Tilt: How I Lost the Best Bet
TL;DR: When I was a substitute teacher in Nashville, I had an enlightening encounter with a black student that changed my perspective on power and systemic injustice.
Empowerment comes from realizing we are part of the system and can influence change.
I am subbing for a middle school science class, judging by the types of tables in the room. They are the heavy, solid wooden leg tables, with a black top similar to kitchen counters.
I get into a discussion about power with a black male student. I tell him that
“the only person who has control over you is you. No one can make you do something you don't want to do.”
The young man disagrees.
"Short of physically moving my body, you can't do something that I don't want to do. Matter of fact, I bet you can't knock me off of this table without touching me."
I plop myself on the science table, thinking my point has been made, game set match.
After a moment of thought, I watch him walk towards me, to the side of the table, around to the back. He smirks and grabs the table, tilting it towards me. I slide off the table.
He wins the bet.
I am stunned and glad the bet was friendly.
I lose no money that day.
I gain an appreciation for the creative genius of black youth that I never forget.
I gain a metaphor for systemic injustice. No matter how firm our convictions are to improve our lives, the system tilts the table. But possibility emerges when we realize we are the system. We decide if and why the table tilts, if it must tilt at all.
This story was from my time as a substitute teacher in Nashville, TN. It came to mind as I prepared for the North Coast Inclusion Seminar. I am excited to work with the educators of the North Coast of Oregon.
See you soon, genius over doubt.