Friday, January 29, 2016

A Teachable Moment

Parents in Howard County received a troubling email last night. The Superintendent reached out with a letter with the heading, A Call to Action. In it, she relayed the news that: student videotaped a classmate making inflammatory, insensitive, and racist comments. The details of the video are disturbing.

The video was posted on several social media platforms and has already been shared hundreds of times, offending many people of all races, and reflecting poorly on students directly involved and those who chose to stand silent. This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

As a parent, this hurt my heart, and as a member of the community it made me angry that we keep struggling with incidents of racism in this place we want to believe is free of it. It made me think of the appearance of a Confederate flag at a football game. It made me think of recently reported data that African American students are seven times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts.

It made me think of what kids who saw this video must be feeling. When a fellow student goes to the trouble of posting racist views on a public forum like social media, it isn't an accident. It is a deliberate act. Even though it did not occur at school, the very public nature of it reaches out from one kid's basement and compromises the learning environment for African American students.

As a blogger, I wanted to know how those students were feeling. So I went to Twitter. What I found was that this video was being shared and spread not racist-to-racist, but by African American students who were angry and upset and wanted the light of truth to shine on this event. They'd love for racism to be destroyed. They live with it every day. But they want the video to be shared because they want our community to face what it represents.

If anything is a teachable moment to me, it is the determination of these students to make us look at what is ugly in our midst and own it. Don't smooth it over, don't cover it up. Don't excuse it because it appears to be fueled by alcohol. Don't look at kids who could be your own and try to find excuses for them.

Look at the kids who don't look like your own and put yourself in their shoes. When all the fuss dies down, and the snow is cleared away, they still have to go back to school and wonder every day who in their midst is just one bad choice away from a message full of hate.


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