This afternoon, I happened upon a situation that most New Yorkers don’t. I found myself walking into the ocean with maybe 50 people over a half-mile stretch of beach to my left and my right. The more I walked into the ocean, the less people I saw around me. I didn’t even notice that, after a few more feet of walking in, I had no one next to me, just me and the razor-sharp horizon in front of me. The once boisterous conversations around me became nothing but a din as the water crashed against my chest.
I don’t usually get moments like this, contrary to popular belief about teachers’ summer vacations, yet I couldn’t help but notice the metaphor laid out by nature in front of me. With this consternation around Ferguson, and the resulting calls for reverberation and leadership from folks who are always asking us to rethink our education advocacy, I wonder whether our calls for teachers to speak up is truly in vain.
How do you fight back against what seems like an insurmountable ocean of inaction? How do you keep swimming with the salty waters constantly thwarting your plans, pushing back against the progress you seek?
Why ask anyone to speak up at all when the people who can take the leadership on speaking up are the people asking for folks to speak up? Sadly, all of us can fall into the trap of asking leaders (supposed or otherwise) to take leadership on items that they probably won’t, like the incidents in Ferguson. I’m starting to see that new and responsive leadership is ultimately necessary, a leadership that’s reflective of what we seek.
I wonder if I’m wrong to ask people with huge followings, with lots of books to sell, and with influence in their communities to do anything, much less do more than what they may or may not do already. Instead, those of us who do say, “Enough is enough” might have to speak louder and work better towards moving our communities towards understanding this multi-faceted justice.
In a utopian setting, we wouldn’t have to ask. People who call themselves progressive leaders wouldn’t have to be called out by us, and people calling for empathy wouldn’t bat an eye before speaking out about any civil rights issue, because that’s what real empathy looks like. Yet, this isn’t utopia. Thus, we swim on.
I’m well aware that it only takes a few people to make a movement really flourish, but every so often, it would be nice if we didn’t have to give any one person the green light to do what’s right and lead. We have enough folks willing and able to do what’s necessary for social justice. Thus, from this purview, leading looks like a simple choice.
Am I wrong for thinking that we could be something for real?