THE BLOG
12/01/2014 09:29 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Something Has to Change and It Must Start Here -- With You and With Me

I rarely write posts like this.  And this one took me much longer than I'd like to admit.

But yesterday I realized something. Something big.

It's this: if I want change to happen, it has to start here.

I'm a mother of three kids, 10, 9, and 7 years old, and if I want change to happen, it must. Start. Here.

With me.

With my family.

Because I know that though I am only one person, my voice makes a difference.

And so does yours.

Yes, you.  No matter whether you are sitting there reading this in your running car in the driveway while your baby sleeps in the back, or whether you are reading this at the counter when you should be cleaning up after dinner, it doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter if you're reading this at your desk during your lunch break or standing at the copy machine after your students leave the building. It doesn't matter if you're reading this in line at the grocery store or in line at your kids' pick-up.

It doesn't matter if you're reading this on the treadmill or at the park or at work or at a lunch with your girlfriends. It doesn't matter if you work outside the home or you work inside the home.

It doesn't matter if you work or don't work. It doesn't matter if you have kids or if you don't have kids, whether you're married or not married.

It doesn't matter if you're fat or skinny, tall or short, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or atheist or Jewish.

It doesn't matter if you breastfed or bottle fed your kids, whether you stick with organics or couldn't care less.

It doesn't matter.

What matters is that you are reading this.

And if you are reading this, then know this: you have a voice. And it's time to use it.

Because if we don't start using our voices to let others know that prejudice is not okay, that it's not acceptable, and that it's not to be tolerated, unacceptable things like this will continue to happen:

Seven white girls are accompanied by seven black men at a formal school dance.

And a school administrator retweeted this tweet:  @OrNahhTweets: Every white girls' father's worst nightmare Or Nah?

A school administrator. Retweeted. That. Tweet.

 

And this?

Check out these photos on Politicus Sports, in an articled titled White Students at St. Louis High School Wear Blackface During Football Game, by Justin Baragona.

 photos courtesy of http://sports.politicususa.com/ . . . please read the entire article at Sports.PoliticusUsa.com

A powderpuff football team. Wearing blackface. At a school event. November of 2014.

Do these things make you feel ill? They should.

I'm not here to debate either story or situation; I'm not here to discuss details of any of the photos.  Because if it's not these photos, it's something else. You know it as well as I do.

What I'm here to say is that I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of what I'm seeing. I'm tired of what I'm hearing. I'm tired of what is happening, here, in our country and around the world, in 2014.

And you should be, too.

If we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And though it's easy to tsk, shake your head, and "like" someone's angry comment when they share this kind of thing on Facebook, that's not enough anymore. Because you know what? It's not working.

We need to do more.

Clearly we need to do more if acts of prejudice like this are still occurring in and around schools in 2014. Someone, somewhere is not getting a pretty important message.

So I'm presenting a challenge to you, and I'm taking it on myself. And I'm hoping -- actually, I'm praying -- that it begins to make a difference.

It'll take all of us. And goodness knows we'll need a little luck.

But this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Here's what we need to do and here's how we can use our voice:

1. Speak up.  In any way you are able. It doesn't matter how. Just speak up.

Speaking up may look different to all of us, depending on where we are and where we're coming from.

And I know it's not easy. But it's time we start to use our voice, even if it begins with a whisper.
  • Comment on a friend's Facebook status if he or she shares an article or a link about something that feels unjust.
  • Share your own findings -- articles or facts or statements that express racial prejudice or injustice--via twitter or facebook or pinterest.
  • Shake your head "no" and walk away when a friend or colleague starts to share his or her prejudiced ideas. Make it clear that you do not share his or her opinions.
  • Excuse yourself from conversations where prejudiced ideas or topics are being discussed. Explain that you do not share the same feelings and that you are not comfortable with the direction the conversation is going.
  • Don't allow racial jokes in or around your home. If neighbors, extended family, or colleagues joke this way, politely ask them to stop.
This is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And so we will also. . .

2. Talk about tough topics. With your friends, with your kids, with your spouse.

There's plenty of material out there, my friends.

Start with our history books. Watch today's news.

