Jason. So Jason is 12 , going on 23. That is... Michael Jordan 23. He was sitting on the brick wall this past Sunday as I mowed the lawn. I turned the mower off and asked him what he was up to. Before he could answer the question, he looked at me and said "What kind of job do you have Miss Lindsey?". As I began to bore him with Search Engine Marketing and web design, all he wanted to know is how many bedrooms my home had in it and if I had video games in the house. I explained to him that I unfortunately had no use for a play station, as I barely have enough time to watch the news. I then asked him, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" He quickly responds with, " oh of course, I want to be an NFL or NBA player, I'm really good and even play with guys who are in highschool." Jason is a legitimately a great athlete and plays AAU ball all over the place. You can tell by his actions he is extremely competitive and a naturally talented.
As we talked more, I asked him,"Well what if ball doesn't work out, what's your plan?" He goes on to tell me he would like to be a doctor. He said he didn't care what kind, but wanted to be the kind that makes the most money. I just started laughing and recommended he think about orthopedic or sports medicine since that still keeps him in the atheletic field. Of course naturally, 99% of all my conversations with children leads to some sort of "coaching" opportunity.
I struggle a lot with the fact that I live in my home while many of the families around me live a different less fortunate lifestyle. It could be a single parent household where the mother or father struggles to put food on the table. Or a couple that continually fights and domestic abuse occurs. It could be drugs. Or it could be just a regular happy home, but still struggling to make ends meet. I can arguably say that I don't personally stuggle with any of those situations (besides making ends meet, but certainly not to the same degree), but I am not blind to what goes on around me and what others are facing. And I'll admit sometimes it feels unfair to others and I'm embarrassed about it. But I then have to take a step back and think about how I have worked so hard to get where I am in life, and I'm just living in a shell. This just happens to be a shell that is happy on the inside. I don't want anyone to see me differently than them, because I'm not. But that's unfortunately not how society has programmed people to think these days.
Let's be honest for one minute. Brutally honest. My "life" as most see it from the outside, is not the same. We are some what from different planets. My income is not equal to those around me. I'm white. They are black. I'm in one tax bracket, they are in another. I drive a mercedes. They drive an older less expensive car. My house is big. Their house is small. My parents paid for my education. These children go to school with out basic necessities. Bottom line is, society says we should not be coexisting in the same environment.
All of these differentiators are what have created a completely segregated society in all aspects unfortunately to those who are basic / normal /non-progressive thinkers ( which is probably 90% of America). Society tell us " you are the company you keep". To a certain degree, I agree with this statement. If you surround yourself with those who succeed, you are more likely to be a winner also. But on the flip side, this creates a seperation in society all the way down to the community and household. What if you don't know any different? What is the definition of success? How is it defined based upon the environment we were brought up in? I bring this up for a reason.
I bluntly asked Jason a question that evening as we swept the sidewalk together. I asked him, " How many white kids are in your class buddy?" He looked at me funny and somewhat in shock. His response was astounding to me. Jason said, " hmmm none. I think there may be one mixed kid, but he left after a few days cause people were mean to him... And to tell you the truth Lindsey, I don't really know any white people besides you." I stood in stillness and almost utter shock. I honestly didn't know how to respond. I wasn't sure how to respond except I told him that we are really no different at all. But does society think that ? Does society create different expectations for different races or even sexual preference? ( I've even heard some say gays are "hard workers" ... Seriously? ) Let me be brutally honest again. Many Caucasian parents do not want their children going to inner city schools.... Due to the quality of education. I've heard it over and over again. Is it truly because of the quality of education? Or is it a race issue? Tennessee consistently ranks as one of the bottom 10 states for public education in the US. We also rank 13th as the least diverse school systems regarding race. Athough Ironically, 2 of the highest rated public high schools in the entire country reside here in Davidson C ounty- Hume Fogg and MLK. 50-60% of the student body at each school is classified as minority. To me, that's not a coincidence. That's hard data that diversity is better for everyone, especially when it comes education and life skills.
I went inside to my big home that night and watched him walk back down Katie to his house. Jason wasn't threatened by me as a white girl, and I certainly was welcoming to the little guy, especially after he told me he thought I was 21. It's Funny how kids don't know ever pick up on racial stereotypes until society tells them what they shouldn't or should think.
I then wondered what Jason's idea of success was being a young black male. Based on the conversation we shared about what he wanted to be when he grew up. Is it because young black males are taught to "get money" and that equals happiness? Is it because he watches athletes and thinks that's the only way or "coolest" way a man can "get money"? Will he know how to function in a blended society one day? I have the same questions for the white kids across town who aren't attended truly integrated schools and environments with diverse income and backgrounds.. I wonder if Jason sees me as the white girl with money? Do I really know how this blended society is supposed to work? What can I do better to break the barrier that exist so we can all just see each other as humans ? I'm seriously lost.
The problem as a whole is bigger than my mind can comprehend or solve. But let me say that it confuses me and hurts my heart. It hurts me to think that society as a whole can't seem to function as a unit. All incomes, all backgrounds, and races. Sure, we have come a long way thankfully to people like MLK, but each individual in this country has to begin doing their part and it's starts simply in our own back yards. This world is segregated and I am tired of it. I'm tired of being labeled by what the color of our skin is and the dollar amount in our bank account vs. how we help others and give back. I know I live well financially and I work hard to enjoy nice things. I'm not ever going to deny that. But that's not who I am. If I lost everything tomorrow and had nothing, I'd still be full of love, and that's what matters. We have to teach young people that it is completely normal and healthy to have goals and strive for financial success. But to truly change the world, each and every one of us must invest in one another, be accepting, and LOVE. No matter where you come or what you have. I'm not sure I can change the whole world, but if I can make a positive influence on one person, my community, and encourage others to take a step out of their comfort zone into the unknown, I promise they will learn more about themselves than they ever imagined possible.
We are all the same. One Love.