My best friend’s husband excitedly bounded up the stairs from the basement to present us with his latest discovery: leftover wild Maine blueberry preserves that they had made the year before. My eyes feasted upon them first before my tongue even felt anything to taste. The smooth, dark indigo substance paired well with the freshly made strawberry rhubarb compote that was already on my breakfast biscuit. I took a bite and it was heaven. The differing levels of sweet and tart melded together in tasty layers.
My thoughts, of late, have been such a mixture. I have wanted to say one thing, but then found myself stuck. Then another wave of inspiration hit, but then another creative roadblock occurred. So many layers of interesting things have happened in my life and the world outside that it feels a little insufficient to present just one. It reminded me much of what observed my students felt whenever we discussed political topics, or themes in literature, or even when they were challenged to put their thoughts into written form through our poety unit. Teenagers are good at that. Teenagers are good at having so much to say that it gets jumbled up and they don’t know exactly how or where or when to say it. Other times, they have such clarity that many adults still lack. There is, though, like the mixture of blueberry preserves and strawberry rhubarb compote, a beauty in the mess and the layers of flavors.
What’s wrong with being white? I asked myself this and began sculpting a response, from the point of view of an educator of diverse students, to the story of Rachel Dolezal who for years had been leading people to believe that she was a black woman. Her desire to partake in the African-American experience is perplexing yet admirable. Her deception through all of it sullied the perception of her possibly meaning well. I mean, there are many white people who have “championed the cause” of Civil Rights thorughout the ages. Why did she feel she had to deny her actual ethnicity to support another? Did it help? Did it hurt?
On the other end of the week, and social spectrum, came the mass killings in Charleston. I found this reminiscent of the Charlie Hebdo killings earlier this year as well as shootings at Columbine, Newton, and countless hate crimes and killings that have ravaged our country, our communities, and our entire planet. For what reason do we allow the cultivation of such destructive ideas and thoughts? Why is it ever thought to be okay to take the life of another especially if they have not threatened the lives of others? More importantly, at what point, and with what event will all of our politicians stop politicizing the issue. No, gun control is not the answer. No, loosening gun restrictions is also not the answer. We are the answer. The problem is that not enough of us seem to really be asking the true question…then again, I don’t know what that question or series of questions should be.
At this point in life I am not a parent, so I think about how I would address these topics with my students. They are complex issues that stem from a lack of logic, compassion, and love. I would, address them as I would any other controversial topic, in an open forum discussion. I would ask my students questions. I would have them try to see things from the points of view of others. I would have them create and ask questions of their own. More importantly, I would challenge them to see how the would work to make this world a safer, loving, and more appreciative place. I would ask them to open the Ball jars of their brains and release the sweet brilliance of their words. I would want for them to do as I am reminding myself to do. “Don’t keep each word within you,” is what I have been telling myself. “Spread them out, like a homemade jam atop a freshly-made biscuit.”