Is Your PTA Hurting Poor Kids?

So your school has a PTA. AWESOME. Really, this is amazing. An active PTA can really be an asset to any school. Seriously. No one, NO ONE wants to tick off a strong PTA, and your local officials are very likely to listen to a card carrying member. If you think of your school as the smallest government in your life, the PTA is the only lobbying group in that place. It can have a remarkable amount of power.

And power can be used for good or for evil. Think of your PTA like a knife. Some are old and rusty, some are just for show, but some are super sharp, and the knife will cut where you direct it to cut.

It is weird to think about the PTA hurting kids, especially if you think of the organization as mostly a bunch of well intentioned moms. How could a group of moms hurt anyone? The short answer is: I don’t think they are doing it on purpose, but not all kids need what their kids need.  Moms tend to advocate for their particular child, and either they don’t care, or they don’t understand about the needs of all the kids in the building.

If you are in a PTA, if your kid is in a school with a PTA, you have the unique opportunity to have major impact on the lives of all kiddos. This is primarily an excercise in asking the right questions.

Are the meetings at a time where most parents can attend? Here is the deal. There are REASONS and there are excuses. Reasons are real, excuses are what you say when you would rather sit on your couch and watch Game of Thrones (ask me how I know…ahem.) If your PTA meetings are at a time that is only convenient for those who are not working during the day, and then you say that the other parents don’t care, you are keeping the working parents at the meeting AND THEN blaming them for the fact they can’t come. You are wrong for that. Additionally, if a parent is working a job that has no flex time (you don’t show up you don’t get paid) then you are asking maybe way too much of those parents. If they have to choose between feeding their kiddos and coming to the PTA meeting, guess which one the good parent is going to do?

Are the prices set so that ALL students can have the experience? If not is there help that is readily offered? The PTA generally sets the price for things. How much is a t-shirt going to be? How much is a candy gram going to be? Can everyone afford them? How are you going to advertise the fundraisers you are doing? I once worked at a school that was really big on raising money for pennies for patients. Don’t get me wrong, this is an awesome cause, but the kids collecting the cans would shame any class that didn’t donate money, calling them selfish and without school spirit. It got shut down real quick but it still happened. Money is tricky and if only the people who have it are making up the activities, these activities often become impossible for the  poor kids to do. The culture of the school becomes that really only the haves belong. It might not be anyone’s intentions, but it does happen if you aren’t careful.

Whose Voices are Being Amplified?  Are there guest speakers? Are they all white? Are the people on the agenda all friends with the PTA president? Look, PTA can be as bad as middle school. I know a women who came to the PTA meeting for two years, every time asking for the prohibitive cost of something to be considered. She never even made it onto the agenda. Look, the kids with privilege tend to hang out with the kids with privilege. If all the kids taking all the AP classes all have parents running the PTA, guess what kind of thing gets all the funding? It isn’t the remedial tutoring program. It isn’t always this bad, but it can be so pay attention to who gets to talk the most.

So What Can You Do? Join the PTA and pay attention. Ask the school social workers who needs the most help, what are their most pressing needs? Get to know your principal and her vision for the school. If you are at a high school there are likely “tracks” so make sure all tracks are being advocated for.

Mostly, just imagine that you are the poor mom, that your kid is the poor kid. What would you want done for them, do that. What would you NOT want done? Even if it benefits your kid personally, maybe don’t do that. The PTA is a great tool. Just make sure it is being used for the good.

 

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Your First Name is NOT Someone

Dear Over achiever, over committer, chronic over estimator of the minutes in a day,

I just need to tell you this one thing. Your first name is not someone. It isn’t. Someone needs to volunteer for to teach Sunday school, and someone needs to host small group. Someone needs to serve communion and someone needs to clean it up. That is all true. Someone needs to do all that. You are not all of those someones. You might not even be some of those someones. You might be none of those someones. That is okay.

Mostly, I am writing this for myself. I am a chronic over committer. I always underestimate how much time something is going to take. Always. So much so, that when I volunteer for something at church my pastor and the church administrator make me think about it for 24 hours, or publish it in the church newsletter anyway and see who else might volunteer. (Shout out to healthy pastoral care practices!)

Someone also is not your name in your home. Someone does need to do the grocery shopping and the laundry and make sure that the kids bathe at least semi regularly. Someone does need to find their shoes. That someone may not be you. They may be able to find their own shoes, a caper chart may remind them that they take a bath on Wednesday instead of their standard binge watching Girl Meets World. Someone does need to go grocery shopping and if you find it relaxing to wander up and down those aisles (I do. Don’t judge. But do send me on an all expensive paid vacation so I can have higher standards.) then by all means you are the someone. BUT if you hate it, it doesn’t have to always be your turn.

