The beauty and simplicity of parables that Jesus told I’ve always found remarkable. His ability to use a parable to vividly break down a complex idea into simpler things or to silence his critics was astonishing. Although I enjoy a number of the parables in the Bible, one really has been on my mind lately with the state of affairs in the world.
Luke 10:29-37 (NIV) via Bible Gateway
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The parable of the Good Samaritan is equal parts complex and simple. Jesus legitimized the lives all of the members of humanity while condemning the behavior of the self-righteous, non-empathizing ones. It is important to note that using a priest as well as a Levite was purposeful because both were well versed and aware of The Law (i.e. The Ten Commandments), but were willfully refusing to follow the two greatest commandments given by Jesus. It is also interesting to note that both individuals passed on the other side of the road from the beaten man. They both saw a man that needed help, care, and support, but instead exercised their privilege, dismissively choosing to walk by him on the other side of the road putting him and his needs out of sight and out of mind.
This story has parallel applications to the educational setting. During the past year, I’ve noticed larger numbers of “priest” and “Levites” which is unfortunate and problematic for our students and our schools. Priests are those educators who hypocritically talk a good game among groups of people or in public places where they are seen, but in private meetings or where there is no fanfare or applause they blatantly ignore or do not directly address problems/issues regarding race or bias. Levites (experts of the Jewish law) are those educators who fully understand the system and its inequitable nature, but willfully choose not to offer visible support or take action steps for those dehumanized and oppressed by the system.
Until people of color are embraced and our humanity is equitably recognized all lives really do not matter. This work to improve equity for all starts in our schools. I strongly encourage all educators to stop ignoring racism, inequity, and bias in our schools. Stop walking to the other side of the road because the pain and scars of racism and bias do not directly affect you. Stop working in the comforts of your privilege and willingly ignoring the damage that racism and bigotry can cause and instead speak out. Complicity and complacency both have no color, gender, ethnicity, or religion. Walking to the other side of the road and ignoring your neighbors who are attacked from multiple directions makes you culpable too. Educators if you have not already, please show mercy to your neighbors (students and fellow educators) who are affected by racism, bigotry, and biases. Empathize with them, then speak out and against those individuals and systems which oppress and attack. Until more educators decide to truly become “Good Samaritans” and love our neighbors as themselves, our issues with all the -isms plaguing society will continue to hang over our schools like a cloud. We all have the power and responsibility to empower those around us, to shape our classrooms and schools into a much better place for future generations to succeed and thrive, not just get by and survive.