Wednesday, February 1, 2017

courage in the face of fear

As the past few weeks have unfolded, I think a lot of people have been shocked. I think people were hopeful that things said in the campaign would not be realized. Each day has brought a new executive order that makes my breath catch in my throat. I’m not even really sure what to say. I look at my students and I don’t know what to say.

I teach character education as one of my electives. Our character trait for this month is Courage. We started watching a documentary from PBS called the New Deciders. It’s from 2016 about four different minority groups who were working to influence have their voices heard in the election: black millennials, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and Latino Evangelicals.

At first, my students protested, saying that watching a documentary about an already-past election was old news and something reserved for social studies class. I explained that voting and being active in your community, standing up for what you believe is right, and standing up for people who have not historically had a voice in this country, is courage.

They kinda just stared at me. We got started with it. I would pause it every few minutes to explain something.

And yesterday, one of my friends told me her fiance was prevented from visiting her/coming to the US on a business trip because of the Muslim travel ban. He’s a Palestinian refugee who moved to Jordan and lives and works there, and has international engineering work. He has a work visa to come and go legally to conduct business for his family.

And I talked to my friend this morning about the situation in Turkey and talked about the arrests that have been happening where adults were separated from their children, and the children were left alone at their house with no one to care for them.


We ended up talking a lot during the documentary, especially when they started interviewing Arab Americans. My kids had lots to say. And lots of questions.

And lots of questions I can’t answer. My kids come from families that came here for a better life. For better education opportunities. Better work opportunities. Safer neighborhoods for their kids to grow up in.

The hope that their kids would be judged not by the color of their skin, the accent that they speak with, or the clothing that they wear, but by the content of their character.

And my kids truly believed that they would receive that. They have talked continually how they think the Civil Rights movement was so long ago, so why are things not different for them? For an eleven-year-old, 63 years since Brown vs. Board of Education seems like an eternity. In the grand scheme of civil rights, it’s not long. But for a child, it is. To them, 63 years should have been enough time for them not to worry about how people perceive them.

Some of the judgements they’ve experienced, and some of it is the generalized recoiling from what they hear on the news. Thankfully, I don’t think many of them have been targeted for specific things.

I’m not really sure how the next few weeks will be.

I’m not really sure how to have these conversations with my students about courage and diversity (the character trait for this month).

I’m praying for my students. I’m praying for their families. I’m praying for my colleagues and friends and their family members who are trying to visit. I'm praying for refugees that had been approved and spent the little bit of money they had, and then got to airports and were denied. I'm praying for immigrants on green cards and student visas who went home to visit their families and now can't return.

I’m praying for peace and justice. And I'm praying for courage.

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