I Pray For Aliens

There's a joke that the first time that there will be peace on Earth is when the planet is attacked by an alien race. That's what it will take to unite the world together as one human race. I giggled the first time I heard that joke.


This space is normally reserved for thoughts on teaching. However, with the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Kenya, I've had a thought that many of you have also had. Why is it that we mourn and change our profile pictures when Paris is attacked, but just go about our day when Beirut is attacked? 

Terrorism has always been fascinating to me. I vividly remember watching TV as the 2nd plane crashed into the World Trade Centers on September 11th. I was in 7th grade, and our school pictures had been delayed. I was happy about that. As I grew older, I seemed to keep coming back to that day, the emotions that I felt, the big-ness of it all. I knew that I was watching history. In college, I knew that I wanted to study why terrorism happened, so I picked a major in political science and eventually added one in international relations.

When I came back to Center, I started to think a bit more about my place in the world. I am a white male from an affluent, stable family. I am about as privileged as privilege comes. I grew up in a school that was majority black and majority free and reduced lunch. And I loved it there. I left for college and found myself at William Jewell, a progressive thinking but still mainly white and affluent private college. And I loved it there too. Then I found myself back at Center, this time as a white teacher of mostly black students. I still love it here.

On Friday, when the news of the events in Paris were starting to get out on the internet and we started to collectively grieve, I had a thought that the frustration on the Missouri campus and in the hearts of so many good, honest, kind black people was connected to what had happened in Paris. I'm a news junkie, so I was aware of the attacks in Beirut on Thursday. Like many of you, I wondered why I didn't have an option of changing my profile pic to the flag of Lebanon. I wondered where all the outrage for those victims was.

There is nothing good that came out of the attacks in Paris, or Beirut. But the unfortunate truth is that these attacks are far from the first of this year and they are far from the last. In the spirit of Rahm Emanuel's quote that you should never let a crisis go to waste, I'm wondering what there is to learn from this tragedy.

And I think that the protests at Mizzou have given us our lesson:

The "West" has an issue with selective grief and selective anger. It effects our society in negative ways. This selective anger and selective grief is a symptom the systems of oppression that continue to cause pain for minorities in America today.

At least based on my Facebook wall, there are a lot of people who are questioning the media silence on tragedies outside of Paris. You've heard of the two attacks on Paris this year. Have you heard of the others?

The day before the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, over 2,000 people were killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The Guardian questioned the silence of the Western World soon after both attacks. This happens time and again. Imagine if you are of Nigerian descent in America. Why did America go into a collective dark cloud for the Parisian attacks while no one mentioned Nigeria? It's not that you would want people to stop mourning the attacks in Paris, but some acknowledgement of your pain would be nice as well. When it happens time and again, it's hard to accept that skin color and continent location play no role in this collective silence.

A mother grieves her son, one of over 2,000 killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria

Below is a partial - a very partial, in fact - list of Islamist terror attacks that have been successfully executed this year:
  • 11/13/15 - Paris, France: 140+ dead
  • 11/12/15 - Beirut, Lebanon: 42 dead
  • 10/22/15 - Borno, Nigeria: 20 dead
  • 10/10/15 - Ankara, Turkey: 95 dead
  • 8/13/15 - Baghdad, Iraq: 70 dead
  • 7/20/15 - Suruc, Turkey: 33 dead
  • 6/26/15 - Sousse, Tunisia: 28 dead
  • 5/25/15 - Nawzad District: 25 dead
  • 5/13/15 - Pakistan: 45 dead
  • 3/7/15 - Maiduguri, Nigeria: 58 dead
  • 1/29/15 - Sinai, Egypt: 44 dead
  • 1/8/15 - Baga, Nigeria: 200+ dead, 2,000 unaccounted for
*Full List

Based on what you read in the news, America and Europe seem to be under attack. That is not exactly true.
Students in my class get frustrated when they feel that I'm playing favorites with particular students. I try not to, but I'm sure it happens sometimes. People in society get frustrated by the same thing, only large parts of American society aren't trying very hard to change. They are the favorites, so they like the current system.

The fact that so many attacks on people in countries where most of the people are brown-skinned go unnoticed in the West is a symptom of the disease. It is proof that there is still racial bias and white privilege even when those writing the stories have the very best of intentions.

So keep praying for Paris. Pray hard and pray often. I look at my beautiful daughter who knows nothing of race and nothing of hate and I pray for something other than peace. I pray for dialogue. I pray for compassion. I pray for empathy. I pray for forgiveness, patience and understanding. I pray that my kids will never been filled with the hate and desperation that leads one human to kill another. I pray that my daughter will learn to think, and to care for others, and to consider the challenges that others face, and to give unconditionally, and to be silent.

I pray for love.

I pray for peace.

I pray for anyone who is suffering, and even for those who cause the suffering.

And sometimes, I pray for aliens.

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

About Me:
My name is Alec Chambers. I am a high school history and government teacher at a small, urban public school in Kansas City called Center High School. We regularly kick tail. Among many awards, we were named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014. I don't just teach at Center- I also graduated from Center in 2006 after attending Center Schools K-12. I have a degree in Political Science, a second degree in International Relations, a third degree in Education and a Master's of Arts in Teaching. I have an unofficial degree is soccer. All of those degrees have led me to the high-paying teaching profession! I have a newborn daughter and am married to the most awesome woman on the planet. Seriously. It's a proven fact.

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