It isn’t good for you to always be the someone, and it isn’t the best thing for your community either. Your first grader needs to take responsibility for her own stuff. Your community at church needs to pull their own weight. Maybe a program that you have been hooking up to life support just needs to die. It might be painful, but it might be time. Everyone needs a someone in their life, but everyone needs to BE the someone too.

Your name is not someone. Please act accordingly.

Sincerely,

A chronic someone.

Wild Geese and Wild Goose: Letting the soft animal of my body camp in dresses.

When I was 28 I chose the word unashamed as my word of the year. I had no idea how much unlearning I had to do. I got my nose pierced the same week I told my pastor that maybe I was being called to preach. I started blogging like I meant it. I inserted myself in conversations I had a right to be in. I decided to do what I wanted when it didn’t hurt anyone else even if I did think these wants were a little silly, or juvenile, or shouldn’t matter to me. I stopped being ashamed that I take up space in this world.

I don’t remember if I had already read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese or if I stumbled upon it that year, but I still get choked up at the line “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Mary, do you have any idea how much work that is for me?

Last year was my second Wild Goose Festival. Her poem is always propped somewhere on the campground. My first with my kiddos and husband and camping and the whole thing. I linked up with a bunch of blogging buddies and we camped together and watched each other’s children and shared our food. It was good. A bright spot in a brutal summer where none of our plans had solidified. Out of one of the tents, Emily appeared with a flowing flowered kimono and red lipstick. I want to camp like that, I thought. Then I dismissed it. We don’t do that, women like me don’t do that, even if we want to.

But why not? If I am a person who WANTS to camp in dresses and lipstick, then why am I not someone who can do that? Y’all I am old enough that I pack my own suitcase.

This year we were having a nice normal summer where I could actually think about what I was chucking into my suitcase for the festival. When I sat down on my bed and thought about what I wanted to pack, I really just wanted to wear long dresses and big earrings. So I did. That was what I wanted to wear so that was what I packed. Even if I had spent a lot of time as a teen rollings my eyes at “those girls” who wore lipstick camping. Even if shorts seemed more practical, so I took a deep breath and rolled up my jewelry in each dress I planned to wear and shoved them in my tote bag. Then, every morning I took the time to wear one, and put on lipstick and earrings. I practiced loving what I love.

This is still hard for me. It is still a hard spiritual discipline to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. It is strange and wonderful and really really hard. It is also, FYI SUPER convenient to wear dresses when the only bathroom option is a port-a-potty. The soft animal of my body loved that.

I love the Wild Goose because it reminds me of this. It reminds me that God created me on purpose and to be good, that the things that I like are worth pursuing because I am worth it. A few women pulled me aside to tell me that they liked the way I dressed, and that me leaning fully into myself is not just good for me, it is good for everyone.

This is worth it. I am worth it.  Continue reading

So You are the Parent at a Poor School

So you are a middle class (probably white) person who has decided to send their kids to an “underprivileged” school. You care a lot about educational inequality and want to make a difference. After reading somethings on the internet (maybe written by me) you decide to do this! You do NOT fill out the forms and utilize the lotteries, you choose the path of least resistance and send your kid to the neighborhood school. You know no one else who has done this. You know that this is tricky and want to do it well. You know just enough to know you don’t know anything.

I am here to help! I taught high school in Atlanta for almost a decade, half of my time at an underprivileged school, and half at what can only be described as an over-resourced school. I know as a teacher what teachers need. I also am the white middle class parent at a poor black school. We chose three years ago to send our daughters to the neighborhood school when it was ranked the second worst in the state. We have loved every minute. Our kids are thriving. The school is an amazing community for us and my kids at 5 and 7 already understand that whiteness is one way to be, not THE way to be. They are way smarter than my 20 year old self.

If you want to ACTUALLY be helpful instead of FEEL like being helpful, here are some things you can do:

Know WHY you are there: If you are here to make the black school/poor school/refugee school a white middle class school, STOP. There are enough middle class white schools that you will be totally comfortable in. Go there. If you think you and your babies would benefit from an experience that is unlike the white middle class Dawson’s creek existence of (most likely) your own youth and you have a lot to learn, then you can proceed.

