No, I do not watch the news. Yes, I do have a reason.
I’ve never been a fan of the news media for the most part. When I was a kid, I instinctively questioned almost everything that I read or saw. My parents, both publishers of community newsletters, taught me very early on that there was much more to the story than what we learned in history class. I guess I figured that the news is just history being currently written, so why trust that blindly?
In addition to the sheer bias (and not-so-subtle attempt at brainwashing) from many outlets, I have other reasons that I choose not to follow mainstream news. For one, there is an emotional toll when people continue to be murdered, often for absolutely no reason other than being black in America. However, we as citizens are often hard-pressed to receive a fair retelling of the facts. False narratives generate more revenue for the news outlets, while simultaneously fueling stereotypes, creating negative and divisive public perceptions, and devaluing human lives. Yellow journalism, indeed.
The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult, in light of all of the tragedies occurring around the world. For a while, it seemed like every day we would wake up to more bad news. I will not rehash old posts…if you feel so inclined, you can see what I have written here, here, and here in previous years (tl;dr: it never stops). There is no progress…each summer brings more of the same, without repercussion. The list of those gone before their time, at the hands of those charged to protect and serve, grows ever longer.
One day, I woke up, and did not want to get out of bed. This was the morning that I learned of the murder of Philando Castile. Heard, mind you…did not watch (nor did I watch that of Alton Sterling). Having heard the circumstances, as well as the emotion in the voices of my friends on Voxer, I had no desire to confirm the horrible images that I had playing in my mind.
I laid there, and thought. I was paralyzed under the cloak of depression, until I decided that the only thing that would get me out of bed would be to try to do something, somehow. Although dialogue is important, action is even more critical.
A couple of years ago, we began to see the rise of the citizen journalist, as many people now own some kind of phone with video-recording capabilities, and regularly use social media. This has allowed us to see events unfolding first-hand, exposing the truth for what it is. I remember one of the first times such a sick feeling crept in, after I had seen a video of Michael Brown’s corpse laying in the street.
I wasn’t alone. As a result, a few friends and I had also tried to create a community action group through Facebook a couple of years ago. We stumbled upon local resources such as the Washington Peace Center, and attended some community events. We had plans to do much more; however, it was hard to sustain over time. We simply lost momentum.
The morning July 7, emotions ran high on Voxer, as we comforted each other and tried to make sense of what happened. We decided to create a new group that would brainstorm community action. Currently, we are in the planning stages, trying to narrow a focus, but our planning document is here:
There are several members of this group, from different backgrounds, all with a different lens on the world; however, we do have a common goal. We are all educators passionate about doing our part to contribute to a fairer and more just society. The members of the group have shared amazing resources such as Join Campaign Zero and an ebook called You Have the Right by Laura Coates. I look forward to exploring these resources in greater depth, in the coming weeks.
Although we may not always agree on all of the details, we can have dialogue in a respectful way to move forward towards our mission. Healthy discourse paired with positive action will hopefully help us grow stronger as educators, and as human beings. Soon, our group will branch out to involve other community members, but we will continue to keep our actions rooted in education, for future-oriented sustainability.
We are approaching the challenge using a design thinking model, a practice that I learned about this year. (Source: IDEO Design Thinking Toolkit.)
We discussed design thinking in the latest episode of #EduMatch Tweet & Talks. The practice is based on brainstorming and iteration, with a focus on empathy. Empathy is crucial to this project, as we are one community and have one goal: to do what we can to help build positive community relations. Unity is our purpose.
I can no longer, in good conscience, sit back, twiddle my thumbs, and hope for a better tomorrow. I challenge us all (especially myself) to keep the momentum going. We can all do our part, whether it be through this project or something else. We owe it to our students.