A Change Needs to Come

Earlier this week, at a public middle school in Louisville,KY, an 8th grader was arrested for having two loaded guns in his backpack. After his arrest, a friend of his explained that this young man didn’t bring the guns to school to hurt anyone, but that he brought them for self-protection on his walk home from school.

I haven’t been able to get this situation off my mind. It’s a shining example of how broken the system is. My heart breaks for this young man, who must feel like he is risking his life to get to school everyday…so much so that he brings weapons with him. He knows it is breaking the rules (how could he not?), but when you are talking about staying alive then most rules go out the window. And now, he is forced to finish his education at an alternative school where it will be an uphill battle to pull himself out of the stigma associated with it. The cycle of struggle will probably continue. All because he was trying to keep himself from getting hurt or killed while he was doing the right thing by getting an education.

I am in no way saying that it is okay to bring weapons to school. Thank goodness no one was accidentally or intentionally injured. Guns scare me especially when they get in the hands of people who don’t know how to use them or people who aren’t thinking rationally (either from drugs/alcohol or due to mental health/emotional issues). This child needs to face the consequences of his actions. And I am grateful that an alert security guard figured out something was wrong and acted quickly. But why, WHY, WHY did it get this far?! Why couldn’t he talk to a trusted teacher about his situation? Why couldn’t he go to a counselor and ask for help in finding a better solution to the problem? Why didn’t his friends feel like they should step in and alert someone? Why weren’t his parents more involved?

I am not bashing his parents…..I have no idea what their situation is. Maybe they work multiple jobs and physically aren’t around as much? Maybe they are consumed with their own problems? Maybe they are ideal parents and their son didn’t want to burden them with his troubles? Who knows? I am also not trying to be critical of his teachers. I cannot imagine what they have to deal with the in the classroom on a daily basis. All I know is that this young man was failed, collectively, by his parents, teachers, friends, the system, and by our community.

We have to do better. This is our future. This is our present. It would be so easy to say, this isn’t a concern of my family and that my kids aren’t in the public school system for this exact reason. But that doesn’t help our community, our city, or our fellow citizens. We all have to be invested and involved in creating a solution. I wish I could put out there 10 things that we each could do to change what is going on. But I don’t know what those things are. It’s frustrating and upsetting.

Also this week, I have been stewing over the situation with Colin Kaepernick. When I first heard that he sat down while they played the National Anthem before his game with the San Francisco 49ers, I was put off. Thought he was a punk. Then I started reading more. And I heard opinions from black friends. And I changed my mind. Colin Kaepernick is frustrated and upset every time he hears another story about the system failing another person. He, like me, probably didn’t know what to do to help change the situation. He, unlike me, knew that he could pull national attention to the issue by doing something drastic that would cause no one physical harm. Good for him. He isn’t the first professional athlete to use his celebrity status to take a stand. Famed son of the city of Louisville, Muhammad Ali, may be the most famous.

So how are these issues connected? I don’t know the race of the boy who brought the weapons to school, so I am hesitant to make this a race issue. I think these things are related because for anything to change and to improve, people who have power and means need to step up and do something. Colin Kaepernick doesn’t live in poverty. Neither do I. Really, we could both go on with our lives and pretend the issues that are dominating media don’t affect us. But they do affect us as a whole; as a culture; as a community; as a country.

My hope from the beginning is that Kaepernick didn’t stop with this gesture. My hope was that he could pull together other professional athletes who have the same concerns and they could create a plan to make a change. That they pool their financial resources and use their notoriety to create something good. I was happy to hear that Kaepernick has said that he will donate the first million dollars he makes this season to community organizations who are working for a change. I feel like I am trying to do my small part of helping the situation by raising children who are not so privileged that they can’t see the harm in what is going on. But, I know I should be doing more. And I want to do more. I’m just not sure what that more is and I know it isn’t going to fall into my lap. Looks like I’ve just given myself some homework. And I’m okay with that.

I know I usually tie music into my posts and there is only one song that comes to mind : A Change is Gonna Come. It was originally written and recorded by Sam Cooke in 1964 as a response to the civil rights movement. It became the anthem of the movement. The alternate version by Ben Sollee is on my regular listening rotation and it serves a reminder that it doesn’t matter if you are a southern man who was targeted because of your skin color or if you are a boy from Lexington, KY who grew up with privileges, you can still sing this song with meaning and soul while inspiring all people to work for a change. We are all in this together. Ben’s lyrics that really jump out to me are:

I just need some comfort
Some kind of belief
That this war we’re fighting
Can really bring some peace