Understand Your Privilege: You are going to be listened to faster than anyone at the school. Your complaints will be taken more seriously, and if you have to run something up the chain it WILL be handled swiftly and harshly. You may not want this to be true, but it is. This may make people a little nervous when they interact with you. One complaint from you and a teacher may lose her job. Just know that any complaint you have will be taken very VERY seriously.

Assume Good Intent: There may be some things that they do at the school that you do not quite understand. Our school doesn’t use email as much as I would like them to. It used to annoy me. Then I figured out that they use text message because all the parents always have access to that. The school is more invested in you are in systems that work for them than you are, and they have thought about it longer. So, before you make all the suggestions, just watch. I promise you they are doing something for a reason.

Join the PTA: This is going to cost you ten dollars. Shell out. If you have a spouse or co-parent pay twenty and join separately. Mom, dad and step-mom? Everyone join! This is a national organization and it keeps track of what percentage of the school’s parents are in the PTA, they then give awards based on that. Just HAVING a PTA looks good for your school’s metrics. Even just having one improves your school, even if they don’t do anything, that ten dollars is not wasted.

Ask and Deliver: Ask your kids teacher, or the social worker “What is one thing you need.” They may tell you they don’t need anything. They are not telling the truth. Keep asking, “What is one thing I could do for you.” Then, deliver. If they say kleenex, buy kleenex. If they say lunch duty, show up. The school may have been functioning for years without volunteers and making room is sort of exhausting. Also, they are very used to people saying they will, and then not. If you want to help, you need to come through the first time so they know you are worth their energy.

Make Yourself Available: The teachers you are working with may not be used to planning ahead. Poverty is chaotic and sometimes oppurtunities that are free or reduced cost are often last minute. If you get asked day of to do something and you can, do it. If they ask on Wednesday and you are free on Friday, say yes to the field trip. If you get told at drop off they are out of paper towels, try to get some by pick up. These teachers are totally self reliant and have been their entire careers. Train them that you can be counted on. If you get annoyed, they will just stop asking.

Find your Beyoncé and Get Into Formation: You do not get to be the star of the show. You just don’t. You don’t know enough about the community. You don’t know any of the moves. Find someone you can back up. First I said YES to any request our pre-k teacher had. I made it happen, I volunteered my husband. As she got to know us she trusted us enough that we were able to advocate for her county wide. I always back up my kids’ teachers, but have also made good relationships with the social worker and the PTA president. I find out what they need and I do it. That easy. DO NOT make up a whole new set of moves. Just get into formation.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, DO NOT say it in Public: In the age of school choice NOTHING, I mean nothing is more important than school reputation. Because you are middle class and white, your opinion is worth a lot more than other parents. This is stupid and racist, but also it is true. DO NOT tweet, Facebook, or otherwise publicly complain about your school. Even if you say the good with the bad, people will only hear the bad because that is what they already believe. If worst comes to worst and you decide not to keep your kid at the local school learn this line: It just was not the best fit for our family. Other people really love it.

Rep for you school, Hard: The number one way you can be helpful is to be the biggest cheerleader your school has ever seen. Let everyone and their brother know just how much you LOVE your school, how GREAT it is. People like to support winners, and if you can get people to have positive thoughts attached with the school people will be more likely to support it. I joined the local mommy Facebook group to rep for, and defend my school. My friends know this. If they see my school mentioned they tag me in it. Practice smiling really big and saying loudly: Actually we love that school! I don’t know where you heard (that shitty thing you just said) but we go there and my kids are thriving! If you want to come with me to tour it I can arrange that! Despite what you heard about the test scores, I am VERY happy with the education my kids are getting! You will be shocked at the things people say to your face. Do not be silent. Stick up for your school. Because you are middle class and white people take what you have to say more seriously. Use that for the good.

Accept Charity: Listen here. You want to be part of this community? Then you need to be a receiver as well as a giver. If you have been raised middle class and white this is going to feel uncomfortable to you. You have been taught that you are supposed to provide for yourself. This is a lie that, if you do it right, your kids will not inherit. First, you accept charity so it isn’t shameful for anyone else. My kids get a “backpack of love” every weekend from the Methodist church that is on my seminary’s campus. We do not actually need the milk and peanut butter and graham crackers, but when they tried to make the program “opt in if you need it” no one would admit to needing it. Kids went hungry on the weekends. By normalizing receiving, everyone eats. The other thing is that this makes you a member of the community. I ran a coat drive that my child then benefitted from. This made it like a community thing instead of a “look at how good Abby is” thing. It was better.

