Learning to Fear

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The summer of Oscar Grant's trial I was volunteering at a children's day care center in Oakland. The day they announced the verdict, an authoritative voice sounded over the speakers instructing the school to report to the main building in preparation for any potential outbreaks of violence. As the mass of students was shepherded into the main building, a hazy sense of fear and confusion descended on us all. We crowded into a room without any windows facing the street and spread out on the floor. Desperate parents and teachers darted in and out, collecting and quieting children. The building was ruled by a sense of uncertainty of what was to come, an imminent future awaited as we trembled in our insecurity and its inevitability.

I sat, wedged under a long, wooden table, a shocking sense of cold, clear, reality setting my teeth chattering. I may not have been caught in the midst of a school shootout, but its possibility shook me to the core; and, as I looked around I saw a sea of braids, of pony tails and pig tails, of converse and Mary Janes, I saw real fear and danger materializing in quivering chins, in scrunched up eyes and raised brows. Yet, most of all, I was taken aback by the young age at which these young children were being exposed to such fear. I saw a place of learning, of friendship and of hope transform into a place of panic, of uncertainty and of fear.

And later as I gratefully drove away, putting relief mile after mile behind me, I finally relaxed knowing I had escaped. And yet, I struggled to come to terms with what is for many people a reality; not an incident, but their truth. For these children, crowding into a room without any windows facing the street and crouching down on the floor, this is the future.  

America was once a shining beacon of hope, of freedom, and of justice. We were America the Brave, America the Free, America the Bold; but who are we today, what do we represent? And, most importantly, what legacy are we as a nation and as a people currently leaving young children?

With a Perspective, this is Kora Fillet.


Kora Fillet is a graduate of The Athenian School in Danville now attending Tufts University.