By: Manny Pierre
I’m privileged, and to this day in some aspects of my life I still am.
Growing up, socioeconomically, I was not privileged by any sense of the matter. I inherited privilege through experiences I had growing up.
I was raised by a single parent. My mom did everything that she could to make sure that my sister, brother and I were always taken care of and had all the opportunities possible to live a better life than her.
This came with many sacrifices. The biggest sacrifice was time.
My mother was always working, so by the time she would pick us up from the "Y" (YMCA) all that was left in the day was to eat dinner, watch a tv show and go to bed.
With that being said, the caregivers in my life were for the most part white.
Growing up without a father was a blessing for me. I grew up with multiple father figures in my life, most of them white.
They raised me, showed me what was right and wrong, always held me accountable, and what I’m most appreciative of is that they never gave me NOTHING. Everything I got growing up was earned.
I attended a predominantly white elementary and middle school. I was always the only or one of two or three black kids in my class.
I never got the “that’s the black kid in the class treatment,” but if people thought that in their head, it was never outwardly expressed.
The treatment I got was: "that’s Manny Pierre, he plays on the basketball and little league team and sometimes he comes to my house to play N64."
To be completely honest, I was aware of racism in America, but I will admit that because of the advantages I had as a child I was blinded from it, and never experienced the worst of what my black brothers and sisters go through.
I know that some people aren’t going to like what’s in this letter if they get through it; there is still a stigma about openly talking about race, but I don’t care.
To my white friends, family and co-workers, or any other race/gender, the “I don’t want to say the wrong thing” wave or "I’m going to hide behind commenting/sharing a post" is no longer an option. I won’t lie, I've been guilty of the same thing.
I want you to think, though, “what if” Aiyanna Jones was your sister, Trayvon Martin your brother, Michael Brown your cousin, George Floyd your father and Breonna Taylor your mother or #mannypierre is the next hashtag, would you have something to say then?
You see, it’s okay to sound dumb, obviously you don’t want to, but you’re missing the bigger picture: finally speaking is important.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor & helpless and see that they get justice.”
2018 was the most uncomfortable year of my life. It was also one of, if not, the most important year of my life.
I attended Grad school at Boston College, once again privileged. The program I was in at times made me question who I was as a human being, but no one would have ever known.
I have always been good at adapting to the environments around me. If you scrolled through any of my social media platforms it won’t be hard for you to notice that I’m a teacher.
My master's degree is in Elementary Education. A woman named Audrey got me in last minute, she’s a G.
I essentially showed up to her office one day and told her I want to be a teacher. She asked me what do I want to teach? I said: "math" and she said, "You’re in. You're a male, you like math, you’re good”.
In my head, I said this woman is really F’ing with me. I just wanted her to know my name and see my face, instead she told me I was in; the rest is history.
All I knew about my program is that I would go to school for a year, get my degree and become a teacher; sounded good to me. Instead, I got a reality check.
One of our first meetings was on the subject of macro and micro aggressions - something I knew absolutely nothing about.
I remember sitting in that room piggy backing off people’s answers. I did a lot of piggy backing that year.
Everyone in the room was talking passionately about the topic, the presenter was telling people how he got shot five times.
As always, I was good at masking how I was feeling. Smiling and head nodding were on point that day inside; though I was sitting there like, “shit this is going to be a long year.”
I had to get UNCOMFORTABLE in identifying who I am. Knowing that how things were set up for me as a kid gave me advantages that other people the same color as I didn’t have.
I got out of my bubble and realized that my reality wasn’t the same as others. Thankfully, I was surrounded by great people that year.
LYTTLE you're a real one! I appreciate you more than you know. When speaking to you about things that were going on in society, or how we grew, I really had to think before I talked.
Li, Neary, Hwang, Wall, Gross, Cigliano I love y’all. At some point during that year we talked about an issue that made me think twice about something. Zapata, I didn’t forget you.
Brodie you were my boy from day one! Those 10pm train rides from class were legendary. Julia Devoy, Applied Child Development changed how I thought about my childhood.
I’ll never forget the staircase exercise where I landed all the way at the bottom. Navarro, thanks for hearing me out this year; the two benches on Blue Hill Ave will never be the same.
Urh, Jason and Donovan’s Ohana for life. Catherine thank you for taking a chance; believing in me, you changed my life.
I’m writing this letter because I’m tired of this shit and I now know I have been given a platform.
It is smaller than others, but it is one that can bring change to this world to impact the lives of generations to come.
My students are wise beyond their years. It’s upsetting to hear a kid say “the police are going to shoot me” so nonchalantly.
For those of you worried about having uncomfortable discussions, try having one with a nine-year-old who asks you “what are the chances their brother does not come back home that night."
I realized this week how important my platform is. I have 20 students who’ve I taught to always advocate for themselves, 40 sets of eyes and ears that watch and listen to my every move.
Seven of them came back to class on Wednesday telling me that they went to protest with their families partly because of the conversation we had on Monday.
My students complain about having to write a paragraph, and some of them came back on Wednesday asking if they could write about what they heard and saw.
One of my students told me the only reason why he went with his parents is because he saw how serious I was when we talked about it.
The other day a co-worker told me “all it takes is one.”
If you’re able to change one way a kid thinks about something you’ve done your job.
It’s 2020, six months ago people were excited, talking about how things are going to change because it’s a new decade.
Things have changed... a large majority though is uncomfortable with the change that is taking place.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized all of the systems that are put in place for a black person to not succeed.
So, if you’re a black girl or boy in America 2020 is not that much different from 2010, 1980 or 1920. The way I see it, is if people who look like me are oppressed, then I’m oppressed as well.
I will continue to speak with people in my circle; friends, family, co-workers,' people who look up to me.
We must hold each other accountable and get uncomfortable. Silence and playing both sides is no longer acceptable. It starts with us.
This is not only a racism issue but also a humanity issue.
The message being spread right now is respect. People respecting others and understanding the hurt and pain people are going through.
For those opting out of talking about the issues in our country today, means that you're ok with innocent people dying.
Those who are still riding that neutral wave - it no longer exists, it never should have.
Being neutral means that you’re ok with having blood on your hands.
Eight & nine year olds are speaking up, you should be able to as well.
The next thing you can do is educate yourself.
I’m nowhere close to knowing it all, I’m still learning and trying to figure out how I can help my people.
For my black sisters and brothers have faith, there still is hope, I see it every day.
This article was originally published on June 5, 2020 on Manny Pierre's platform
Manny Pierre is a teacher in Boston, MA. He got his Master's Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College. He is a passionate activist for humanity, stands for Black Equality and Rights, and will most probably win a basketball match against you. He is a role model to many young children and students and has been regarded as a leader since elementary school days at Our Lady of the Presentation.
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