<![CDATA[After Deadline - Blog]]>Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:28:57 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Why Can't We Be Friends]]>Fri, 21 Jul 2017 21:10:22 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/why-cant-we-be-friendsPicture
When I was in college, when Bill Clinton was president, I was awed by the marriage of Democratic operative James Carville and Republican political consultant Mary Matalin. They were (and remain) a couple deeply involved in politics, but on opposing parties. They seemed to have so much love and respect for each other, and see their differing ideologies as just a quirk that gave them lively conversation.

As a young adult, I looked at them and wondered how they could be married, with such different philosophies. That wonder seems quaint today, in our current political climate, where Democrats call Republicans “deplorables” and Republicans call Democrats “snowflakes.”

This Washington Post article https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/20/half-of-liberals-cant-even-stand-to-be-around-trump-supporters/?utm_term=.1a8047a7fee1 reports on a Pew Research Center survey that says “almost half of liberal Democrats — 47 percent — say that if a friend supported Trump, it would actually put a strain on their friendship.” We are at a place in our country right now where Democrats and Republicans can’t even be friends, much less be married. I find this one of the saddest parts of our political climate.

Just last week I had dinner with one of my dearest childhood friends, one of the sisters of my heart. We are on different ends of the political spectrum. I’m pretty much a “not my president” kind of gal and she’s worked inside a Republican White House and for current Republican leaders I do not like. On most major issues we vote differently – abortion, health care, immigration – if it’s hot button, we disagree. Her life work is in politics, fighting against causes I celebrate. In our open, warm, honest conversation, like the thousands we have had since we met at the seventh grade bus stop, we asked questions, and spoke our minds, and listened and agreed to disagree.

In sharing that conversation with various people since, the reaction has uniformly been, “How can you even be friends with someone who votes that way, and thinks that way, and works that way?”

I’m saddened by that question. I love her. I know her heart and she knows mine. I trust her to have difficult conversations with me, to listen and answer my questions with respect, and to still love me, even though my beliefs are counter to hers. My beliefs are based on 44 years of experience, reading, discussion and thought. I’m confident that what I believe is right. But my friend has her 44 years as well.

I certainly do not think I have the answers. It’s very possible I’m wrong. What I’m most sure of is that refusing to listen to each other because we think we are enemies is the wrong way to truth. The right way, the only way, to arrive at truth is through free and open discussion. Socrates said that.

Socrates did not think he knew the answers to all questions. But he saw that no one else knew them either and so his questions where open to debate for all people. If we start with the premise that we don’t have all the answers, and neither does anyone else, and we really listen to each other as we debate the questions, we can hopefully find truth.

What that requires is a willingness to listen, an openness to being wrong, and trust. My friend and I can have these conversations because we trust and love each other. Now that I’m older, I realize James Carville and Mary Matalin can be married because they love and trust each other. As Dionne Warwick sang to us in 1966, "What the world needs now, is love, sweet love." Less name-calling, less anger, less defensiveness, and more love. As always, it starts with me.

<![CDATA[My Mother Gave Me Wonder Woman]]>Sun, 04 Jun 2017 21:20:13 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/my-mother-gave-me-wonder-woman
My mother didn’t give me everything I wanted in my childhood. She didn’t give me sugar cereals, or a Cabbage Patch doll (even though every single girl-child in America had one), or her full attention. But she did give me Wonder Woman.

On my sixth birthday she gave me a book that included the first 13 comics with an introductory essay by Gloria Steinam. The comics were within my reading skill level and, despite not knowing a thing about Greek mythology or World War II, I loved them, reading them over and over, as children do. I tried mightily with the Steinam essay, but it wasn’t until my pre-teen years that I had the vocabulary (“gynocratic”) and context to understand what she was saying about the importance of a powerful female superhero in the psyche of a girl growing up in America.

Steinam’s essay, written in 1972 says, “Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of the women’s culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into the mainstream: strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peacefulness and esteem for human life; a diminishment both of “masculine” aggression and of the belief that violence is the only way of solving conflicts.

These are the values my mother taught me, both through her direct instruction (“Never depend on a man. Always be prepared to support yourself and any children you create.”), and her model. Wonder Woman herself says this in the 1943 comic, “Battle for Womanhood.” She rescues a young woman named Marva who asks her, “What can a weak girl do?” Wonder Woman responds, “Get Strong! Earn your own living! Remember the better you can fight, the less you’ll have to.”

