My family and I have a 75-minute ride into work each day. While it is certainly not ideal in terms of waking up early each day, it does mean that we get quality time.
And, in this quality time, there is quite a bit of negotiating: negotiating which radio station we listen to; negotiating who gets the warm pink blanket and who gets the equally warm (and equally functioning) maroon blanket; who gets the blueberry cereal bar and who gets the strawberry cereal bar. Basically, there is a whole lot of talk.
Sometimes that "talk" comes in the form of our morning NPR news. Sometimes that "talk" comes from the children arguing. Sometimes that "talk" comes from me.
When that "talk" becomes my turn, I always bring up current events.
Lately, on my mind and in my heart are the tragic and absolutely horrifying events coming out of Flint, Michigan.
"Son," I begin, "Tell me what you did this morning."
"I woke up, ate breakfast, washed my face, brushed my teeth and washed my hands."
"Good. So, did you think that your water was clean (it was, son, by the way)?"
"Girls," my girls are older than my son, "Do you pretty much trust that the water we use to brush our teeth, to drink, to wash our dishes, to make our coffee, and to make your hot chocolate is safe? Like, our city has done things to make sure that the water is safe?"
"Uh, yea," they respond as if that was the weirdest question I could have ever asked.
I then told them about what was happening in Flint, Michigan. I told them about the population of Flint, the demographics of people who live there, and what we reasonably expect from our government. I told them about the water crisis, the outpour of support from people providing bottled water shelters, and then the requirement for people to show ID.
My oldest child said, "Wait, I get that you have to show ID because, well, they want to know you are actually from Flint. But, what if you don't have an ID? Like, if you don't have the money to get an ID or if you aren't able to get an ID."
"Yup," I respond.
I told them about the people who had come together to provide water for those who did not have identification, for fundraisers that are raising money to buy water, and...
"and..." said my 9-year old, "That's great, but don't bottled water companies already make lots of money? Can't those companies help out and donate the water?"
She beat me to it.
"Yup," I respond.
For the next half-hour, my children began to identify ways in which the system/System was not working. They talked about the structural problems and the human problems that this caused. We talked about race, class, and how years of lead poisoning can impact lives of children.
As we pulled into our school parking lot, I realized that my children learned more about race, class, education, structural inequality, and structural racism in those 30 minutes than they might in a full day of formal schooling.
How can we, as teachers, educators and parents engage more deeply in these dialogues? What can you do to help young people learn about the world around them? How might we work in solidarity with those in Flint, Michigan?
These views that follow are my own and do not represent any organization to which I am affiliated:
- If you are looking to financially participate, a scholar who I admire greatly, has begun a GoFundMe initiative. I firmly trust her.
- On the flip-side, filmmaker and activist, Michael Moore, has asked for, not money but a revolt. Check out his piece here.
Whichever path you take, just do something.
Peace and love,