We opened the doors to a new school year on August 11. As I visited schools to greet our students, I was once again reminded of the rich diversity that is our community. The faces of our students represent the faces and cultures of the world.
Sadly, the tragic events which unfolded in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend serve as a grim reminder that far too many people in our country are threatened by the very diversity that is the fabric of our community and our schools.
I was horrified as I watched and listened to the news reports that showed the disgusting displays of racism, of men chanting hateful slogans, illuminated by torches. Has it been that long? Have we forgotten about the terror that those symbols inspired? Have we lost our empathy for those who were the targets of that hatred? Have we not yet figured out that “they” are “us”?
I kept thinking back to remarks made just a few months ago by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as confederate monuments in his city were being taken down. In his speech, Mayor Landrieu asked: Who among us can tell an African American child that she has promise, and a positive future in our country, when every day she has to walk past a monument that stands for slavery and white privilege? “Can you do it?” he asked. Well, can you?
Landrieu’s remarks were still on my mind when I heard a reporter interview a father, who shared that his 6-year-old son asked him if what was on the screen was a documentary from another generation. We should all be sickened by the fact that the answer to his question is “No!”
No, we can’t justify why any symbol, monument, or outward display of racism is considered acceptable in our country in 2017. This is the United States of America, a country founded on the principle that all men (and women) are created equal. No, we have not yet fully realized the promise of this founding principle, but we can’t allow ANYONE, or ANYTHING, to move us backward from the progress we have made.
As Americans, we hold dear the right to speak our truth. God save us if our new truth is bigotry and hatred based on race, culture, gender, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status…you get my point. We teach our students here in KCKPS that hard work and effort will get them to their dreams, to the American dream. We teach our students to salute a flag and recite a pledge that this is “one nation, under God, indivisible…” If these actions and our words mean anything, it is that it is time to stand united against bigotry and hate.
I saved a photo of a man holding a sign that states “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” I will stand with my students, my community, and my schools, which are the tapestry of the world. We stand for diversity, in all forms. We embrace divergent thinking. I encourage our teachers to engage in authentic learning on the issues related to tolerance, race, and culture. Education will be the only thing that ensures our nation lives up to the principles on which it was founded. “It’s Up to Us!”