Today is Tuesday. I sometimes like to call it GratiTu(d)esday and think/write about and recognize the things I am grateful for. Today, I am grateful for a lot of things. One of those is living in a country where I have the freedom to think and speak freely; unfortunately, some people take that right a little too far and use it to spew hatred. And the fact that such hatred still exists is what brings me back here to my blog after quite a hiatus.
Here I am again writing about a tragic event in the United States involving race, hatred, and violence. The last time I wrote here was after I exercised my First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and stand up for something I believe in. The victims of the Charlottesville terror attack were doing the same. When something like this happens I am usually struck with a sense of sadness, confusion and anger. After a little bit of time to process, my brain starts to kick into gear and I begin to try to find some sort of logic and reason behind why or how something so tragic could have happened. As a teacher, I have to admit that I often feel more afraid for my students than ever before; but, I can not let that fear creep in to my head or my heart because fear is one of the factors behind these kinds of hateful, terrorist acts. They are motivated by fear and meant to cause fear, and if you know me or have read some of my other posts here, you know that I spent many years conquering my own fears and anxiety about things that are out of my control. So, in trying to reason with what happened and the current situation, I have come to the following conclusions:
- People fear what they do not understand. When we grow up learning one thing, and then all of a sudden someone tells us something different than what we are used to, it can make us feel pretty uncomfortable. Looking at our current events from an historian’s standpoint I am deeply concerned because I can see many parallels to events that have already happened in the past. I am also not surprised because when we learn history, we most likely learn it from the point of view of the victors. In our case here in the United States, it is from the point of view of white men. So, I think when it comes down to it, if the majority of what we learn is from the point of view of only one type of person, it leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding, and therefore, fear of what we do not understand. Furthermore, Many people do not understand those who are different from them. This is a natural thing. The whole “birds of a feather flock together” idea comes to mind. But, it doesn’t mean that we should not try to understand those who are different from ourselves. And when we get down to it, we are all human so we truly are all the same in the most fundamental ways; but part of coexisting with so many other humans with different ideas, belief systems, and experiences is by trying to understand each other. This can be difficult, especially when we often fear what we do not understand.
- We need to talk about race. Alright, this is where it might get a little uncomfortable for some of you and THAT’S OKAY. Nothing will ever change if we just stay in our comfort zone, so if you really want things to change, you have to get a little uncomfortable. It’s not just race that we need to talk about, but white privilege specifically. I will say this now and I will never be able to think otherwise – there are things in my life that have come easier to me because I am white. There are things that I do without fear because I am white. There are places I will go without fear because I am white. This is white privilege. If you are a white person and you cannot admit those things right now, then I encourage you to dig a little deeper into your soul and think about all of your life experiences and then ask yourself how it would have been different if you were not white. And if you have trouble thinking how it would have been different, then read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. If you’re not into reading, try watching I Am Not Your Negro, which can be found on Amazon currently. If movies aren’t your thing you could also check out the Netflix series Dear White People. As you are reading or watching ask yourself “what if that was me?” in the place of the main characters and see if you just might be able to change what you think about white privilege. Admitting that white privilege exists does not make you a bad person and it does not make you a racist. NOT admitting it and allowing racial injustice to continue in our country because you benefit from the color of your skin is unacceptable and exacerbates the problem. It’s important for everyone to understand that changing ideals such as these is not going to happen over night. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes A LOT of talking, listening, thinking, self-awareness, and empathy. Take baby steps. But take them forward, please. It’s also important to note, that I have primarily mentioned the discussion of race between black and white people, but our discussion of race is not and should not be limited to that. This article provides a much wider range of books, articles, and videos addressing the discussion of all races.
3. Hatred still exists. Neither of the aforementioned conclusions are justifications for the actions that took place last weekend in Virginia nor any other terror attack or hate crime in our country. The unfortunate fact is that hatred still exists in this country. It is taught and learned. And while I will never fully understand how or why that still happens, I can’t help but think that fear and the lack of understanding of is one of the reasons it still happens. I also think it still exists because we allow it to exist. If we continue to stand by and let it be okay for someone to say hateful things and commit hateful acts against one another, then we allow hatred to exist. We teach kids all the time about how being a bystander to bullying is just as bad as bullying itself. What is so different about that when it comes to our country? I want my students to know they can and should use their voice for good. I don’t want them to be afraid of doing so; but after last weekend I can understand why they might be.
I wish I could fix it all. But I can’t. So I’ll just do my best to do my part and hope that you will, too.