To my knowledge, it has been at least a month since anyone in the Newtown public schools have called any of my four children a racial slur. That may not sound like reason for celebration, but for a family of color, we take it day by day and pray for the best every time we send our children to school. I say “to my knowledge” because often times, our children don’t want to burden us with their troubles. But that is entirely too much trouble for young children to take on themselves. We as parents cry when we realize just how long our children have been walking around with pain that stems from our decision to move them to Newtown. It’s awful to think that your decision as a parent has caused your child harm. And so, although my children have been ok for the last month, I (along with other leaders in the community) taken on the burden of other families in my town through my work with Newtown Allies for Change. We speak up and advocate for these children on a regular basis now. And my heart is heavy from what is going on here.
While we sit in the Board of Education meetings and debate about nonsensical statistics about how white men are allegedly disadvantaged from diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, we have families here in this town trying to figure out how to pack up and move in order to save their children from harm. Where are the voices who care enough to speak up for these disadvantaged children? They are few and far between. Why? Because these children of color are seen as tangential – not mattering as much as average Newtown child whose daily burdens look completely different. While some cry their heart out about how “divisive” diversity and inclusion is, there are parents right here in this town dealing with suicidal children who are struggling with the mental and emotional anguish that comes from school daily. Children who are told to go back to their country, as though this country is not theirs. My heart is heavy as few of us advocate for these families but I’m even more anguished because I know that these children are not the ones being directly addressed in school system discussions about social emotional learning and programming. We continue to push them to the side because they are not the majority. We, a community still dealing with the pain and trauma from Sandy Hook are always talking about school safety. But who is concerned for the little Black and brown children in our schools who currently face PHYSICAL violence and threats of harm to them and their families due to the color of their skin? Who cares enough to speak up for them???
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King said:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
Anyone who lives in Newtown should not be a considered an outsider either. My heart is heavy for the burdens of children and families of color here in Newtown. Only when the rest of our community stops treating its community of color like outsiders and starts bearing the weight of its burdens as their own will there be cohesion and love here.
The Newtown community needs to push through silly narratives about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts as being divisive. See those narratives for the status quo maintaining tactic that they are and let them motivate you to work harder for the Newtown children who have and continue to bear entirely too much burden in our community.