I’m an Oakland boy but the place that birthed me is in crisis and the world is numb to it. Chicago, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen, is losing Black lives at an alarming rate. And what’s worse is that very few folks outside of Chicago seem to be discussing it. During the
weekend of June 18, 18 people were shot and 6 killed and the weekend before that there were 40 plus shootings—all in one weekend. It amazes me how so many lives can be taken and the conversation be so small on the national front. I’m gonna have a real moment with y’all right now. I’m that dude that people say is angry. Folks say there’s a chip on my shoulder. To alleviate this, I go to work and intentionally walk around my entire office every single day and speak to people—not just because I’m this super friendly guy, but because I know how people see me. It’s the way they’ve always seen me—as a threat—so I work to put people at ease.
But when there are so many factors indicating that Black lives aren't valued and it’s reiterated to you time and time again, it changes you. You start to think and act differently. I’m talking about cops killing us, us killing us, food killing us, water killing us, education killing us, our government killing us, poverty killing us—ALL OF IT. So when we step up, we’re met with a prime mixture of animus and patronization:
"The cop had due cause."
"Let the hood take care of itself, eventually they’ll kill each other off."
"We need Monsanto."
"Just give schools more money."
"Charters are manipulating you."
"Don’t blame teachers."
"If they just got jobs, this wouldn’t happen."
Get outta here with that, man! For real.
What's Going On?
I recently spoke on
an education panel discussing the normal stuff: school choice, student achievement—you know, all the stuff reformers and anti-reformers discuss. These are the arguments where there's no changing of minds, instead we're all are just taking up space. During the panel, I just couldn’t get over what’s been happening to Black folks. I just kept yelling that our education system has never really educated Black people well, especially after Brown vs. Board. I just kept going back to the shootings that happened this month. 40 plus shootings in one weekend. This is Chicago for people that look like me. This is Chicago for poor folks. And this isn't just the story of Chicago; it’s the story of our country for poor folks and people of color. How bothered do we need to be to do something? We need to show these kids we care about them. Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, show 'em.
Charles Cole III is an educator and media producer focused on the advancement of all youth of color, but more specifically Black males. The passion comes from his own experiences growing up without proper support. His life’s goal is to better the communities he grew up in through his work. He has served as a social worker, a director for Teach For America, the vice chair of the ...