I love this song and it was fitting for the piece
Listen, reflect, then read.
Artist: Jidenna Song Title: White Nigga
I am currently on the shuttle traveling back to Semuc Champey.
This shuttle is small in size. Equivalent to the size of a commercial van with a max capacity of 13 passengers.
I will spend one more day there prior to my move to Coban.
I am lucky to be a passenger that was picked up early, there are only 2 other people on the bus⎯ YES! I’m taking the back row for myself, look at God!
A family of four have entered the shuttle. Two Caucasian girls and 2 people of Color (they appear to be Latino, maybe even from Guatemala. Upon closer observation the wife is certainly a passive native who lets the man make a fool on himself as she pretends not to hear him spout ignorant statements. He is a tanned White man).
Shortly after loading them and their belongings, the courteous driver gives them the rundown that he recites from memory.
“Good morning. we will be traveling to Lanquin. From there you will travel via hotel shuttle to Semuc Champey. We may experience a longer ride than normal due to construction. Our first stop will be in two hours. If you need anything or want to stop please let me know. My job is to make sure you’re comfortable”.
I think to myself, “well he didn’t give me that rousing welcome” (but only momentarily). He’s seen me a few times now so he treats me the way you treat people who have been visiting a few too many days.
I’ve been loaned a new read, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and think that the long 7 hour ride will allow me more than enough time to finish it today. Through many years of people watching, I have concluded that when people travel in packs, their awareness of tone decreases. They are also more comfortable having conversations that would otherwise be reserved for the comforts of their racist dinner tables or barbecues, aloud.
This is where the tummy boiling fury begins.
Here’s the convo I’m listening to and transcribing like a courthouse employee.
“I hope we don’t get held up by traffic, I hear the public school teachers are protesting”, says the tanned republican man.
“Can we pull over and join them”, says the girl with purple hair.
“No, they need to be at work, teacher’s shouldn’t be allowed to protest”, says the tanned republican man.
Some time passes (like 4-5 minutes) I crack open the book ready to be engulfed in this phenomenal story.
“Look at those men with guns”, says the purple-haired girl.
“I think they are military”, says the girl with the loose braid.
“We need those in the US”, says the purple-haired girl.
“Yea, we do that would be helpful”, proclaim the group.
By the way they are talking, I assume they teach in a highly unstable, hostile environment. The soldiers they were speaking about hold AK-47’s.
I personally would never want to work in a school building that was guarded by people who carried massive weaponry used in war. You are a teacher in a public school, who are you at war with where you need that level of protection?
They then go into detail about students at their school, by name.
One by one, they talk about the children, their disabilities, their parents, their parents personal situations and of course interject their biased, privileged opinions into each story.
Let me be clear, I have zero issues with White people.
My issue arises with anyone who makes blanket statements about people (specifically children who have no control over their situations) to make them appear inferior or to justify their own demeaning remarks.
I am a teacher, a special education teacher.
While I go home and vent about my day with my free therapist. I don’t go out into public settings belittling parents and students whom I have a limited understanding of, based on a limited perspective.
Let me clarify, I do not belittle my students and parents.
That’s a dangerous habit and leads to poor teaching practices that negatively impact a
a generation of students
and their parents who entrust us with their children
If you teach for a while, the impacts can be even more detrimental to a wider range of people
Fueled by the power of numbers they continue on, getting louder and louder as their confidence and passion for the conversation increases.
“I was watching a video on Facebook where 2 children who look like the kids at our school (they are talking about black people because they had vividly described one of the “chubby black kids with autism”, along with other black students that were categorized by disability and the parenting-styles of their parents) were at a party in a backyard or park. I couldn’t hear the volume but it looked like an older white lady nicely walked up to them with 2 little dogs, each on leashes. I don’t know what she said but I assume she lived near by and was trying to get them to quite down. One of the boys picked her up and threw her on the ground while she held on to the leashes of the dogs. The other picked her up again and through her into the pool while she held the leashes of the two dogs. The poor dogs were thrown into the pool not knowing what was going on. If they couldn’t tread water, they would have died”, says the purple-haired girl.
