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ALMOST HOME has social consciousness:

It’s now been over a month since I returned from Ohio and I don’t know who I am anymore. Before the divisiveness of this past year and my search for Lesa I had been operating along the lines of, “You’ve done your part, now it’s time to relax, turn into a nice, retired school teacher and enjoy the view.”

   But I’ve found that I don’t like the view. I find myself in the same situation I was in years ago when a student asked me, “Why do you get on to us all the time?” I looked at him. “Have you ever seen teachers who saw someone do something wrong and turned their heads and pretend they didn’t see what happened?” I asked. He said he had. I told him, “That’s because it’s easier to act like you didn’t see it. It takes a lot of time and effort to acknowledge you’ve seen someone doing wrong and deal with it. I happen to think you are worth the time and the effort.”

   I may be unsure of my role in today’s society but I do know I can’t give in and take the easy way out. The powers that be are counting on me and others to do just that. This stage is different; it’s not my back yard; it’s an entire nation, and I still have to take the time and effort.

   I can’t say I want to go back to the way things were because my perception of the way “things were” was wrong. In so many ways I thought we had really turned hate around in this country, but it is still alive and well. Hate is like a strain of syphilis that has become resistant to antibiotics. We made some gains, but the disease has come back with a vengeance.

   Throughout the years there have been many times I congratulated myself for working to improve race relations when in reality I was only being what I would call a do-gooder? I’ve talked the talk, but what have I actually done? Sure, I taught my son to respect all people and I loved my African–American and Latino students as much as my Caucasian students. I celebrated with Morris Dees and The Southern Poverty Law Center when they won a $7,000,000 lawsuit against the KKK for the murder of Michael Donald and I mourned for James Byrd, Jr. when he was tied to a car and dragged for three miles to his death in Texas.

    But what did I know about living in a skin other than the color white? Not a damn thing. I wasn’t a black mother praying to God every night that my son would not be found hanging in a tree the next morning with his throat slit. I wasn’t a black man waking up wondering if I would still be alive when the sun set at the end of the day. I’ve got to hand it to some of my friends and colleagues of color for holding it together when I made comments that showed I really didn’t get it. I hope they can help me find answers to questions I have neglected to ask because when it comes right down to it, all I’ve done is scratch the veneer surface of racism. And the wood the veneer is glued to is not made of Aspen. It’s made of hickory—the hardest commercially produced wood there is—commercially produced in more ways than one.

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