Education Opinion

How Many Times Do We Need to Say We’re Hurting?

By Christina Torres — April 07, 2016 2 min read
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TW: The below footage features a violent image of an adult slamming a child into the ground.

This is the news that opens up my feed in the morning some days. I am getting ready to stand in front my own group of twelve-year-olds, and I am reminded of the painful fragility of safety and warmth my classroom can provide.

My stomach aches and my soul rages. Still, I don’t know if I am surprised. I am heartsick, but I don’t know if I’m in shock anymore.

And this makes me painfully and terribly sad.

How many times will communities of color need to say that we’re hurting? How many studies will we have to show and voices will we need to blast to get the point across? How many of our students will have to face violence on so many levels in places that should feel safe? How many community pools Texas and neighborhood parks in Ohio and classrooms in South Carolina and... and... and...

How many times does this need to happen?

The thing is, we know what works. We know we don’t need heroes and we know we need big, systemic change that is much more nuanced than “taking sides.”

Sometimes, in the morning when I see these stories, I sit down at my computer and try to write. I try to put into words the horror of whatever news report I have seen that day. I attempt to come up with some magic bullet or some turn of phrase that will make an audience understand the daily tight-rope that students of color navigate in an attempt to merely exist in America. I sit and stare at the white page, trying to come up with some story I could tell or picture I could paint that will begin illuminating what I know so many students and families of color face that even I only understand a small fraction of: the forever-stewing tension of trying to grow in a space that consistently forces you to defend your right to exist at all.

I begin to write, but I can’t help but feel the story I am going to share has been told before. I can’t shake the feeling that a reader will see this piece, quietly shake their head in sadness, and then shrug their shoulders in a tired complacency we all sometimes inhabit as we try and move through our day.

Yes, there are many times where I feel hopeful and I feel like the needle can move towards progress (and I, perhaps, can try and help). However, there are days where it simply feels like we are screaming into the void that things are burning, but the firehoses of compassion were drained long, long ago.

So instead I look down at my hands and slowly pull them away from the keyboard. I stare at them for a moment and quietly ask myself,

“How many times will I have to write this piece?”

Then, I get up and walk out the door to my classroom. I walk up the stairs and greet students. As they stream in, I watch their laughing faces and awkward adolescence as the amble towards their desks. I smile back and tell them how happy I am to see them, because maybe that’s the only thing I can do today.

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The opinions expressed in The Intersection: Culture and Race in Schools are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.