The Interrupter: Your Write to Education
June 2, 2020
George Who? The Circle of Distraction
Sadly, it doesn’t take long for the focus to be taken off of Mr. Floyd. However, I must say I am not surprised. It has been true of those that came before him as well. And as heartbreaking and gut wrenching is the death of Mr. Floyd, what is more so is the complicit, complacent, apathetic root that allows it to continue.
At Every Child Whole, we have a philosophy that I have coined THIINK. THIINK stands for Transformation Happens at Implementation and Integration Not Knowledge. Because words matter and unfortunately, we don’t take the time to listen to someone else’s perspective, let me also share that when I say INTEGRATION, I am not talking about racial integration. In the context of this article, INTEGRATION is about the INTERPLAY between different variables and constructs, how one thing impacts another, how one thing is a function of another, and so forth. Refusal to understand this has led to massive amounts of fragmentation that we experience in our lives and in our systems every day and keep things from being ADDRESSED AND RESOLVED. This share is one example, in my opinion, of that interplay. It is the continuance of a vicious and unproductive system, a malady of brokenness that keeps us distracted and disconnected from the heart of the matter. Let me explain what I mean.
(1) Let’s pick the conversation up at BLACK LIVES MATTER and for everyone who is ready to come back with your opinions before I can finish my thought, when I say BLACK LIVES MATTER I am not saying all lives don’t matter, of course they do, that is the point. If any life matters, all life matters.
In this most recent event, we have a white police officer whose actions result in the death of a black man, George Floyd, father, son, mentor. In response, people begin to organize and protests under the banner BLACK LIVES MATTER. And understandably so. But let’s remind ourselves, this is not the first time.
Also, important to note, is that many of the people organizing are doing so, having as a backdrop, years of unaddressed pain, unhealed wounds, unheard cries, coupled with the most current trauma of isolation resulting from a global pandemic. People are grieving and angry and scared which leads to desperation, irrational behavior, and more.
(2) At the same time amidst all of the pain, there are people who see this as an opportunity to exploit someone else’s vulnerability and to exploit injustice.
(3) We begin to hear of looting, lawlessness, violence, chaos, and greed that is beginning to pour into our city streets.
My one friend said, “We were up there trying to find our young people, because we knew this wasn’t us, there were out of state tags, Whites, Asians, breaking stuff. It was crazy.”
Even today I heard from the wife of a police officer of a close community saying these are not people I have ever seen before.
(4) Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets reporting the news to millions of viewers with a message that would lead most to believe (1) equals (3). Meaning, the message you hear and see is that “Pain over the death of yet another black man at the hands of a police officer represented by BLACK LIVES MATTERS protests equals looting, lawlessness, stealing, and more.”
(5) Those millions of viewers receiving this unclear messaging either choose to remain detached , choose to stay justified in their ignorant and racist beliefs, or if you are among those that believe government is responsible for everything, then you might choose to blame government for all that is wrong. (Let’s note we have been hanging things around the President’s neck for all of history – nothing new here.) All of this from a media clip, not lasting longer than a few minutes, or shared social media posts that keeps playing over and over and over, and did I say, over.
(6) The result? The root of racism stays unaddressed, ignorance stays unaddressed, systemic enslavement stays unaddressed, trauma stays unaddressed, rather it all continues with eroding effects. “Hello, meet TODAY!”
I actually attempt to stay away from the news and its negativity and bias, the research I have found says it is not good for my wellbeing. I did, however, see a picture being passed around on social media thread yesterday that grabbed me a certain way and it was of a young African American woman. She had left her car idling in the middle of a street, long enough to get out and go where stores were being looted and ransacked to take some merchandise for herself. I can’t remember the label on the box, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, to this young lady, in that moment, it held more value than the one she placed on her own life and dignity. In this picture, I saw the failure of family, a community, a church, an education system that had not helped this child understand how valuable she was and that she had been created special and unique, with a contribution to make to the world around her.
There are no simple answers, but we must see our way out of the cycle and begin to do what we can do to shift the narrative, seek understanding, heal hearts, love one another so we can begin to deal with what Emmanuel Acho is calling uncomfortable conversations.
We need to learn, as Will Ford (mediator/spokesperson for racial reconciliation) says, to stay in the room long enough to get understanding.
And I will add for someone focused on education, I find it interestingly frustrating that we talk about all these wonderful sounding things in our education system like empathy, perspective taking, growth mindset, equity, diversity, social and emotional development, trauma-informed, and we walk right out the door and act in an opposite manner. This contradiction and duality further compromising our health and prosperity. Are we giving lip service to an agenda or are we wanting to impact the lives of young people who so desperately need us?
My advice – for what it is worth – is that the millions of folks that are hiding behind the TV or inside the church or behind whatever it is that we hide behind – step out and get in front of the mirror and address our own junk, unpack our own *&!$%. When we are able to do that, we will be less likely to be taken advantage of by a broken system, a misguided narrative, or even an ignorant neighbor. We will be able to THIINK for ourselves, live our best lives, and not allow ourselves to be driven by our every unhealed emotion. We will be open to the fact that we always have something to learn and just perhaps find out we have been wrong about something or at least been blinded to something.
For me, I am going to continue do as those before me and with whose heart I resonate – William Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King – and do my part to interrupt injustice while simultaneously crying out to God for the help that is beyond me.
Dr. Ivy Bonk is Consultant and Educational Psychologist, at Every Child Whole, LLC. Author of The Day Trauma Came to Class and LOST: Finding My Way Back to Place I’ve Never Been, and Architect of The Lost Child Theory and the Grounded Learning Framework.