Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why Kids Are So Often Invisible

Dear Readers:

I am introducing what I’m calling “Snapshots into Invisible Faces.” These will be gathered from what students have written in my class. It all came together one night when I was reading the “Amazing Grace” biography of William Wilberforce – who was an abolitionist and the primary parliamentary leader in beating down the slave trade – and its acceptability in England. He spent a majority of his life fighting this cause, which sucked his life away from him slowly. But he won – after years of dedication. Due to his diligence, the slave trade was abolished in 1807. Three days before he died in 1883 slavery was abolished in the British Colonies. As I was reading this, something sparked; it was the author’s explanation that had the English really known what was going on on the slave ships at sea and in their colonies, they would have been appalled and more readily agreeable to doing away with the horrors.

But they could not see. It’s was far away and for England, they were dealing with “invisible faces.” Often, that’s what happens with our kids. Their faces are invisible. They seem far away – South Central, Watts, below Pacific Avenue in San Pedro. We also have all these laws the government uses to protect their rights, so the general public can not see them. We don’t know who is in foster care. We don’t know who’s living in group homes. We don’t know who is up for adoption. And most of us, we have absolutely no idea what happening with the kids living in areas of poverty or crime. Should we care?

Americans are the most generous people in the world. If only they could see clearly, my gut says our world for our children would change for the betterment of their lives. But we can’t help, if we can’t see.

Here’s what one boy, a high school student, wrote in my class recently and his sense of helplessness to save other kids. I’m impressed after what I read that he still had values and that he still cared – despite the madness going on around him:

Ever since I was born, I have lived in Wilmington. It’s not as bad as people think – or at least that’s what I thought. But then one day, I looked out my window and saw a man selling drugs to a seven-year-old. When I saw that I fell into shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t know why but I felt this anger inside of me.

Then, just when I was coming to terms with that, I witnessed a bunch of gang members make these two elementary kids fight. They were fist-fighting while they were just laughing at them. I just felt like going out there and doing something, but I knew if I did something, I would have had problems later on. Since that incident I have seen the world in a whole different perspective. Between that and my family life, my brother has epilepsy, I believe this will shape my future world and the choices I will make.

My family consists of six members. It’s myself, my brother, my sister, my parents and my grandma. My father dropped out of school right after middle school. He didn’t want to school anymore; he was an alcoholic. It got so intense that he drank rubber alcohol. What made him stop is that one day he got into a really bad fight and was seriously wounded. Since that moment, he hasn’t drank alcohol for almost twenty years and like my mother, works extremely hard to help his family. My mom dropped out of second grade. Her reason of dropping out is more reasonable. She dropped out because she needed to help my grandma sell candies to some schools near by so their family could survive.”

Despite the hardships in his life, this student told me he plans to use his Spanish translation skills to help people after learning years of patience helping his epileptic brother, changing his diapers and taking showers and babysitting him when his mother and grandmother have to go out. He plans to go to college and study perhaps medicine. He’s currently in the College Bound program at the Boys and Girls Club. Perhaps when he becomes a professional, he will not be an invisible face.