Be Patient with Systems NOT Built for You: I said this before but it bears repeating. People of different classes and races have different ways of interacting with the world. The school is not used to people who work like you do. The communication might be through channels that aren’t your favorite. The pick up line might be chaotic because they have only ever had bus riders before. They may not know what to do with your kids’ packed lunch because everyone just uses the free lunch. The school has reasons for doing what they do. Find out what those reasons are before you demand change.

Praise People Lavishly: This is the easiest and most important thing you will do. Kids are bad at saying thank you  Parents already maxed out by life may not have the space for it. Be generous with your praise and your token gifts. Y’all I made a teacher cry by emailing the principal about how much I liked her. That was free. I drop off five dollar gift cards and bake cookies to drop in the teachers lounge. The teachers are the front lines and the best thing we could do for the kids is making sure the teachers know we love them.

That is it. That is all I got. TEACHERS if you have more suggestions find me on Twitter. Parents, if you have questions seriously contact me. It can be scary to do something no one else you know is doing. It can be scary doing something that is easy to mess up. You got this. I promise.

 

Momma Don’t Play That (What I Won’t be Doing Anymore)

This morning, while working on my side-gig as a social-media-manager for beginner bloggers, (contact me!) and showing someone the difference between my Facebook page, and my blogs Facebook page, the time-hop popped up with the teeny tiny baby Priscilla and Juliet. They were one and three and I was as tired as Priscilla looks. I was really just treading water; changing diapers and feeding people that were crying, and feeding me so I didn’t cry.

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But this was 4 years ago and everyone in it has more hair. Also, more words. So many more words than I could have ever imagined. So many words y’all. Just so many.

It is July 2017, and my kids are 5 and 7. They go potty by themselves and can even get their own snack when they are so hungry they are crying. They can go get ME a snack when I am so hungry I am crying. But there are times when I simply revert back into mom-with-her-hands-filled-mode. I just move through the paces that have been in my house since our second child was born. But y’all, I am no longer the only one who is capable of helping us get out the door when Christian is teaching summer classes.

I think that sometimes parents get stuck in the mode of whatever they are doing. There is an old family story my mom tells of her being half way done cutting up her own father’s steak before she realized what she was doing. My Grampy didn’t need his meat cut, it was just the mode she was in. I get that. I have been there, I have opened Christian’s food without thinking about it on numerous occasions.

But Y’ALL this is how helicopter parents are made. One moment you are tying the shoes of someone who probably can do it herself and the next moment you are calling your 25 year old’s boss to let her know she isn’t feeling well while you make her a doctor’s appointment for a flu shot. This is not how I want to live my life. In a moment of complete stress last spring I calculated when I was going to be an empty-nester and WOO-HOO 46! I will not be spending those glory years doing laundry for grown-ups I did not marry.  I am hoping for a ridiculous amount of European vacations and ordering in dinner more than 4 days a week.

So, as of July 2017 here are the things that I am no longer in charge of. Mom’s role is constantly changing and there are a host of things that I am no longer willing to do.

1.    Finding shoes that are not mine. My kids sometimes misplace the shoes that are still on their own feet. I am aware, after picking up my own house, that the leaving your shoes any old place gene is from me. I can’t even keep track of my own shoes, I certainly should not be finding everyones. If you can’t find your own shoes, you can’t go where we are going. Too bad, so sad, and yes I cringe a little when they wear mismatched rain boots instead of the adorable sandals we spent 6 hours picking out at Target. But if you wore them, and you lost them, you find them. I will not be scouring the house, looking under couches, checking behind the toilet for the shoes that you only decided were important when you couldn’t find them. Everyone finds their own shoes.

2.   Being the Snack Fairy. I get it. You are hungry. I buy your clothes and your shoes I promise I know you are hungry. I am fine with that. You can eat as much as you want. You have shown me that you are fully capable of opening the pantry and the fridge. You know what the snack foods are. Eat them. If you don’t want to eat the cheese sticks, fresh fruit, granola bars, or crackers you are NOT. THAT. HUNGRY. You know are awesome Title One school feeds you breakfast AND lunch during the school year. I am struggling as it is to feed you three times a day. That just seems like a lot. I certainly cannot do it extra. I have made my provisions. You do you.

3.    Refereeing. For the benefit of my own sanity, I can no longer referee your fights. I am so sorry. If your sister is doing something that makes you crazy, walk away. There will be plenty of people in your adult life who will make you nuts, you might as well learn how to work with them or walk away now. When you get promoted for knowing how to deal with impossible team members, you can thank me.