These early lessons of empowerment fueled my childhood, and I absorbed all that I could about Princess Diana. I have cleared rooms boring people with trivia about the Amazons, costuming changes and what those bracelets symbolize.

Oh, I can’t help myself. The Amazons are descendants of Aphrodite. The early skirt was too hard for William Marston to draw. The bracelets are worn by all Amazons as a reminder of their enslavement by Hercules and his men. If you want to know more, I warn you, I can go on for hours.

So seeing the new movie starring Gal Gadot made me nervous. I was doubtful that the creation myth would be left intact. I worried that Gadot would not fully embody the warrior princess. I was nervous that she be portrayed as yet another object for the pleasure of the men – sexy and strong, but also demure and subordinate.

I was wrong on all accounts. The creation myth is pure and accurate. Gadot is all that Wonder Woman should be – strong, kind, good, peaceful by nature but willing to battle and kill to protect those weaker than herself. And never once does she or any other character view her as lesser. She (and all the Amazons) also speaks over 200 languages, which is not in the original comics, and also my most-desired super power. Her conclusion is that the only thing that can end the world and save humanity is not some super-weapon, but love. I couldn’t agree more.

I may have spent a good part of my childhood hungry for actual food, but never did I hunger for the knowledge of my own power. I was raised to know that I can accomplish anything, that I don’t need to rely on anyone, and that it is my duty to help others. I know that I myself am a wonder woman. My mother told me so.
<![CDATA[The Soft Sciences Aren't Easier, They're Gentler]]>Wed, 24 May 2017 21:19:24 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/the-soft-sciences-arent-easier-theyre-gentlerPicture
had the great honor of being the guest speaker at the Wootton High School Humanities and Arts graduation ceremony on Monday, May 22. What follows is my speech.

Hello friends. My name is Evva Starr. I’m an English teacher and the newspaper adviser here at Wootton High School. I am honored to be here with you all today – parents, teachers, administrators and most importantly, the Humanities students of the Class of 2017.

I was told that my speech today should be about what the humanities mean to me. Humanities are the “soft” sciences, and that’s often said disparagingly, as if the “hard” sciences – math, engineering, chemistry, computery stuff – are harder intellectually. Soft doesn’t mean easier, I believe it means gentler. What we study in the humanities – literature, history, psychology, sociology, art – is humanity. Nothing is harder than the study of humans and why we do what we do. It takes the study of all the branches of the humanities to try to understand human motivation. And it takes gentleness most of all. To understand each other, we must try to empathize with each other. And to have empathy, we must make ourselves soft. This softness, this gentleness, this openness, is the hardest task I know.

But what I really want to talk to you about is not what the humanities mean to me, but what they mean to you.

Each of you decided, four-ish years ago, that the regular course of study here at Wootton High School, just wasn’t enough for you. You decided to do more – to challenge yourself with specialized, more challenging courses, to write a lengthy research paper, often with a creative component, which would require over a year of dedication, and to sit with a panel of teachers and subject yourself to excruciating critique. You did this not for glory, or praise, or money, but for the love of the humanities. You probably didn’t even know what that meant when you signed up, but you knew somewhere deep down that studying our species was a worthy pursuit. You were right, and you now know that the reward is your own satisfaction that you pushed yourself and you rose to the challenge. That reward might not buy you a Unicorn Frappuccino, but it’s also the only reward worth anything at all.
But what humanities really means to you, is Mrs. Hanson. I’m not sure if you all know this, but Michelle Hanson made up this program, and she runs it entirely on her own, not for glory, or acclaim or money, but because she believes that teaching you how to study our species is a worthy pursuit. Her reward is seeing you each rise to that challenge. Her reward is you.

It is said that being a parent means forever having your heart go walking around outside your body. I know you don’t understand that yet, but you will, when you are parents someday. The inverse is also true. As your parents’ child, you forever walk around with a piece of their heart inside of you. Kind of like a phone tracker, but a lot less creepy and invasive.

Being a teacher is like that too. I know I speak for Mrs. Hanson, and for the dozens of teachers who have guided you over these past four years, when I tell you that we have given you a piece of our hearts, for you to carry forever inside of your own. Our own study of the humanities has always started with the study of you.

