"Whatever community organization, whether it's a women's organization, or fighting for racial justice...you will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way."
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg
In my thirties, I was motivated by social justice to become a teacher. I was horrified that the most vulnerable among us were the most likely to be imprisoned, and those most capable of solving the problem were at best, indifferent and at worst, willfully profiting from a system that is racist, classist, and sexist.
When I entered my first job as a paid teacher in East Oakland, I was totally unprepared. Yes, there were all the typical things that make teaching middle school students challenging; the constant testing of boundaries, the inconsistent moods, and general meanness. But, ultimately, I was most unprepared about what it would reveal about me.
Despite all the preparation, teaching happens in real time. Teachers prep for what ultimately becomes a structured improvisation. As a teacher gains experience, they can better anticipate responses, but initially, it’s an act of imagination to plan a lesson. When things didn’t go as planned, I found myself reverting to behaviors I thought I had transcended. I heard the self-righteousness of my teen years as I struggled to manage my classroom and cringed as I encountered my reactionary, volatile and entitled twenties when I had to set boundaries for students. However, the most painful and profoundly humbling moments were those in which I noticed that my fuse was shorter with my African-American students or that I had lower expectations for students with a Latino surname.
These moments led to public apologies and deliberate shifts in behavior for me that took intention, practice, and time. I want to continue this work, and I want to make Remedy synonymous with honesty, transparency, and inclusiveness. That means we must be willing to be uncomfortable. We must be willing to face our history and the associated behaviors without justification. And once we face them, we must be willing to change.
It is an honor and a privilege to work with our growing community to build stronger bodies and minds. When we create change in ourselves, we create the capacity to create change in our communities. Let’s join together to change our system of racism this Friday, November 3rd. We are hosting a pay-what-you-can 30:30 class at 5:45 pm followed by a donation bar and snacks until 9:00 pm. All proceeds will benefit Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, Bay Area.
We hope to see you!