“Those kids are just dangerous and have no respect”, says the republican tanned man. “You know Donald Trump told the mayor of Chicago that if they didn’t get the city under control, he would send in the military to clean it up. Chicago is a very dangerous city”.
“Detroit is dangerous too”, gleefully chimes the girl with the braid.
“Well Detrioit is poor, Chicago is not”, says the purple-haired girl.
“You know Chicago is more dangerous than Guatemala City”, says know-it-all-republican-tanned-white-dude. “You know we need to just start shooting them all on site”.
My heart drops into my stomach. How could you be so bold to make a statement like that in the presence of a dark-skinned person?
This has to be the toxic power that smothers the air in a Trump Rally.
“I don’t know that we should shoot them all. We need to teach them”, says the savior-white -girl with the Zena princess warrior braid.
“We can’t teach them, there is only so much we can do as teachers. Their parents are the problem”, says the purple-haired-Veruca Scott-twin.
“We need to get all these liberals together, and teach them how to raise their violent kids and if they don’t comply just shoot them”, roars the republican man. “Trump just needs to send the troops to Chicago and get the place under control”.
At what point in history have we sent our military anywhere to “control” a people and establish order successfully. How long have we been “working on it” in Afghanistan. These people must not have seen War Machine (2017) ⎯ if you haven’t either, check it out it’s on Netflix; call your co-worker or best friend for their log-in. I can’t give you mines because I’m already borrowing it from my hun-bunz loving sister
“We need to just get all those people under control”, says the lynch-crowd-leader-republican-man.
I wasn’t going to say anything. I really wasn’t. No sense it arguing or debating with a crowd of people who seized an opportunity to express their frustration with my people. Heck, I get frustrated too sometimes and don’t have the answers myself.
I wasn’t interested in a seven hour debate with a person so closed-minded; whatever I said would’ve been met with another asinine remark. No sense in 5 people consuming all of the oxygen and releasing hot-travelers-breath into the air-conditioned, recycled air.
Before I knew it I was speaking,
“Excuse me, can you guys talk quietly among yourselves I’m really trying to read this book”.
That was all, nothing revolutionary.
I said enough to distract them from their conversation and at least encourage them to whisper their hateful remarks among themselves.
They’re rant continued I’m only assuming because now they are whispering, almost reading each others lips, staring at me, and whispering a little more as they made “passive aggressive smiles” in my direction.
The emotion they were waiting for never showed on my face.
I don’t have any revolutionary climax for you.
I’m still new to this whole “speaking-up” thing. I didn’t have any compelling quotes, statistical facts, or thought-provoking message.
Those things aren’t always necessary.
I knew that what they were saying was upsetting and hurtful to me personally⎯ especially coming from people who are tasked with educating, uplifting and growing these same babies they feel so strongly about.
Snapping them back into reality was all it took. I had said enough.
It’s clear that this group of people chose not to express empathy during this short conversation. No empathy for the parents of their own students, their students, the people in the video who they knew nothing about and a situation they observed through the eyes of someone else’s camera phone, and lastly no empathy for me. The black girl sitting in the back listening to them spit venom and hate.
We have got to be mindful of the conversations we participate in, who we allow to shape our opinions, and the impact of the things we say. We also have to work consistently to check-in on our ourselves. If you hate a subgroup of individuals, to the point of wanting their babies to be shot down, you’ve gotta do some self-reflection because something within you needs nurturing.
Tonight, I will pray for Donald Trumps’ campaign manager that never got the job.
While he is finished with his “kill the black kids” rant, he has now moved on to pointing out each Guatemalan along the road that he perceives to be of low socioeconomic status⎯ because he knows everything about everything of course. These types of people can be dangerous.
While they infuriated me, I am not upset with these people. I make jokes to make me laugh and make thick topics light. I hope that they are able to consider situations from the perspectives of the people they judge so heavily. If I had brought along my Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, I would have left it in their hands to read and receive.
To chew the thick gristle and suck on the marrow.
I am grateful for the calm that came over me before I spoke.
There was no need for anger, swearing, or the fire that I am fully capable of spewing.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest,
Back to my book. And I read it now with that much more black girl pride.
For my students, I am here for your victory even when you aren’t watching