4.    Taking Your Turn. I will no longer be taking your turn. So, when it is your turn to get the dog out of the cage, help me set the table, or put away the silverware then you need to do it. Here is the thing  about your turn. I know I only have two kids so I should theoretically be able to know whose turn it is, but HEY not my job either. I am doing the best I can, and since my children can’t figure that out without fighting (see rule #3) then I guess we will just have to assume that with only 2 kids and 18 years of guessing it will all wash out in the end. If it doesn’t after that time, you can move out! If I say it is your turn, that means it is your turn. I won’t be doing it anymore.

That’s it. That is what I am not doing. See you in two years when y’all will be walking the dog all by yourself, and also your own laundry. I am looking forward to it. Have fun for now, when I still fold your panties. I promise, when you go to college knowing how to do all of that, you will thank me.

 

 

 

 

Integration and Community Schools

Three days a week this school year, I dropped my kids off this morning over by the side door. The man at the door waves hello but does not come to open the doors, he has already learned which mini-vans have automatic doors. I roll down the window so I can hear his music. This man has gotten himself a portable blue tooth speaker and he plays funk classics every morning, just to get the kids’ day started off right. He runs a tiny gentlemen’s school where he instructs the boys to tuck in their shirts and let the ladies go first. He looks the boys in the eye, man to man. He notices and compliments the color of the new bows on top of the girls heads. He is just so good at his job.

My youngest has become especially close with her para-pro. This doesn’t surprise me. Priscilla has been welcome in that classroom since Juliet was there 2 years ago. The para-pro hasn’t changed and she has always been fond of Priscilla. In my girl’s school, when they say that they are a community school, they mean that. If you are part of the community, you are in, even if that means that your sister goes to the school and you hang around when your dad is volunteering in the cafeteria.

This winter I led a coat drive for the kids in the school who needed one. I put a link on the internet in, and in three hours the coats were on the way to my house. I packed them into my mini van and delivered them to a social worker who had been praying for God to provide for the children in her care.

A week later Juliet came home with a new coat. I knew hers was a little short in the arms but we  live in Georgia and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to wait one more year. After outfitting everyone who had no coat, they moved on to the kids who had coats that were obviously too small. My daughter jumped into my van after school totally thrilled “Mom! Look! I got a new coat! It has a heart on it!” She was thrilled. I was horrified.

I could have gotten my daughter a coat. I could have taken care of that. I did not need a hand out. They didn’t see it like that. The community saw me as a member of the family. They had something we could use, so they gave it to us. We all gave and we all took and everyone got what they needed.

I have been in the church my whole life, and I think I have learned more about community at this school than I have at any other church I have attended. I learned how good it was to be able to say “we love our coat too!” when someone thanked me for theres. It wasn’t charity that I gave and they received. It was just a community thing that we all benefit from.

This morning I heard yet another program on NPR lamenting the fact that American schools are segregated. I read somewhere else recently that most people want the schools their kids attend to be integrated. And yet, many choose vouchers and charters and moving into a different district before they will send their kids to a school that is less than thirty percent white. We want integrated schools in theory. We want a better system but we don’t want to do the things that would change the system we currently have. We want schools that are comfortable to us, that work like white schools, but have kids of color in them. We still want to be in charge. We want a community school that values efficiency above teaching boys how to open doors and noticing hair bows.

I am so grateful that I am learning a new way from my kids school, that my girls are being taught this community way while they are young enough to absorb it as simply the way things are done. Where you notice, and care for, and invite in, and welcome, and share. I am glad for the ways my community is patient with me, in learning those things alongside my girls. I too want integrated schools, but I don’t want a white take over of a school that is already beautifully functioning. I don’t want things my way, I want to do better. I want people to join me who want to do better too.

Do You Know What an Innocent Black Kid Looks Like?

It is June 9, and in about half the country school is out for summer. For me and my girls this means pool time at our friends apartment complex and an excessive amount of outside foods (watermelon, popsicles, klondike bars). It means hanging out in our pajamas until lunch time and cheap matinee movies when it is raining. It means less rules and more sleep. It means summer fun.

But this isn’t the reality for very many of my neighbors. In my predominantly black neighborhood, I am only just learning the dangers of summer. For my neighbors summer means more sleepless nights and more fear. Our predominantly black neighborhood is changing quickly, old abandoned houses turn to cute renovated open floor plan funky colored relator peddled property in two weeks or less. They never stay on the market long. Apparently, we’re up and coming.