To the Class of 2017, as you go forth in your study of the humanities, remember that to try to understand each other, we must make ourselves soft. When you feel yourself stiffening under the burden of hard work and disagreement, I hope you will think back to today and remember that you already know how to do this. You know because you’ve already done it. Congratulations and best wishes.

<![CDATA[You Are the Acme of Things Accomplished]]>Fri, 19 May 2017 17:12:21 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/you-are-the-acme-of-things-accomplishedPicture
 What follows are the remarks I gave at the induction ceremony for Quill and Scroll, the international honor society of high school journalists, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

Walt Whitman, in his masterpiece “Song of Myself,” writes: “I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I am an encloser of things to be.” I’d like to talk to you today about things accomplished, and things to be.

Those of you in this room, the newspaper and yearbook and literary magazine editors and writers and artists, have accomplished so much this year. You produced a yearbook that within its pages tells the story of this moment in time and these particular people. It now exists, as a piece of history, inside which each of us stops aging and remains forever young and happy. You produced a magazine (well, almost, but you’re so close!) that is full of art and poetry and beauty. And you produced 13 (and counting) newspapers that chronicled the events and contests and opinions and concerns of your community. Between the three publications you represent, you all captured in words and images what it means to be Wootton High School.

But first, before anything was accomplished, there was nothing. Way, way back, there was really nothing. Science tells us that before the Big Bang, all matter that exists was in one, infinitely small nothing – called the singularity. Then all that matter exploded out and about 14 million years passed, and your parents made the biggest decision of your life – they accomplished you. Then another 15 or 16 years passed, and you had an idea. Hey, you thought, let’s describe what it means to be Wootton, and we’ll put a blue cover on it, and put holes in it. And we’ll take a lot of photos and write about Model UN like eight times and paint with red and figure out Photoshop and talk for hours about how it make it look good.

And it’s done. Your peers hold what was once nothing in their hands, and they think, well, I could have done this. But they didn’t – YOU did it. Only the people in this room know how much work it was to take that nothing and turn it into the thing accomplished. We know how you ran from a sports practice to a deadline day, still in cleats, because you remembered something that had to be included before we uploaded. We know how rude that teacher was to you when you were just trying to track down and include that quiet freshman in your coverage. We know how hard it was to hear your work critiqued by your peers, and then to double down in your efforts to do better.

So here’s the thing. You took your own singularity – your own everything inside your own nothing - and you turned it into “the thing accomplished.” And if you did it once, you can do it again. Anything you dream of, things you haven’t even dreamed of yet, already exist, simply because you exist. You are not only the acme of things accomplished, you are the encloser of things to be.

I know I speak for Mr. Hitchens and Mr. Lowe and Ms. Litwin when I tell you that we are so proud and humbled to have watched you make your “thing accomplished,” and we cannot wait to see your “things to be.”

<![CDATA[The Best Part of 13 Reasons Why]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 00:40:13 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/the-best-part-of-13-reasons-whyPicture
It seems everyone is talking about the book and series 13 Reasons Why. I dislike so much about the story, but the very best thing about it is the talking itself. What follows is a conversation I had with several of my best friends from high school. These friends are strong women, raising strong women.

Mom of 4 kids: Mrs. Starr, do you plan to write a blog about 13 Reasons Why?

My funny friend since when we were 12 is calling me Mrs. Starr. She’s adorable.

Me: I wasn’t planning on it. There's tons online and my student newspaper is covering it. I don't think I have anything to add to the conversation. I'm not a fan of the book though. I discussed it with three of my classes and reviews were very mixed but passionate.

Mom of 4 kids: It reminded me of the overdose of [girl we went to school with]. Who remembers that? In middle school she took a ton of pain killers and went to the hospital.

Teen suicide is not a new issue. Teenagers feeling like adults aren’t listening isn’t new either. Neither is teenagers feeling alone, misunderstood and in pain.

Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: I am up to my eyeballs in 13 Reasons. These are topics that are close to my everyday job. All of our middle school kids are watching it and I would highly recommend they do not. It is not appropriate for that age. I think the show is a double edged sword. If you haven't watched it as a parent I think you should.

Reading what our kids are reading is one of the best ways I know to connect with our children. I wanted to discuss a book with my mom when I was in high school and she said she didn’t remember the details. I felt dismissed. I wanted to connect and she deflected. Teenagers talk to us so little – it is on us to seize any and all opportunities we are given.

Mom of 4 kids: Lots of kids are watching it alone when parents aren't around.

