What Do I Say To My Students?

A teacher friend just asked me how I plan to talk to my students about Charlottesville on the first day of school. The country is on fire. White supremacy has taken over the White House. People are dying in the streets. What am I going to say? I do have a plan about what I’m going to say to the students in my English classes on Wednesday about the political turmoil in this country. It’s the same plan I had at the end of the summer of 2016 in light of the murder of Philando Castile and the police officers…

What Color Is Your Tiki Torch?

My dear White brothers and sisters who are expressing surprise at the expression of tiki-torch carrying White Supremacy, violence, and domestic terrorism in Virginia today, I would like a word. Yes, I’m talking to you who just said, “I can’t believe this is 2017.” If we are the type to be offended by racism, of course we are outraged by today’s news. Of course we want to distance ourselves from those uncanny, waxen-faced weirdos waving Confederate flags and making Heil salutes over the flames of their tiki torches. Distancing ourselves is not enough. In fact, I argue that we take…

No More Bullets

It’s already another bad summer. If you live in my area and watch the news, you may know the story of two young men shot while driving and riding in a car. You may have seen that the passenger died. You may have seen the dead man’s father, eyes glassy with grief, looking into the camera and saying that no father should have to feel this. No father ever. There was a candlelight vigil the day after the shooting where I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house where the man died. The last thing I said to…

What I Said at the Friendship Prayer Service

It’s funny that the God Squad asked me to give today’s talk about Friendship because it’s my job at this school to teach about argument and debate. I teach my students to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, analyze their weaknesses, and crush them in debates. Not very friendly. But we have a saying in my class and that is in argument, you must first seek to understand, then to be understood. If you release yourself of the responsibility of trying to change someone else’s mind, then you are free to try to understand the other person’s point…

To My White Sisters Amongst the 48%

We feel good about yesterday. We woke up this morning feeling better than we have since before the election. We exerted ourselves and we marched in solidarity with millions of others around the globe. We thought we were alone in a dystopian fascist world, but now we know we aren’t. We feel better. More comfortable. The march was so diverse, we are saying to one another. There weren’t just white people there. And wasn’t it nice that the cops were so supportive and smiley? No arrests. No violence. I’m only talking about myself, but there is a reason we don’t…

Were You Scared?

A few days ago, a beloved former student of mine (a black man) from the charter school where I used to teach tagged me on Facebook with the following meme:(It’s probably good to note here that I’m one of those teachers that is better in retrospect than I am in the present moment. I’m kind of like childbirth that way. When my class is over, you’re glad you went through it and tend to forget the pain.) Perhaps it is this amnesia effect that caused my beloved former student to forget that I ruin jokes. And I ruined this one big time….

Why Do You Pray That Way?

I pray with my students at the beginning of every single class. When I worked in public schools, I called it Breathe. Always the same words: Sit up nice and straight and tall, feet flat, rear ends to the backs of your chairs, shoulders back, eyes closed or looking down at your desk. Take a nice deep breath in and out. And another nice deep breath in and out. You are a person of great dignity and worth. The world got better on the day of your birth. There is nobody better than you. And one last deep breath in and…

To My So-Called Progressive White Friends During the Summer of 16

Listen, some of my best friends are white. I’m not racist against whites, I swear. I’m not trying to say I’m the Queen of Consciousness either. My own snow blindness is as devastating to the goals of equality and justice as yours is. But if I’ve grown in my awareness at all, it’s because of articles like Michael Eric Dyson’s Death in Black and White, and Sally Kohn’s This Is What White People Can Do to Support #BlackLivesMatter.  I am tempted here to just give a long reading list including but not limited to the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Jericho Brown,…