky newborn, my “baby daddy” had his sweet sister serve me with papers so that he could claim paternity of his son.  Knowing nothing about the legal system, I forged on ahead, and prepared to sit down in a judge’s chambers and have paternity and child support established.  I had made it clear that I wanted nothing from him when I told him I was pregnant and he responded with, “I hope you don’t expect me to marry you.”  The thought had never occurred to me.

In any case, he picked me up at a friend’s house where I was living temporarily and drove me to the judge’s office.  We sat down and I recall that she was an older lady.   I couldn’t understand why she was so hostile towards me.  After all, I wasn’t the plaintiff seeking paternity.  I never denied baby daddy visitation.  I was simply trying to learn how to care for a newborn.

It was a short gathering in the plush office of the judge.  She berated me, reprimanded me, and spent all six minutes we were seated before her telling me what a disgrace I was; how I took advantage of this upstanding pillar of the community and now I was trying to hurt him even further.

I had no clue what she was talking about so I sat there silently, reeling, but taking it all in.  After all, I had been taught to always be respectful to my elders.

At the conclusion of the brief but verbally violent meeting, she established the paternity, and set the child support at $16. per week, or $64. per month.  Ignorant as I was to the workings of child support and the law, I accepted that and couldn’t wait to get out of her office.  My fury, directed at my future husband, was in his cowardice that he never attempted to refute her tongue-lashing towards me. He sat there and never once notified her that the petition was at is provocation and that I had not done anything to harm him or his wealthy family in any way.

I should have learned my lesson then.  But no.  I learned three things that would change my life over the course of the next twenty or so years.  One: I am decidedly, incredibly, and inexplicably fertile.  We married after the second child and had two more after that.

Two:  He was a coward then and is still a coward today.  Hence: the divorce.

Three:  There is very little justice in the real world.  

Fast forward.

Pouring out of me right now is an anger so fierce, so huge that I am struggling to contain it.  All I can do is cry and I have done my fair share for the last hour.  I tried doing laundry, but that drudgery didn’t stop the tears.  Sitting on the potty, I cried out to God at the utter unfairness of it all.

Despite that indelibly unforgettable moment before the judge back in 1991, I still have faith in the justice system.  I know it’s broken, and or crooked, or both, but I believe in fairness and equality and fighting the good fight.  I have tried to do that in cases where it truly mattered, even though it may have appeared trivial to others.  When students who were in jeopardy of failing my class would fabricate things I said and I was called before my administrators to answer for my supposed crimes, I stood firm and with outrage and hurt feelings, I established my innocence.  Naturally, teachers are guilty until proven guiltier in this country, but I still believe in telling the truth.

See, I had the hardest year of my life last school year, as I have described in other posts, working for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina.  My health suffered, my family suffered, and I endured more harassment, bullying, and discrimination than I ever thought possible.  My fairy tale joy at being hired at one of the supposed best districts in the state shattered fairly quickly when the nightmare began.

So, after a great deal of soul-searching, I filed a grievance, which resulted in nothing, lost my job because I wouldn’t lie for the school system and continue to falsify grades, and filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The Feds.  Oohhh.  The big leagues.  I was intimidated, but I did it.  It’s hard to prove harassment and discrimination.  But I gave them all that I could.

And it wasn’t enough.  Today, I opened a letter from them telling me:

“The processing of your charge of employment discrimination in the above referenced matter has been completed.  Based upon its investigation and available evidence, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.  No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

 

It sounds like a form letter.  My livelihood, my struggle, my tears, my sleepless nights, my health issues, my loss of viable employment in a career I dedicated years to, has been reduced to a form letter.  I lost precious years off my life span due to the unconscionable stress the daily assaults caused me.  And it all comes down to a form letter.

So, to all the teachers suffering or who have suffered harassment, threats, bullying, and discrimination, I know now why you don’t bother to complain, why you suffer in silence, why you go with the flow of an inefficient and corrupt system that fails the country every day, every year, with so many young minds.

To all the teachers who have endured what I have, and probably worse, I commiserate with you and join the ranks of the disenfranchised, the angry, and the tired.  If you have spoken up like I have and gotten nothing but a closed door, then we are all a part of the sisterhood of teachers who refused to do it anymore.  If you are Hispanic and educated and still have been treated like you are not intelligent enough, not organized enough, just not good enough to serve your students well, then we are a group that I am confident is steadily growing in this nation.

I may have lost this battle, but I will never, ever, ever, stop telling my story and revealing the daily abuses of teachers, the unethical fabrication of students educations, and how minority students are annually prevented from succeeding (unless they are minorities and athletes of course).

To Superintendent Tom Forcella, former principal Jesse Dingle, Kay Lawson-Demery, Joanne McClelland, of the distinguished Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district, and others who have committed crimes against students, parents, and teachers, you have a higher power than the justice system to answer to and your day is coming.  I may not be around to witness it, but I believe that no good deed goes unpunished.  One day your lies will be exposed, and the scandal will erupt and be found to be even larger than the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.  Until then, I will keep my data filled with evidence.  I don’t know how people like you sleep at night.