For me, this means that our “buy as much as we can afford” plan from eight years ago looks like a genius investment, for my neighbors it means their teenage boys are more likely to be harassed on the neighborhood streets. On the first day of summer a kid was traumatized for riding his bike to his friends house. He hadn’t even left his own neighborhood. His mother documented it on Twitter, otherwise it would not be news.

I wish I could tell you that I don’t know how this happens. I wish I could tell you that it is a mystery to me, but it isn’t. At twenty-three and surrounded by black children I found myself reacting as I had been trained. Having mostly seen black boys portrayed as criminals in the media, I interpreted benign actions as aggressive. I wish I could tell you I am the only one. But my neighborhood Facebook page, the Nextdoor site tell another story.

The suspicious people being reported in my gentrified neighborhood are almost all brown. The people being suspicious are almost all white. People opening car doors or looking in windows I understand, but every once in a while there is a post about a group of teenagers hanging out. What are they doing? Why are they there? Should we call the police? Sometimes it is just a particularly large or slow walking man the poster is curious about. They have conveniently snapped a picture so we can all take a look, decide if the person walking down the street is up to no good.

It took me a year surrounded by black teenage boys to learn what an innocent teenager looked like. It took me a year to figure out that I was surrounded by innocent teenage boys.

When we moved into the neighborhood eight years ago, a group of boys were on the corner just hanging out. I rolled slowly by as to not hit anyone who made a sudden move and they crossed their arms and mean-mugged me. I thought it was hilarious. I knew what innocent teenage boys looked like.  I rolled down my window and in my best and brightest first day of school voice I introduced myself. “My name is Abby! We just moved in! We live in that brown house over there! It is nice to meet you!” They raised their eyebrows at me and walked away. I saw them on the corner pretty much every day that summer. I waved. They mostly ignored me.

It took me another year to realize that this was a defense mechanism, that the boys guessed that I would see them as a threat regardless of how they acted, so they may as well be in charge of their own destiny. At 16 or so, they were already familiar with nervous white women calling the cops on them for no good reason. They already knew there was nothing they could do to diffuse white fear.

White fear has to diffuse itself.

But I rarely see white fear diffuse itself. Instead it ignores itself, justifies itself, if called out defends itself. White fear is allowed to exist, even if it kills black kids. And I get it, I do. It is horrible and awful to realize that the default thought you have about a group of kids is: criminal. It is really terrible to realize you have this racial bias, even when you don’t want it. But these things need to be faced, because they are actually traumatizing people, sometimes killing them.

I wish I could give all the white people in my neighborhood Facebook groups the benefit of the doubt, in fact I am sure that they really do not “mean anything” by the question about the kids on the corner, but it doesn’t matter what we mean. Actions have consequences.

White women, do we know how dangerous our fear is? Do we know how seriously it is taken? A few summers ago I was walking my overly friendly dog. We walked up my driveway just as a man walked by my house. I turned to say hello and my pit-bull pulled at the leash, I smiled and turned to tell him how friendly my dog was. He already had his hands raised. “Please don’t sic your dog on me.”

I was stunned. As a white woman I am conditioned to believe that I am never a threat, that my presence is never perceived as dangerous. My fear is always justified and I could never hurt a fly. But this isn’t true. My fear has been weaponized against the black community before I was born. My concern is reason enough for a child to be harassed or a gun to be drawn for my protection. If I feel afraid, I am allowed to sic my dog on a man who is walking in front of my house. This is the world that we live in. And when we feel afraid we need to know that.

We need to look at ourselves and our fear. We need to really understand why we are afraid. Do you know what innocent black boys look like? I am asking because I didn’t. I am asking because I don’t want my neighborhood to be a place where my black neighbors are harassed for existing in their communities. I know it is weird and uncomfortable. I know I will be accused of race baiting and blowing things out of proportion simply for writing all of this down. I have decided black lives are worth a lot more than my own discomfort.

It is summer, and teenage boys are out of school, teenage girls are wandering around in packs laughing too loudly, children are biking to their friends house. Everyone is staying out too late. At least, I hope they are. I hope they all get the summer my kids are guaranteed. I know that the world can feel like a scary place, but we need to react with the reality that is: Our fear makes it a scarier place for people of color.

Do you know what an innocent black kid looks like? Do you check yourself before you report something? Are you willing to look at yourself, your motives, your fear? Are black lives worth that to you?