October 27, 2009

But, Miss!

"Kahlia, come here."

Her bright eyes stare lovingly at his as he fiercely fires his orders. She's done no wrong, but he just doesn't have the time nor energy to deal with her.

She's in a laundromat. With nothing to do.

The drones are driving her crazy, and the flickering fluorescents are making her restless. I feel the same way, Kahlia. Right now, though, I feel with your dad, too.

I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm over-worked and under-paid. Yet, because of what I'm doing I'm expected to convey the same zest, the same love this three year old child does.

"Yo, Miss. I didn't do nothing, though."

But you did, Enrique. You were difficult. You were difficult, and I'm just not in the mood to handle your "lovable" quirks. Now, sit down and do your work.

It's not really his fault. He's a kid, and he wants to go out and play. He lives in an unprivileged area and goes to an under-resourced school. Despite how loving and supporting his family may be, he lives in a community of negativity and doubt.

"I don't want to go home, because I know it's not a good place."
"I don't have to worry about the Bloods here. My cousin's one. They look out for me."

Every day the world eggs him on screaming "Fail! Fail!" They look at him and see just another sad statistic. Despite me being a statistic of my own, and despite the mass amounts of hope and optimism I contain, today I'm one of those people screaming "You'll never get anywhere in life. Just hurry up and fail."

Enrique is in no hurry to prove them wrong, either:
"People of my color don't go to college."
"I joined a gang at my last school. We beat people up for no reason. Even though I'm not at that school, I'm still in the gang."
These are the things I hear every day. Those smiling eyes and upbeat attitudes astound me sometimes. I
know they don't have enough to eat. I know they are wearing dirty clothes. I know they've experienced a form of abuse, maybe even the night before.

Yet here they are looking up at me, smiling.

"Miss, miss. I didn't do anything wrong, miss."

No, you didn't, Enrique. You're just a victim, a product of your environment. I'll try to remember this as you're running, cursing, and fighting. I promise that in this year I will do my best to make your community, your school, your life as supportive and safe as possible. I want to help you. But, please, Enrique, just sit down and do your work.

"Okay, Miss."