Friday, March 23, 2012

0.03 Percent

I walked into a classroom the other day, and there wasn't much going on. 

I sat down and talked to a few kids, who were listening to music or playing on their phones.

"What do you want to be when you grow up" I asked, feeling kind of salty for raising such a generic question.

"A Physical Therapist" one kid said.  "Eeeew," giggled a few.  "You know they have to go 'down there.'"  I assumed "down there" meant penises and vagina's, so I reassured them that Physical Therapy doesn't really have a whole lot to do with below the belt.  (My guess is they were thinking of the physical exams they get which often time include a pap smear, etc).  

"What do you want to be," I asked a kind of roundish (i.e. overweight) young man, slouched in his chair, one headphone in.  "A basketball player," he said, with an uninterested/i-really-don't-give-a-fuck look.

I took a deep breath, because I knew I needed to proceed carefully.  

My first thought was to say, "If I had a dollar for every young black male who told me he wanted to be a professional athlete, I'd have quite a bit of money.... but if I had a dollar for every young black male who told me that AND lived to see/make it happen, I'd be broke." 

"Okay," I said.  "I want you to get online and look up what is the likeliness of that (playing pro ball) actually happening."  I thought if he did the research, maybe he could come to the conclusion that he may want to have a back up plan (i.e. an education, etc).  

I checked in with him a few days later, and he said he couldn't find an answer, and that he looked with his teacher too.  Apparently all they found was final four basketball bracket statistics.  I was impressed that he took the time to look, but disappointed he didn't find an answer.

Upon doing a very quick google search this morning, I came across a probability chart.  If this young man makes it to his senior year of high school and is playing ball, he has (assuming he's good) a 0.03% chance of playing professionally.

According to the Parents United for Public Schools Website, 36 % of African American males in Minnesota  (like the one who told me he wants to be a pro basketball player) will graduate high school.  I'm not as good at math as I used to be, but wouldn't then his 0.03% chance of playing ball be even less, because that number is assuming he makes it through high school. 

I want to have a conversation with this young man, and I'm not sure how to do it.  The odds are not in his favor.  Most, if not all of his teachers are white.  As an Indian female, I don't know how much my words will mean to him either, because I am not in his shoes.  I never have been, nor will I ever pretend to be.

I wish all the best for this young man, who will likely go somewhere if he is challenged in a positive way, and supported by his community (i.e. family, teachers, peers, coaches, etc).  I think it's okay to show him the website with the statistics...and from there, I selfishly hope he makes the choice to really look at his future and take the steps to make it meaningful for him.  

In an age where young black males are targeted, gunned down, and left behind in the classroom, I feel it's important to continue the conversation about education, racism, opportunity and achievement gaps.... but in doing so, making sure that the voices of those who are most affected are leading the conversations.  

I'm left wondering how I can help ensure that is happening, or if that's even what should be done?  

Meanwhile, I'm in my own set of shoes, fighting my own race/gender/sexuality/economic/educational battles...

Wearing a hoodie in honor, remembrance, and hope for Trayvon Martin and the future.  03.21.2012. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Today Looked Like

Most weeks, I try to make a list of goals.  Usually...I fall a bit short of reaching them, but still, I start with good intentions.  

These are this weeks goals (as posted on facebook yesterday morning):

1. workout/run 5 times
2. do some kind of ab/core workout 6 times
3. meditate twice
4. write/journal everyday
5. eat well (3 meals + snacks)
6. have a conversation with a stranger
6a. make them laugh
7. sign up for a race happening between now and june 16

Here's an update on the progress:

1. Took yesterday off, but had an awesome 5.5 mile run tonight after work.
2.  Did an ab workout after my run tonight.... but the yoga mat I was laying on had little shards of glass in it.  Ouch!
3. I suppose running doesn't count...although it could.
4. Wrote yesterday.  Will do again tonight.
5. The fish I planned to eat tonight...went bad.  Shoot!  I did get lots of protein throughout the day though.
6. Not yet, but was kinda chummy with one of the teachers at school.  Ha!
6a. Smiled and waved at everyone I ran past tonight.  Got lots of smiles in return.  It was nice.
7. Sure did!  I just registered for the Get in Gear 10k.

Not a bad day.... in fact, it was pretty rad.  Work was good, got to talk to a lot of kids, had a great meeting, a kick ass run, and a failed dinner.  

This morning, I decided that I wanted to be really intentional with my day, and I did that by being compassionate and patient with everyone that I interacted with.  I realized last night, when my sister was harping on my ass...that we really don't know what a person is going through at any given moment.  When someone is a jerk to you at the store or on the road...perhaps their friend just died, or they just got dumped, or just failed an exam.  You never know, unless you ask.  

I was kind of annoying on my run tonight, waving kinda goofy like at all these runners I crossed paths with.  But I took it on as a challenge.  How many people can ignore me/not smile, when I have an open heart, a big smile, a wave, and good intentions?  Not very many.

It's interesting how the day can really change just by being intentional.  Little decisions, like swapping whiskey for water, or going for my run tonight despite not having a buddy to run with...those small choices made for a great day. 

Here's to many more days filled with intention, smiles, hard work, and love...