We live a great nation. A nation where you can be whatever you want to be. I preach the American Dream in my classroom, I have to because I am an American Literature teacher. I love and believe in this country, but we are a country with problems. I teach at a poor, rural school with about four hundred students and we are about right at fifty percent black and fifty percent white. We do not have a race problem at my school.
Sure once in a while an ignorant person says something, but for the most part we really don’t. We are full of hometown spirit and we are a family. I have taught at other schools, but never really felt like I was home. At this little school, I am home. The students are family to each other, to the faculty, and all staff members. We live a little bubble and it scares me.
My students have grown up with each other. There are only three schools in our area, the elementary, middle, and high school, and they have followed each other through all three. They play football together, date each other, and they tell me, “Miss, this is my brother, can’t you tell?” I love that they love each other. I am proud.
But what will happen when they leave our little bubble? Sure our school and town doesn’t discriminate and treats everyone as equals, but the world isn’t like that. It breaks my heart to see young black men stereotyped and treated like criminals. I don’t want my kids going off into the world will target them just because of the color of their skin. They don’t know that world, and I don’t want them to know that world. I don’t want my students to go off into the world to better themselves, only to become victims of meaningless discrimination and mistreatment. I want to go with them and shield them from the ignorance of the world and people.
How do I prepare them for something like that? We read about it in historical documents and in the stories I teach. We have passionate discussions, and there is always that one innocent student that says, “Thank goodness, things aren’t like that anymore.” I want to tell them, no it’s not like that anymore. We live in 2015, this should no longer be a problem. All people should have a right to fair and equal treatment. It is in our constitution. Why isn’t society following the guidelines our forefathers have set out for us? Why do I have to explain situations like Ferguson and Charleston to my students? How do I? How can I explain something I do not fully comprehend myself?
We study the Declaration of Independence and trace how its significance has changed since it was first written, “That all men are created equal.” That small clause has changed from rich, white men then to white men, then to black men, and finally to women. Why isn’t it followed? I make sure my students understand the Constitution and fully understand their rights as American citizens. Why? Because I want them to go into the world knowing their worth and how they should be treated. No one should ever have to fear they will be mistreated because of something they cannot control. I hope they will never have to use this knowledge of the Constitution and it will be filed away like the definition of paradox and protagonist. But I give them this knowledge, just in case. I want them to go into the world prepared to face reality.
America needs to have a sit and look at herself in the mirror. Is this what our forefathers wanted? Do we really want our children to be sent into an America where people are discriminated against? How would you feel if it was your son or daughter? I have sent hundreds of my own sons and daughters into this world, they are of all races, sexes, and sexual orientation and I worry for them every single day. I don’t want their bubble of the world to be broken. It shouldn’t have to be.