I was at a talk today about race in education, specifically focused on the role that white teachers play in regard to black boys, and the presenter ended by urging us to be “pessoptimistic.”
It’s like optimism, but you don’t just hope things get better – you’re out there doing something and demanding results.
According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s
A philosophy that encourages forward-thinking optimism with an educated acceptance of a basic level of pessimism. Optimism’s fault is it’s naivete, pessimism’s it’s blind jadedness. We live on Earth and are human. There is, was and will be good and bad. Shit happens, dreams come true.
As I write this, American headlines are detailing our 18th school shooting this year, with at least 16 dead. As an educator, as a parent, as a human being – this breaks my heart, especially because it’ll happen tomorrow, or next week, and we’ll see the same response: handwringing, thoughts and prayers, and nothing.
When I go to my job, I work with kids who have been beaten and raped and witnessed attempted murders and all kinds of horrible things that no one, not even adults but especially not kids, should endure.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when everywhere you look there’s negativity and it seems like people with power are going out of their way to be cruel to the least among us, only to protect and enrich themselves.
Today, however, was a reminder that we CAN do something.
We can become pessoptimists, and demand accountability from our leaders.
We can become pessoptimists, and step up as community leaders that will be accountable to our communities.
We can become pessoptimists, and talk to the people who are most affected and learn what they want us and need us to do.
I’m not saying bad things won’t still happen. They will. There will always be apathy and greed and a million other reasons why someone can walk into a school and kill 16 people, or beat their children, or systemically deny others basic human rights.
Change won’t happen overnight, but it also won’t happen at all if we don’t make an effort to do something, anything, to speak up and fix the problems around us.
Will you join me in being a pessoptimist? What will you do to make things better, not worse?