The Hunger Games (books and movies) speak to me each time I read (yes, I’ve read them multiple times and taught the first one) or see the movies; I seem to see a new detail or hear a new message. In honor of Mockingjay, Part 2, a couple channels re-ran the first movies. I sat and watched the first one twice in a row. Both times, I narrowed my focus to one scene: Rue’s murder.
On a side note, I never understood the outrage, hatred, stupidity of those incensed by a black girl cast as Rue. Moronic bigots, it was in the book. If you’d paid attention, you would have known Rue was black. But your own racism and race-centrism blinded you to anything but white characters. I know racism breathes and walks and moves and lives and grows in America today, but I am still appalled when people react this way toward children. Again, Hunger Games speaks to me because of the violence toward our most innocent and precious members.
Just as children must be taught to hate, they must also be taught to fear and kill. Outside forces must corrupt the innocence to place children on the path to destruction, of themselves and others, as they age. Children don’t just wake up one day and decide to kill or hurt others. Adults must train them through systematic means. We see this through Districts 1 and 2 actually training children for their roles in the Games (those districts are white and more wealthy also). In reality, this plays out in America’s schools and government. We teach children, overtly and subtly, about their roles in society. Yes, non-white, non-male, non-cisgender, non-heterosexual, non-Christian children are taught their lesser place in America.
Back to Rue…
Every time Rue dies, I cry. Every time I read or watch, Rue is murdered again. Her beauty. Her innocence. Her precious life.
I know she is fictional, but Rue is real to me because she makes me think of all the real-life children of color who have been killed because their very humanity was not protected and cherished and nurtured…because they were not seen as children. Instead they were viewed as “other.”
Most recently, I think of Tamir Rice. Every time I see his picture, I choke up. I don’t care how tall he was or how much he weighed. I don’t care what size clothes or shoes he wore. He was a child. A child playing with a toy. In a park. God, just thinking about him now makes my eyes well up. I don’t teach children that young, but he could’ve been one of my students. I have taught boys similar: Black, large in size, with baby faces and sweet smiles that light up their eyes, wearing baggy clothes (I know this from being poor—you buy larger clothes so you can grow into them and not have to waste money on new clothes anytime soon).
I had them in class at 15, 16, 17…even up to 20 years old. I did my damnedest to treat them as young men who deserved respect, but they were also my “babies.” I can’t help it: each teen who comes in my class becomes mine. Someone I will try to educate and prepare for life, but also someone I will help feed or clothe or listen to or encourage or get tough with. No, I am not their mom, but each child deserves to have a teacher look him/her in the eyes and say, “You matter.” Someone who tries to encourage them to be themselves.
So, even my 20-year-olds were still teens to me—who screw up and get angry and need to vent. They didn’t frighten me because I looked in their eyes to see the person, not a ludicrous stereotype. Not an adult. As long as they were in my class, they were children/teens who needed help navigating this crazy, f—ed up world. They didn’t need me as a white savior. But, they did sometimes need me to listen, to see them, and/or to give them a chance. The only good aspect of my privilege is I can use it to help others. Every student is completely capable of finding their own success; sometimes they simply need a teacher to help them find a map or turn on a light or learn to read directions—not to “save” them, but to help them find their own power.
All the asinine attempts at justifying Tamir’s murder by stating his size or looks or slurring his mom or saying Tamir shouldn’t have done this or that makes me so enraged, I cannot find words to fully express the emotion. The minute you try to justify a child’s murder, by an adult, you become part of the problem. To return to my original analogy, you become part of the Capitol. You become part of the group who would willingly send children to their deaths for their own gain and entertainment. You greedily watch the videos on TV or the Internet, you avidly view the pictures, you fervently read the stories, you eagerly share your opinions of why these children are wrong, you demonize and vilify their parent(s)/guardian(s), you gobble up their lives and their souls and steal their humanity and dignity…all the while, you conveniently ignore who created the system and the people that slaughter children like animals, without blinking an eye or shedding a tear. Hell, many of you would even cry if you saw an abused animal or an ASPCA commercial.
Just as Rue’s blood is on Panem’s hands, the blood of all those children is on our hands, especially white people. There will be no Pontius Pilate moment for us. If there is a Higher Power, we will answer for why we didn’t protect the lives of innocent children—ALL children, no matter their color or religion or size or whatever stupid f-ing reason we make up to help us sleep at night. That is definitely not to negate the #BlackLivesMatter movement; that is simply to highlight white people have created some dumbass reasons to justify murder.