As I look over the news, my heart aches from the pain and violence. My anger rises for the injustices going on in this country. My thoughts race of what I can do to help, what we all can do to help. With my experience and work as a Bully Teacher and Educational Consultant, violence will never combat hate. Anger and aggression won’t reunite us. But can I blame people for fighting back, being angered, yelling and screaming? I don’t. I see that things are no longer working or really have not been working at all. Black men dying on the street, young black girls being oversexualized and mistreated, and oppression stinking up our community. It stinks of racism! Privilege and power overshadow justice and equality.
I have seen this type of anger outburst before on a smaller scale. I have seen it way too often; the emotions match exactly what we are seeing on the news. Trauma. When a child has been abused, neglected, bullied, and oppressed, they often have emotional outburst and violent behaviors. They punch, hit, throw desks and books, spit and push. I have seen all of this in my programs at Bulldog Solution and these violent aggressive behaviors are what we call trauma. To help a child with trauma, you don’t lock them up! You love them, you hold them, you tell them: “I am here, it will be okay, you are not alone”. Often, I don’t know if they will be okay, but in that moment, I hold on to hope as they calm down and breathe through it. I am not saying that this is something we can just breathe through, I am saying we need to come together with compassion, arm and arm, and listen to what is going on. We do also have to remember to all breathe and release the pain that we are carrying, so we can heal and give some room for forgiveness and love. Forgiveness is needed all around. Forgive your neighbor for mistreating you. Forgive the person screaming racial slurs at you. Forgive yourself for being unaware or ignorant. Forgive yourself for thinking ALL Lives Matter. Forgive yourself for being so angry you exploded. Forgive yourself and forgive others, you want to make room for change.
I am white and I am privileged. I am also an educator, a mom, and an advocate. I have spent the last 11 years working to fight violence and bullying in schools. In the last 4 years, I have spent more time talking about race, oppression, and diversity. I had to adjust my learning and content to help my schools and students. In that period, I have learned to listen- to really listen and keep my privileged ego at the door.
I mostly have worked on the South and West side of Chicago. I have been labeled as the company that is in the trenches. Which means we are not the fancy company that sell the packages for your teachers to do all the work, we go into your schools and do the work. We have served so many impoverished and underprivilege schools in Chicago. I have seen the divide in neighborhoods and oppression in classrooms. I have heard teachers make racist comments or bias assumptions. I have seen kids bully each other based on race. I have seen pain and suffering and I am here to share my thoughts on what I intend on doing moving forward.
I am white and privileged. I have never lived through adjusting my tone or thinking, to make sure I fit the mold of a white person’s perspective. I have never been worried of a police officer hurting me or arresting me for speeding or simply driving in the wrong neighborhood. I have never been worried that I would be the only one with my skin color in my school. I have never been worried that I would be judged for the way I speak or the way I dress because of the color of my skin. I have never been worried about my future because of my race. I have never stressed out that my daughter goes to school with messy curly untamed hair. I have never been told to police my tone around certain people because of the color of my skin.
Here is what I have been told:
- When you set your mind to something, you can do anything!
- Be yourself, be unique, be true to yourself.
- The world is your oyster.
- You have endless possibilities.
- You have a bright future.
- That is a great idea!
- Don’t stop fighting for what you believe!
From the experience in my work, often my Black and African American students have never heard these words of encouragement. They often hear these:
- Don’t talk like that.
- Just try to fit in.
- You won’t make it to college, we need to look at different options.
- You are a thug.
- Fix your hair.
- Don’t make too much noise.
- Forget this ever happened!
- You are making a big deal of nothing.
- It is not racism it is a difference of opinion!
- Your going to end up like your father in jail.
- What did you think would have happened…
- It is just a joke.
- You are stupid
- Could you speak proper English?
We are a divided country right now. We are living in fear and uncertainty. We have visceral reactions to what we are seeing. In a world where all news is stamped as “fake news”, we find ourselves questioning what is our own reality? We struggle to find ways to help and stay safe. When safety becomes a political stand, we can’t come together. We build more hate and fear. It trickles into our social media feeds, pops up in our browsers, all we see is hate, pain, and anger.
I am not dismissing the protests, I know it important to be aware of the oppression and racism right now, but it is more than that, it is a lack of compassion and leadership to navigate us back to being whole, safe, and human.
At the core, we are all human. We need to go back to being decent human beings. The looting is not driven by protests, it is driven by the opportunity to organize crime during our weakest moments. We have been through a pandemic; isolated, angry, scared, anxious, and restless. Add in years of oppression and the video of George Floyd and you just created the perfect storm. This storm is painful and destructive, but much needed. Things need to change; we need to change! Once the storm settles, the light will shine through. We saw the storm coming, we chose to look the other way. “It is not my job, or this is not my problem” attitude is what got us here. We just chose to ignore the warnings and now we are caught up in the middle of the storm trying to figure out shelter and help our neighbors stay safe.
I will never understand how it feels to be a Black or African American in this country, but my heart is open, my ears lean toward the voices that need to be heard. My arms are open to take the pain and help heal the years of scars you might be carrying.
In a time of crisis and riots, it is more important to reach out to our loved ones being oppressed and tell them that we are here. It is important to check-in and be there to listen. It is important to not be silent about what is going on. It is more important to encourage peaceful protest and words that heal versus hate and aggression to state our actions. Hate will never end hate.
I believe silence is unacceptable but speaking without thinking is also unacceptable.
This article took me a week to write, so I could process and think more in depth about my message and delivery. If you think speaking your ignorant mind without thinking of your impact, then being silent might be the best option. I would like to tell you as a Bully Teacher and Educational Consultant that in these cases “Silence is Golden”! It is about moving out of our lane by asking for help and directions. It is not about plowing people out of the way to be heard.
My work stems from my mission: to eradicate bullying through kindness, connection, and social boldness. Through my work, I have learned to listen when it comes to race. I have learned to be curious and open to new perspectives. I have learned to say I am sorry and show compassion when I see pain. I have learned that most changes start from the right kind of leadership and small consistent steps.
In closing, I spent the better half of my career as an Educational Consultant in Chicago. If you are not familiar with my beautiful city, there is still a great divide between the Northside and Southside. I have worked in the most violent and dangerous neighborhoods educating youth about violence and bullying. My success was always sitting with my students and listening to their pain, trauma, and loss. It was about asking questions and being compassionate. It is about really listening with an open heart and mind. When we are too busy talking, trying to prove our point or needing to validate our feelings, we close our hearts to understanding each other. I leave my judgment at the door, I admit to my unconscious biases, and I sit with my students’ pain. I would never try to defend myself or prove to them that I was different than all other white people. I would be present and earn their trust because we are all human. I have earned my worth through listening and advocating for my students.
This is a time to listen and share the stories to bring more awareness about race. It is about fighting racism with education and love. It is about standing up when something is not right. It is also about saying something versus filming it. When you are scared you are not alone. Reverse racism is not a thing! I did not choose the color of my skin, I did not choose my parents or my upbringing, the only thing I can choose is how I respond when I see racism and injustice. So today I ask Humankind to look around and see what you can do starting today to make a difference. Find small actions that can make a big impact.
Together we can lead our country towards love, healing, and hope.
Until Next Time,
Kortney Peagram, Ph.D.
Founder and Dreamer of Bulldog Solution and Peagram Consulting
For more information on our programs or resources please email me at Kortney@bulldogsolution.com