This is true. Pretty much every student I talked to has read it, seen the show, or knew enough to have opinions.

Me: I read the book last week. I need to watch the show but don't want to. I didn't like the book. What I'm hearing from my students is they think the issue of suicide needs much more attention. They feel like adults aren't teaching/listening/helping/talking about it. But lots of them think the story glamorizes and fetishizes suicide. My students also felt the adult writer had given very few options for teenagers to be. The broad, rough stereotypes do not adequately portray the complex nature of the teen mind and the roles they inhabit. Teenagers hate being oversimplified.

Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: I do not like the following messages that I got from it: glorified suicide; made it seem like no one does their job or cares about students (There are some sucky educators but I call pretty much every single parent of a kid I talk to as a heads up if concerned. We have strict protocols too); very intense scenes about rape (2) and well as graphic suicide; also my daughter was like, why didn't Hannah talk to anyone until the end? She talked to the tapes but that was too late; lack of discussion about mental illness. I do like: that conversations about these topics are being had; it shows kids that their actions impact others.

Me: I have all the same concerns. Plus as a work of literature I don't think it's well written. It’s manipulative to the reader, with heavy-handed imagery, and stilted syntax and diction even for a young adult text. I'm letting [daughter] read it at 14 but would not want [12-year-old daughter] to.

Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: [Daughter] is almost 16. I think that was a good age to read it but with me having conversations about it with her. One night we talked for three hours about it!! I think it will scare middle schoolers and actually I have had several 7th graders in my office recently discussing it.

Kids WANT to talk to us about this. Just because we are scared and don’t know what to say doesn’t mean we can abdicate this responsibility. If you don’t talk to you kids about it, know that they are talking about it already with their teachers and counselors and friends.

Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: The other issue that [daughter] was very responsive to was the amount of slut shaming that goes on now with boys. They want you to be pretty and easy but if you do you are a slut. If you don't you are a prude. Lots of comments about girls looks, their asses etc. she said that is commonplace.

Me: That's interesting. That issue didn't come up in my conversations with kids but maybe because groups were too big - whole class- so girls didn't feel comfortable about bringing it up.

Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: [Son] mentioned at [his all-boys school] that it is disgusting the way so many guys talk about girls’ looks and sex.

When the president talks about women in such objective terms, is it any surprise that others do too?

Mom of 3 teen girls: Meanwhile... some boy has been slut-shaming [daughter’s] BFF - who was dating her for nearly two years (they're 14), so [daughter] confessed to me last night that she approached him in the hall and told him that if he didn't stop, she was going to "beat his ass".

Me: Brave girl. You're raising them right.

Mom of 3 teen girls: So I told her to tell [husband] last night... and she voiced that she was telling us in case it got to the administrators and she got suspended for threatening him. [Husband] told her that if she's going to get suspended, make sure she makes it count. I'm raising thugs.

Me: Not thugs. Warriors

Mom of 3 teen girls: Yes. You're right. Warriors.

We must empower our daughters to defend themselves and those around them. If we don’t, no one else will. As my favorite toast says: To strong women – may be know them, may we raise them, may we be them.

<![CDATA[Maryland and its Mythical Paw Paw Fruit]]>Sat, 01 Apr 2017 01:30:20 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/maryland-and-its-mythical-paw-paw-fruitPicture

A few weeks ago I was sitting at lunch with my colleagues and one of them mentioned how much he loved the fruit of the Paw Paw tree. This sounded like a made-up thing so we laughed at him. He insisted that the Paw Paw tree grows wild in the forests of Maryland and is a delicious native fruit of my home state.

I consider myself a loyal and proud Marylander. I can name all the counties. I know the state flower: Black Eyed Susan, AND what the black and gold symbolize. I know the meaning of the state flag and the founders (shout out to Lord Calvert) and the state song. I even know the state cookie: chocolate chip (lame, I know, but I’m still proud). I know where the Fitzgerald’s are buried and where Uncle Tom’s Cabin is and how to tell when a crab is big enough to harvest. I know the main ingredient in Old Bay and how much snow Garrett County gets and that we are only the ninth state to guarantee students full First Amendment rights.

