Monday, September 25th, 2017

Rosa Parks Is No Longer Enough

Published on August 15, 2017 by   ·   No Comments Pin It
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“White nationalism has come out of the basement and entered the mainstream. Would you recognize it if it came to your classroom?” Cory Collins

“Teaching Tolerance provides me with the means to promote social justice, challenge bias, and engage students in discussions about diversity that would perhaps not happen otherwise.” Tolerance.org

image via Variety.com

image via Variety.com

The Monday night after #Charlottsville I was watching the Rachel Maddow show as violent images of Nazis wielding rifles and protesters resisting their hate sparked a conversation between myself and my nearly 10 year old daughter. She is Ethiopian; and she has been living with us, her white adoptive family in mostly white communities since 2008 when we became a family.

I’ve been, like most of the “normal” people in our country, seething, and on the verge of screaming and crying since Saturday when the bizarre spectacle of torch-bearing, Nazi-flag toting, growling, drooling white men marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. I have never been one to mince words, or to attempt to protect my daughter from the ugly side of humanity. Before she could speak full sentences, she knew the stories of Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I grew up in an activist home in the 60s outside Chicago, where my father and mother marched for civil rights. My father was fired by his uncle from the family real estate business for renting an apartment to a qualified black man. I just can’t take what’s going on in our country, and I’m not going to pull a shroud over my daughter’s eyes to keep her from knowing that though there are many good people in this world, there are also many horrible people. Apparently, extreme dichotomy is still part of the human condition: with good comes bad, there is no light without the dark, we only know joy when we’ve touched despair. This time, though, this time it feels like the dichotomy is on revolting display for the entire world to draw-drop on, because the unpalatable nature of the man who calls himself President and those that proudly salute him are oxymoronically blindingly visible. There is no opposite of these extreme haters able to contrast the evil they represent. There is no good good enough able to balance out their horror. And I will not be one of those white parents who in wanting “it” to go away, pretends like it doesn’t exist.

So there I was, watching good vs. evil right in our living room, refusing to switch the channel to HGTV, fuming like I’ve not felt since November 8, 2016. This time, however, the troubling emotions were different. Back then, back when the reality TV actor got enough votes to call himself President and magical thinking had me believing it would be gone by July 2017, I may have even been amused. But magical thinking slipped away along with July, and now fear has replaced annoyance, and anger has exchanged places with amusement. We are not laughing anymore. This joke that seemed to simply feed late night comedy has not disappeared. He has, in fact, fertilized a dying crop and the once fringe poison has been let out of its cave.

My daughter looked up from her drawing pad, removed the headphones that were attached to her iPad, and asked, “What’s that, Mommy?”

I paused Rachel’s report, took a breath, and without censoring myself too much, replied, “Donald Trump is responsible for this violence, darling. The people who voted him into office want everyone who isn’t white to leave the country. This includes the Jewish people.”

In a clear and emphatic tone, she told me that this was ridiculous. “That’s what our country is all about, Mommy! Our country is all about diversity!”

Our children are exposed to more violence on an often daily basis more than any other generation in our nation’s history. You cannot turn on the television on any network other than Disney or the likes without inadvertently being visually assaulted by guns, blood, violent expressions, and the sounds of human beings intent on killing other human beings. Video games and seemingly benign shows toss in violent acts here and there just because … well, I really have no idea why, or how this became normal, and I will go so far as to even say legal. Most sane parents would not want their children to witness such acts of blatant violence, and most parents probably don’t even know what their children watch. And we as parents cannot underestimate the damage that these images do to our precious ones’ minds, hearts, their souls. We are a society that has grown mad, insane, and numb to the verbal and physical violence that is promoted in the name of profit. And yet … and yet: schools are not didactically teaching tolerance. And Black History Month is still a thing. No child left behind? Ha! In the climate of Hate under this regime’s leader, every single child that goes to a school without an intentional plan to include curriculum that introduces the past and exposes the present is being left behind.

Sex education has been left to the schools since forever. Many parents still don’t tell their pre-pubescent children what to expect because they believe schools will take care of it. Teaching about racial injustice, exposing the KKK for who they were and who, for God’s sake, still are, is everybody’s responsibility. Elementary school teachers will claim they don’t want to scare the children. Well, the KKK, “alt-right,” neo-Nazis are scary. And just like pregnancy and venereal diseases, teachers need to prepare our children for the reality that exists outside the relative safety of their seemingly safe classrooms.

It is your child’s school’s responsibility to incorporate civil rights history as it relates to current affairs into daily curriculum. To not clearly and emphatically teach how hate has infiltrated our society is irresponsible and, simply, not acceptable.

Dina McQueen is a writer and teacher. She lives with her husband and daughter in California.

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