The Power of Tension and Hope

I write the following for every Indigenous educator doing the work we do – and for anyone else for whom this resonates.

On tension.

I live in places of tension

in the tension between the holistic and affirming educational experiences for all learners, and the continuing reality that this is not the experience for so many children and youth

in the tension between the desire to reveal my anger at so many people in the system who make excuses to keep the status-quo of inequity and racism, and the understanding that their learning needs to be supported with invitations into learning and creating space for people to be curious

in the tension between doing what I personally want to do without thinking about how it might impact others, and knowing that I need to walk carefully because what I do does affect others

in the tension between wanting to separate my professional life from my personal life but knowing that this is not a luxury afforded to people whose identity is integral to the work

in the tension between believing that we can change our world for the better through education, and the cynicism that we won’t

and I learn in tension

in the tension that comes in seeking to learn

in the tension that is created when we open ourselves up to possibility

in the tension between who I am and who I want to be

in the tension that is created when I challenge my own thinking

in the tension that is created when I challenge others’ ideas

in the tension that is exists between self-doubt and certainty

in the tension that comes from dwelling in not-knowing

in the tension that comes from taking steps forward with no clear path

We need tension to grow – tension between what is, and the idea that there could be something better that we can be a part of affecting, or creating. When we enter into that space, we create the possibility of other possibilities.

Today, I also live in another kind of tension – the tension that exists when we witness the harm that human beings can to do each other, regardless of intention, and the ache in the wish that this was not a part of our world.

There is a tension between the need to exist in that loss, and in that grief, and the desire to move past it. I understand that we have to be able to imagine a better future in order to create that future. But this week it has been hard to do that.

On hope.

Canadians have spent too much time looking away. Looking away from overt and systemic racism, from pain or death caused by racist attitudes and actions in health care, in policing, in criminal justice, in child-welfare systems, in government policies and practices, and yes, in education.

A week from now or a month from now, will people turn away again? Or will Canadians stand up and use this time to create real, impactful, positive change? Could this be a legacy of these 215 children, and of the others yet to be found? Let’s see this as yet another call to action for all Canadians – not just to learn the full scope of the ugly past, but also to do the work of making change now beyond what is easy or convenient – the work of critically challenging on-going bias and racism in both ourselves and others.

The pain of the past is carried in the bones of the present. There is no moving past – only moving through, surfacing the dark into the light and air that comes with acknowledging, and with sitting in witness.

So yes, we sit in witness now. We acknowledge and we grieve. And we connect with the spark of anger at the on-going injustices and we act. We listen, we read, we learn, we talk, we stop accepting excuses and half-truths, we advocate.

We learn about the devastation of colonization, and we recognize the difference between knowing about, and understanding.

We learn about racism of the past and how it manifests itself in the present, and we enter that harder place of learning about our current complicity in perpetuating it. This is not about guilt or recrimination. This is about taking responsibility for what we do now.

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