So when Zack threw down a tree I’d never heard of, I was skeptical. He told us the fruit tastes like peach ice cream and is smooth and creamy and wonderful. This manna sounded too good to be true so I hit the Google. Turns out Zack wasn’t lying. I turned to Amazon and found I could order a two-pack of the fruit, which looks sort of like a mango, for only $20.  Thank you Jeff Bezos. I ordered it right up, content even though the delayed order warning told me it would take two weeks. Fruit of my homeland, tasting like my favorite food – no wait could be too long.

About two weeks later, I get a text from my dear high school friend Renata. She tells me she has ordered me a very unusual belated birthday gift but she saw it and thought of me and had to send it. She says the gift will come without a card, so she’s giving me heads up. That night, I’m out driving older daughter’s carpool, and younger daughter texts me that a weird-shaped package has come for me and can she open it. She says it’s six feet tall, and very skinny. Intrigued, I tell her it’s the gift from my friend Renata and to go ahead.

When I arrive home I am shocked to find a stick in a pot of dirt. Really. A stick. In a pot of dirt. No note. The shipping info tells me it’s a Paw Paw tree. I am flabbergasted. How did Renata know I had just been discussing the fruit?

I text her my thanks and my wonder that she knew what to send me – and what an unusual gift! Who sends someone a tree? To be clear, though, this doesn’t look anything like a tree. It’s a stick. In a pot. Of dirt. I try to sound grateful but I’m really just confused.

Renata texts back. She sent me a necklace. She has no idea what I’m talking about.

I check my Amazon order history. I didn’t order a two-pack of fruit. I ordered a tree. Which is a stick. In a pot. Of dirt. Currently sitting on my kitchen table awaiting Mother’s Day, which is the day you can safely assume frosts are over and planting can commence in Maryland and another thing I know about my home state.

I look forward to the stick growing to a tree and bearing fruit in, oh, 20 years or so, when I will finally taste the delicious Paw Paw fruit. Until then, the necklace is really nice.

<![CDATA[These AP Lit Kids, They Slay Me]]>Tue, 07 Feb 2017 23:14:16 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/these-ap-lit-kids-they-slay-mePicture
You know how sometimes you’re sitting with a group of people and this thought washes over you: I just love these people. Like, I really, really love them. I feel like ME, the best version of me, is reflected back when I look at these people. I wish I could be with these people for so much more time.

Well, that happened to me today.

I was observing my 8th period Advanced Placement Literature and Composition seniors discuss Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. They listened to each other, and thought carefully about their comments, and found quotes in the book to support each other’s points, and looked at details I have never considered myself (hello, separate male and female spittoons as symbols of patriarchy and oppression). They made me like the book even more than I already do.

These AP Lit kids, they slay me.

They chose to take this class, despite ample reasons not to. Their peers decided they were exhausted after 13 years of often monotonous education and rewarded themselves with an easier honors English course. Their peers realized that no college could give them credit for both AP Lit and AP Lang, and decided the extra work wasn’t worth it. Their peers chose to be at the top of an honors class, with a solid chance at an A, instead of risking a probable B and falling in the middle of the pack. There's no shame in any of those choices.

Oh, but what they get makes me weep with pride for their choice. They get weekly opportunities to improve their writing, emerging in May better at structure, argument, evidence, analysis and style. They get to talk about fine poetry and prose with others who are as fascinated by the written word as they are. They get to challenge themselves to think and write at the highest level, and to do so under time and emotional pressure. They get to question what people mean when they write (or say) what they do, and how we can look deeply at those words to figure it out.

I am dazzled by them, every single day. I’m inspired by them to find better ways to help them grow, and to push myself as a writer and thinker. Many of them are far stronger writers and thinkers than I am, even now, at 44 years old, and I am humbled by them. All of them work to get better, with every essay, every discussion. They work so hard, because they know the reward isn’t a grade, or a test score, but the knowledge that only they carry – that they took on a hard task for no other reason but because the challenge was worthy, and put in their best effort, and grew as a result. That knowledge, that confidence in themselves, that’s something that no one can ever take from them, and it’s priceless.

I’m dazzled, inspired, humbled, but most of all I’m in love.

<![CDATA[And Then I Woke]]>Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:31:27 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/and-then-i-wokePicture
​Two months ago, two events happened that shook the foundations of who I am. The first involved a mistake I made with my student newspaper. I’ll save those details for another post, but I emerged from the wreckage wondering if I was who I had also believed myself to be: someone who saw all human beings as equal, regardless of any trait, but in this case race. The second event was the election of donald trump (not my president). I waded through that wreckage wondering how my country was not what I believed it to be: made up of people who care about others and are basically good and kind.