Talk about slavery. But talk about how far we all have come to abolish it and to bring our country to a better place. Talk about the awful and the ugly, but talk about the bravery. Talk about power in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words. Talk about the beauty of people taking risks to support their brothers and sisters, no matter the color of their skin.

Talk about why things like the powderpuff team wearing blackface is not okay and how hurtful and careless and demeaning it is.

Talk about what's happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and talk about the decision with your friend and family.

Need a starting point? Black History Month Resources for Families last year. If it's too overwhelming, just pick up Unspoken, by Henry Cole. It's a wordless picture book about a little farm girl and a little boy, a runaway slave.  And though it doesn't answer all questions, it can begin the dialogue for you and your children about this period in our nation's history and how things are different today.

Talk about race with your friends. Openly and honestly. Talk about what's happening in the news and how they feel about it. We must have the dialogue, my friends. We must open up the conversation.

And if you're not completely comfortable with it, it's okay.  Just be honest. Explain how you're feeling, and as long as you're honest and you're coming from a peaceful place, you will be fine.

Remember that this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

We will also come together and...

3. Celebrate differences.  Celebrate the fact that your children go to school with tons of different people, from all walks of life, with unique hair, skin, and eye colors. Talk about how cool it is that some kids are preparing for their First Communions while others go to Hebrew school.  Talk about why some of them don't celebrate their birthdays, while others get to go to Disney World each year for theirs.

Talk about how glasses help Bella see better in the same way that extra reading lessons help Alex read better.

Talk about why some kids buy lunch every day or eat breakfast at school while others bring lunch each day.

Talk about the fact that even though Carly zips through her Mad Minutes in no time flat, Mark can whistle like nobody's business, and Maddy can do a back handspring on her own.  Lauren can recite an entire poem by heart, and Vincent can write with both hands. Everyone has different strengths; one is not better than another. They're just different.

Talk about the fact that yes, Nina has a hard time sitting still in class, but she still deserves to learn at your school with your talented teachers.

Talk about the fact that Cole might need the teacher's help more than the other students, but maybe that's because his mom was busy working two jobs to put food on the table so she wasn't able to help him with his ABCs before he got to Kindergarten.

Discuss the fact that some kids' parents are divorced, some have two moms (or dads), some have one parent, and some are being raised by grandparents. Talk about why some kids live in a one-room apartment while others could land a small plane in their back yards, why some kids' parents are able to help out in the classroom while others cannot.

Talk about how hard it must be for some families to attend Math Night -- because English is not their first language -- but how awesome it is that they came anyway. Talk about why your school must have an International Night every single year, even if it's a homogeneous mix of students.  Make your kids read every single display there and walk around with them, talking about what you see and conversing with each family.

Fill your house with books that celebrate diversity. Read them. Share them. Read them again. Share them again.

Do all of this because really, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Step back a bit, my friends, and...

4. Listen to what you say.  I mean really, truly listen to what you say.

  • Are you using derogatory racial terms but don't even realize it? Think.  Really think hard.
  • Do you use the terms "gay," "retarded" or "ghetto" to describe negative situations or events?
  • Are you singing songs that convey racial -- or gender or any type -- of stereotypes?
  • Do the programs or games in your home support stereotypes?
  • Do you express prejudice in what you say or do? In the way you interact with those around you?
  • Are you perpetuating the cycle of gossip and toxicity by contributing to negative conversations with friends and colleagues?
  • Do you welcome new people or groups to your clubs and organizations?
  • How do you respond to new ideas, to change, to revisiting old systems and processes?

  • Do you openly proclaim your faith but act in ways that are contrary to those beliefs?
  • Do your expectations for your children vary? Do you demand more from one and less from another?  Are those expectations just?
  • Do you treat your students, colleagues, or friends differently based on their race or gender? 
Just think about it. Be aware, and be brave.

Remember, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Because we all have a voice and it's time we used it.

Even if it starts as a whisper.
 

Thanks for hanging in with me. I know this is long, and I know it might be a lot. But you know what? I took a risk and used my voice.

Because really, something has to change, my friends. Something has to change.