Alton Sterling has died. Alton Sterling was shot by a police man, while on the ground. Alton Sterling was Black.
I am a multiracial mom raising three kids just outside of Indianapolis. I easily pass for white, or at least racially ambiguous, and have my whole life. My racial identity always straddles two worlds: caught between objectification and privilege.
I am a teacher, and I most recently taught in Indianapolis Public Schools where most of the teaching force is white. Not everyone is, and I am not discounting the teachers who aren’t white in IPS. But I mention that the majority of the teaching force is white because it is important.
I also teach pre-service teachers at a local university. Most of my students, not all, but most, have been white students. Again, I’m not discounting my students who are not white, but I say this because its important.
I take teaching pre-service teachers extremely seriously. I am aware that so far, not all of the students in my class are like me- not ideologically, not religiously, not racially, not economically. Each student brings with them their own set of lived experiences, values, and beliefs.
When addressing teachers, or soon-to-be teachers, the university where I teach emphasizes that they have a historical understanding of the social construction of race, the systemic nature of racism, the dominant narratives of heterosexist normativity, and an introspective understanding that the world as they understand it is only one view, marked and shaped by a lifetime of external influences, which all had their own journey directly to them.
I mentioned that these teachers are white earlier because this means that the lifetime of experiences, of privileges they have had, are influenced by the fact they are white.
White people cringe when they hear the term “white privilege,” but let me tell you something: research has long shown that Black people are incarcerated at higher rates and for longer sentences than white people for the same crimes. Redlining is a long-documented practice of real estate that sustains the effects of white flight, well into this century. Acknowledging race is considered racist because people want to believe we live in a “post-racial” society.
But we don’t.
So my question to my students, and to you now is: what are we going to do about it, Indy moms? What are we going to teach our children?
Indianapolis is a segregated city, and mark my word, downtown is moving toward gentrification. If you want to know where real estate prices are about to skyrocket, take a look at where Indianapolis Public Schools are concerting their efforts to create, protect, and incubate “better” schools. This is problematic because instead of building up the population that is already in Indianapolis, gentrification brings in money from outside of the city to buy property, raise rents, and force people out. Our city’s children will be pushed to the margins to accommodate the newer, whiter, wealthier populates. A select few will be given the chance to attend decent schools, and again, those schools will be largely white, largely affluent, and nestled in those gentrified areas.
We, the moms of central Indiana, need to empower the current citizens of Indianapolis. You know how we do it? Through our own actions, of course, and through what we teach those little people who are in our care.
If you want to know what post-racial America will look like, then you need to teach your kids about race. You need to teach your kids about injustice. You need to understand for yourself what systemic racism is, how it affects you, how it affects your family, and how it affects the entire world you live in.
We, as mothers, are the doorway to the future. We are the gatekeepers.
In our households, in our care, are the little lives, the little souls that will carry tomorrow to fruition. We need to teach them that right now, Black Lives Matter is particularly important because we see time and time again how the system says they don’t.
And we need to have faith that little lives matter. Those little lives in your house will be the peacekeepers of tomorrow, and it’s up to you to teach them. Teach them to lift others up. Teach them not to go in and buy cheap property to raise the rents, but to figure out a way to recreate the infrastructure of a city to make it possible for the citizens who already live there to be homeowners and business owners. Teach your children to recognize and own their privilege, no matter how hard they–or you–think they work. Stop shaming other moms. Stop thinking you’re a savior when you help, and recognize that by acknowledging we are all a part of the problem, you can work to be a part of a solution.
Where do we go from here? We go forward. Mourn the life and tragedy of Alton Sterling. Don’t just hug your little ones tighter, but teach them that this is wrong. It’s not about how well you follow the rules or don’t, it’s about who makes the rules and why.
Teach them to stand up for what is right, even when it’s not popular.
“We must take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel