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C'est la Z

Before condemning try walking in their shoes

I've got some CS Ed stuff I want to write but can't bring myself to writing about it today. I rarely post outside of my wheelhouse - CS, Education and the intersection of the two.

I don't really think I'm qualified to say much about the current crisis. The out of control police, racism, class warfare, a failed government not only at the federal level but also in New York city and state but maybe I can share something worthwhile from my narrow experiences.

I've been seeing too many posts and tweets about the protests condemning any rioting. I've never promoted violence but still I thought I might have something to say.

The important background piece is that for those of us who are white and who grew up with some level if privilege, it's hard for us to really understand the what oppressed people suffer.

I started life in a somewhat well to do family, I attended private school through first grade, then my parents pulled me and my siblings out for public school - somethingn for which I'm now grateful. Shortly after, my dad got sick, lost his job and later passed away. That left my mom raising 3 kids on a teachers salary. On the one hand we had the apartment, on the other I wore hand-me-downs. I worked my way through school and payed "rent" living at home not because I wanted to but because we needed me to. So, we weren't well to do but although I didn't realize it at the time, I possessed great privilege both in terms of my skin color and also in terms of what my mom was willing and more importantly able to sacrifice of herself for her children.

As I got older my schools, though public were less reflective of society. Populations were pretty diverse but I was brought up in something of an intellectual bubble and under the belief it was a meritocracy.

After school and a stint on Wall street, I went to teach at Seward Park. What an awakening. It was my first exposure to kids and families living under far harsher circumstances than I. When I was a kid I volunteered at a soup kitchen. I couldn't reconcile the family that on the one hand had to come to the kitchen for food while the family all wore really expensive sneakers (I was wearing the $10 Alexander's special). As I got more exposed to "how the other half lived" I learned that it was more complex.

While I went into teaching on a whim, as my career progressed I realized more and more how important public education was and the job became more of a mission. At the same time, as I learned more and more about the populations that I tried to serve so that I could support them and try to really know their circumstances. I realized that it's really hard to "get it." I also realized that the more removed you are, the higher up you are on the ladder, the harder it is. That's not to say that there aren't many well to do people with huge hearts trying to and doing good it's just that I feel that the further you are from the ground floor the harder it is to really understand the issues that the ground floor people have to live with.

So, this brings us back to the protests and the rioting.

Separating out the protesters and rioters we really have 4 types of rioters:

  1. Criminals - people who are going to riot and loot whenever the opportunity presents itself. Remember Philly after the Eagles won the Superbowl? These people are just criminals.
  2. Riots resulting from police instigators - well, we should condemn the police and not their victims and we've seen a bunch of video evidence of this.
  3. Riots resulting from white agitatos - same as the previous point.
  4. Riots from within the protest group.

That last group - group 4 are the only ones who are part of the protest groups but let's not be so fast to condemn them. It's easy for those of us of privilege to point fingers and say "shame on you, protest peacefully" but where has that gotten them? We were talking about this earlier and I was trying to remember an earlier victim of police brutality. I was thinking of Rodney King 20 years ago but was blanking on the name. Devorah rattled off names walking back the years. Two decades, countless abuses and nothing changed with peaceful protest. There comes a time when you feel you're out of options. It's easy for us to point and condemn but very hard to understand.

Am I promoting violence? No. I feel bad about innocents hurt and small business owners who's property has been damaged but what about the lives that have been lost or destroyed due to police abuse and government inaction and in fact government support?

There are solutions. Campaign Zero has a lot of info on how to reform policing. We also have to fully fund schools and actually deal with poverty rather than make it a crime.

I don't have any inspirational message here or any real answers. The work goes on. I'll continue my work in public education try to support my students and understand them and their challenges more and more and try to be a better ally to those less privileged than I.

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