I sunk into a two-month depression, the first of my life, questioning who I am and who we are, and how I could possibly find a way to be a part of my community and my country. I considered leaving teaching, retreating into myself, protecting myself from the struggle that comes with living a life among others. I stopped writing, seeing my friends, exercising, even talking very much outside of work.

But I started reading. I read Ta-nehisi Coates, Luvvie Ajayi, and Very Smart Brothas. I read about existentialist writers and thinkers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and others. I read Death of a Salesman, and Fences, and Song of Solomon. I talked and talked and talked to my colleagues and friends and students. I asked questions and listened. I forced myself to look deep inside, and face my prejudices and entrenched beliefs. What I saw there wasn’t always pretty, and shames me, but I channel another writer, Glennon Doyle Melton, who says to run toward our pain, not away, for that’s the only path to peace.

And then I woke.

Woke: To rouse from lethargy, apathy, ignorance.

I was the only Jewish girl in my grade through elementary school. In high school I was the only Jew in my small group of friends. College was the same, and I was in a small handful of Jewish women in my sorority. It wasn't until I moved to Potomac, Maryland, and put my daughter in a Jewish preschool that I felt part of a plurality. I am quite familiar with being asking to speak on behalf of my people. I know what it's like to feel the need to prove myself and live in a way that makes Jewish people look good. I know what a history of oppression feels like.

That's probably why I have always rejected the idea that I had any kind of white privilege. But the truth is, if I want to, I can hide the fact of my Jewishness. I can act and look a way that no one would ever know. My black and brown sisters and brothers do not have this choice. And therein lies the privilege I have a spent 43 years denying.

Woke: Actively aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.

I was driving my car a few days ago and a young man on a bike suddenly swerved in my path. I slammed on my brakes and he rode away as my heart pounded in my chest. I could have killed him. As I thought about it, I realized it's a perfect metaphor for my white privilege. I am in a big, heavy, strong car. I might like to think the guy on the bike is dumb for being on the same road as I am in his flimsy bike. What is he even thinking trying the drive on the same road I am?

But that's the only road we have. And maybe he can't afford a car. Or maybe the people selling cars won't give him one. Or maybe he doesn't know how to go about getting a loan and a license and insurance and all the other systems that are in place around car ownership. So here we are on the same road. No matter what he does, how hard he pedals, I'm going to get there first. My car will always be faster. If he swerves, I'll be fine, and he'll be dead. And he'll probably get blamed for it. In bad weather, I'll be warm and dry while he's cold and wet and can't see very well.

Woke: A person who doesn’t blindly believe cultural dogma and isn’t swayed by media propaganda, but searches for the truth themselves.

Neither the guy on the bike nor I created cars or roads or bikes, but here we are together. The law says we must share the road. And I'm the one in the car, whether I want to accept it or not. If I don't acknowledge the power of the car I'm in, and lack of equality in the vehicles we are driving, I have potential to do great harm.

Ignoring the big strong car that I drive called the Common Sense newspaper, I did great harm this semester. The parents and students of color were angry and in pain, and I caused that. I can't undo what I did, but I can apologize and learn from it. I can see the power of the car I drive. I can accept that it’s my car, whether I like it or not.

Woke: Unselfconscious social awareness.

On the eve of the peaceful change of power that is the pride of American democracy, in the face of a man who stands against every single value I hold dear, I vow to keep facing my own shameful beliefs, to keep asking questions, to search for truth in the midst of rhetoric and obfuscation, and to fight for those who need it most, those who rights are threatened in any form.

I hope the Wootton High School community, and my friends and family and YOU will talk with me about these issues, and the role we all play in them. We have a long road ahead of us, and I know the first step begins with me.

