When my children were infants, they played with toys and books that were black and white. Infants have poor eyesight and I read somewhere that they could recognize black and white images best. It was their entry into seeing the world.
My youngest is now one and she is working hard to figure out her environment. Repetition is her mainstay and all her actions have a specified result. All clothes go in the laundry chute, even if they’re still clean and in her brother’s dresser drawers. I have trouble unloading the dishwasher because she knows the door must be shut and will shut the door on me multiple times as I put away the dishes.
She no longer needs the sharp contrast to see her world but her brain still understands the world in black and white. Open or closed. Yes or no.
Eventually, like the colors she sees, the world will come to be understood by her as shades and nuances, largely dependent on the situation. However, there are some things must always stay black and white for her because it is her right, as they are for all of us.
On Monday December 17, 2012, a seven year old student walked into my classroom and told me “My mom said that if a bad man comes in our school, you would protect me because you are a good teacher and would never let anything happen to me.” I told him he was absolutely correct and I meant it. With a husband, two kids, and a huge network of people who needed me, I meant every word.
Black and white: It never should have been necessary to have that conversation or make that promise.
In January of 2013, my school had its first intruder drill “after.” It made me jittery and distracted and as the students and I sat there, huddled from sight of windows and doors, with the lights off and doors locked, I eventually focused on those twenty-six faces and saw pure fear. I rushed to tell them it was only practice. I promise. The principal is just making us practice so we remember what to do.
Black and white: Students should not feel that sort of fear at school or anywhere else.
Today, a teacher died trying to protect students and coworkers. Children were physically harmed. They were witness to murder and will carry that burden with them the rest of their lives.
Black and white: The staff and students of that school should not have been subjected to that terror.
Black and white: Mike Landsberry was not supposed to die today.
Black and white: A child was not supposed to bring a gun to school with the intent to harm. That child was not supposed to inflict harm on himself with that gun.
I am an adult and I see the world in nuances, unlike my baby girl. It is my job to help her make sense of the world. The issue of violence in places of worship, theaters, malls, homes, and schools couldn’t be more black and white. It must stop.
We are charged with helping the world make sense, more sense than it is making today. I am not proposing a solution, I don’t know the back-story to what happened at that school. I do feel responsible for adding my voice to the collective sorrow and outrage so many of us feel today and have felt for a long time.
Some things are meant to be yes or no, black and white. We don’t have that luxury but it’s not too late to figure out a solution for our children, for my daughter who will eventually see events as nuanced as they really are but who deserves for some things to be absolute and certain. Black and white.
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