I feel like this has been a year filled with fights. The shooting of Michael Brown, Jr., the #Black Lives Matters campaign, the choking death of Eric Garner, the shooting of Tamir Rice, Tony Terrell Robinson, and Walter Scott all have been causes worth fight for. I have been in meetings with Black community leaders, my county District Attorney, grieving mothers, and religious leaders. Some of these meetings have been very difficult and involved “fights.” But they were all worth fighting over and fighting for.
Now we find ourselves in the midst of a “fight” between two well-paid public intellectuals over who is more “down” for the people. Who is a sell-out; who is a charlatan; who is keeping it real; who is a big phony. All I can say is, “Who cares?” When real people’s lives are at stake I really don’t have time to be in “water gun” fights. There are plenty of things I am willing to fight over:
I will fight over Black children’s education – This is the fight I have devoted my life to. I will fight with school people, policy makers, legislators, so-called reformers, pundits, and anyone whose ideas about education denigrate and harm Black children’s educational life chances.
I will fight over legislative policies that harm poor people – The lives of poor people are hard enough without elected officials doing things that make them harder. Taking away basic services like food stamps or the ability to take care of their children makes me mad enough to fight.
I will fight for raising the minimum wage – Everyone knows that making less than $15 an hour makes it virtually impossible to live in a decent home and take care of one’s family. It makes sense for me not to support places that pay less than a decent wage.
I will fight for maintaining peace –It sounds like an oxymoron but I think war is a barbaric and senseless way to operate in a world filled with weapons that can annihilate us all. Thus, I am willing to fight to avoid the crazy fighting that nation’s engage in.
I will fight for my students – I have dedicated my entire professional life to teaching, advising, and researching. And, I realize that students regularly need an advocate for them. I sometimes take the advisee no one else will but I realize the reward in getting a bright, young scholar is actually mine.
I will fight to maintain the dignity of women, especially Black women – Every message we receive about the worth of Black women is negative. What we see on TV, the movies, print ads, or the Internet (especially via social media) all tells us that Black women are some lesser form of humanity. Having been raised by and supported by incredible women, I am compelled to fight for Black women.
I will fight for immigrants and displaced peoples – Recently we saw the horrific death of North Africans desperate to get to Europe drowning from packed boats that unscrupulous traffickers preying upon the oppressed and disenfranchised exploit. Similarly, people crossing the US southern border are worth fighting for. Unaccompanied minors should not be arrested, detained, and shipped back to unsafe situations. I will fight for missing Nigerian girls –Do you remember the more than 200 Nigerian girls who were abducted by Boko Haram? I do, and they are worth fighting for.
I will fight for prison reform – Our nation incarcerates 2.3 million people. This is inhumane and uncivilized. I am willing to do what I can to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and work for treatment programs for substance addicts and diversion programs for first offenders.
I will fight for the cultural integrity of all peoples—The ability to speak one’s language, practice one’s customs, and see oneself reflected in school curriculum and text is something everyone should enjoy.
There are a whole host of things I am willing to fight for but some things are just not worth my time or energy. I will not life one finger in defense of the various “housewives” of whatever city. I will not invest one penny on behalf of the gaggle of Kardashians. I would be just as happy to forget that Justin Bieber even exists. And I don’t care that two Black men who have made plenty of money pontificating about all manner of things are in some kind of blood feud. I have had occasion to speak with each of them over my career and I actually “like” each for some of the work they have done. But, the idea of choosing “sides” and supporting one rant over the other while our children are dying in the streets and metaphorically dying in our classrooms is antithetical to the values that matter most to me. For me, Black lives matter, but two highly paid “intellectuals’” lives don’t matter more. Grow the “heck” up guys!
Stay Black & Smart!