<![CDATA[Why My Four Million Friends and I Love Pantsuit Nation]]>Fri, 02 Dec 2016 01:26:43 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/why-my-four-million-friends-and-i-love-pantsuit-nationPicture
A few days before the November 8 election I found Pantsuit Nation and joined. Since then I have read the posts sometimes with joy, sometimes with heartache, but always with a profound sense of belonging. This “secret” Facebook group is almost four million people strong and provides a safe space for those who are terrified of the hatred Donald Trump’s victory has unleashed, for those who feel empowered to fight for what they believe is right, and for those like me, who feel both. Here are six reasons why Pantsuit Nation is the phoenix rising from the election ashes.
  1. It’s a safe space. The moderators, bless their hearts, approve each post, so what comes through is kind and thoughtful, and posters feel safe sharing painful, intimate stories. Posts frequently remind this community to practice love and gentleness, even when (especially when) confronted with those we disagree with.
  2. It helps us check privilege. While the outside world is telling people their fears are silly or groundless, in this space, people are not belittled for feeling how they feel. We are reminded that we might not be scared, due to our privilege, but if someone else is, we should listen, not dismiss.
  3. We get to witness each other. Many posters are sharing horrific stories of abuse, assault and rape. These (mostly) women are sometimes sharing their experiences for the first time. The opportunity to bring their worst monster into the light and have others listen, believe and comfort, is one of the most beautiful and humbling things I have ever experienced. Reading this much pain is difficult but not nearly as hard as actually experiencing it firsthand. Being a witness to each other’s pain is one of the greatest gift one human can give to another.
  4. Hate crimes are catalogued. A good number of the posts share encounters people are having across the country with anti-Semitic, homophobic, white supremacist, hate-filled people. Having a place to share these acts of cruelty takes away some of their power, delegitimizes the perpetrators and allows the victims to find support.
  5. Resources are shared. Those of us wondering how we can help, where we can look for valid information and where our limited donations can best be sent will find resources and guidance aplenty. Posters offer links, share techniques for defending people in ways big and small, and provide insight into experiences outside one’s limited perspective.
  6. Hope. Many, many of us feel {all the synonyms for crushed} by the election and its rapid results. Pantsuit Nation reminds us the world is not ending, we can still do so much to help each other and kindness and love still exist.

<![CDATA[The True Price of a Baby Doll]]>Tue, 22 Nov 2016 22:22:00 GMThttp://evvastarr.com/blog/the-true-price-of-a-baby-dollWhen my 11-year-old Josie was small, she was obsessed with baby dolls. She asked for dolls and doll accessories for every gift-giving occasion she could think of. Despite having dozens of baby dolls, what she wanted was more. On every shopping trip she would search for the toy section, find a doll and ask me to buy it for her. I never said yes, but that did not deter her in the least.

One day in Target she chased me down several aisles away and begged me to buy her the boxed baby doll in her arms. At only four years old, she anticipated my answer that it cost too much and told me it was on sale for only $2.14. Not believing her, I followed her back to the doll aisle and sure enough, she was right. Marked down from $25, the doll was on huge discount. Gentle reader, if you already know why this doll was so cheap – bonus points for you. I, however, could not figure it out. An almost identical boxed doll was right next to this one, but not on sale. The dolls seemed the same – same accessories, same clothes, same features. What, I wondered, could possibly be wrong with this doll to have Target almost give it away. And then I saw it – what was wrong with the doll, was that it was black.

Horror set in as I realized that the only reason Target would put an item on sale that much was because no one was buying the merchandise. No one wanted the black baby doll. My heart broke for an inanimate object. And then my heart broke again, as I wondered what the little black girls in Target, smart enough to make that connection themselves, would decide that meant about their own self-worth? And then I turned to Josie, wondering what conclusions would my own white daughter draw from this? Rage and shame poured over me like an ice bath.

I broke my rule against non-holiday new baby dolls and bought it for my deliriously happy daughter. She loved and loved that doll, at least until the next new one came along and she lost interest, as she had the dozens before that one. I didn’t mention the color of its skin, and neither did she. Maybe that was wrong, maybe I should have sat down in Target and pointed out the difference between the two dolls and discussed why one is more valued in our society than the other and why we must fight against these prejudices in ourselves and in our community. It seemed a bit much for a four-year-old at the time, but that’s my privilege talking. As a white mother, I can hold conversations about race until I think the time is right. The black mother coming down the aisle with her daughter behind me doesn’t have that option.

So when Kanye West or other voices clamor that if we stop talking about racism it will go away, I call bullshit. When Target gives away black baby dolls almost for free because no one wants them, racism is alive and well.

I believe that the only way to change anything is to talk about it, and think about it, and figure out what each of us can do. I’m going to keep talking about race, and reading, and thinking and writing. I’m sure I’ll get it wrong sometimes, and I hope you trust me enough to tell me when that happens. All I know is, I want to be part of the conversation.