Last weekend, my husband and I joined a solidarity march to the polls. As I held my Andrew Gillum sign high in the air and chanted "Our voice matters!" alongside various community members who refuse to succumb to the hatred in our backyards, our schools, and our country, I thought of the many reasons why I vote. Great teachers have found a way to master the art of distraction. At any given moment I can find myself singing, dancing, praising, chanting, or giving high fives to my kindergarteners, all to keep them engaged in learning. Three years ago, I was in the middle of an amazing lesson that appeared to be going well, when one of my students began to hysterically cry. As I pulled her to the side to ask what was wrong, she insisted on not wanting to leave me. Confused, I continued to question. Why would you have to? She eventually mustered up the courage to tell me if Trump became president, she would have to leave the country and never see me, or any of her friends again. The fear, bullying, racist, misogynistic rhetoric that has been portrayed by a man that is supposed to be the leader of our country has caused an insurmountable amount of pain. If this hurt hasn’t affected your life, I urge you to consider the lives of others for the sake of humanity. I need you to take a deep look inward as to why this agony hasn’t touched your life and start recognizing your privilege. I am not sitting here saying that Trump is the only factor in turning this country into a racist battleground. I am, however, saying that he has shone a spotlight on the evil of white supremacy.
This year and every year, I voted for that little girl in my classroom. I voted because all people deserve to belong. However, this wasn’t the only thing that brought me to the polls with such intensity last weekend. Last year, a student’s mom came to my door one morning with immense fear in her eyes. Her son, is her only, and the thought of ever losing him is one that no parent should ever have to feel when dropping their baby off to school, but this is a reality in America right now. You see the day prior, 17 beautiful humans were taken at the hands of a terrorist at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and none of the lives of those affected have ever been the same. As I extended my arms out to hug my student’s mother and promise to keep him safe, I immediately recognized the brokenness of my promise. Because until we put into place common sense gun laws, the reality is, horrific events will continue to take place and it has been proven time and time again that a “good guy with a gun” is not the answer to solving this problem. Teachers are leaders, we are actors, we are nurturers, we are cheerleaders, social workers, family members, scientists. Teachers are world changers and we will make a change. As we continued to stroll the streets of our city in unity, a woman in front of me began waving her poster to vote yes to amendment 4 (restoring the rights of convicted felons to vote). The ability to take away these rights in Florida represents exactly how in 2018, we are still disenfranchising African Americans. It represents the school to prison pipeline that is ever so present in all our schools and if you don’t recognize that or have never heard of it, I challenge you, yet again, to check your privilege. It signifies the problem of living in a color-blind world that white Americans have created without ever having to realize that skin color does matter. In fact, it needs to be recognized more now than ever.
I voted because black boys need to stop being sent to the principal’s office. In fact, black children represent 19 percent of the nation’s pre-school population, yet 47 percent of those receiving more than one out-of-school suspension. In comparison, white students represent 41 percent of pre-school enrollment but only 28 percent of those receiving more than one out-of-school suspension for similar broken rules. I voted because just a year ago I was told that teaching about black lives was inappropriate for children to hear from someone close to my family. I voted because, just yesterday, Idaho school teachers thought it would be funny to dress as a wall and culturally appropriate Mexican culture by dressing in costumes and wearing this in front of children whose Latino population is 9.5%. When we arrived at the polls together, as a unified group centered in love, not hate, I felt hopeful for humanity. This Tuesday, when you arrive at the polls, ask yourself will my vote encourage love or hate, will my vote continue to oppress or liberate, will my vote protect or destroy, will my vote unify or divide? My kindergarteners could all tell you the correct answer to these questions, I hope you can do the same.