Sometimes it’s hard to believe we live in a decade of Paula Deen, George Zimmerman, regression of the Voting Rights Act, etc… but here we are.
Recently a friend posted a Facebook status that said, “Just throwing it out there, George Zimmerman is innocent.” Just so we're clear, my blog post today isn’t about whether Zimmerman is guilty or innocent, although I have a definite opinion on that. This is about how racism exists in this world, sometimes cloaked in folksy ‘simpleness’, sometimes cloaked in religious righteousness, and sometimes blatantly in a white hood.
Either way, let me be very clear, whether you say the n* word or not, you can still be a racist and or just a person guilty of stereotyping. But even innocent stereotyping leads to discrimination. The friend who originally posted this status isn’t a racist. He was intending to start a legal conversation. But the thread that followed was riddled with racism, and it’s all too prevalent in our society. No matter how much technology we acquire and no matter how much innovative progress we make, somehow our human intellect and hearts regress. As I see it we have three options, accept that some people are jerks, perform lobotomies on adults, or fully address in our schools and homes social and emotional education, sometimes synonymously referred to as character education, and try to nip in the bud this incredibly ugly reality of our culture.
Let’s play a little game:
#1 Is this an example of “Blame the victim” or “Blame the perp”…
If you guessed ( c ) Blame the victim, you’re correct. Obviously, anyone who isn’t a choirboy doesn’t deserve to live, which at points in my life, I'd fall into this deviant category and I'm a good human being. Yup, the gunman who shot and killed someone and who stalked this situation, is not to blame here. And how much power does Al Sharpton really have, anyways? Wow. So much racism here I can’t decide which of his points to use to make my point.
#2. If you are on vacation or more than one mile away from your house, do you deserve any death bestowed upon you or to have your safety compromised?
Apparently if you are black, and “Joe” is the one deciding, the answer is yes. So I guess listen up you “white folks”, if you drive through the inner city, be prepared to assume any ill harm or death that may occur. Those are the new rules in our society. God help us if this sets a new precedent that you can now pick a fight, shoot someone, and get off all because the victim doesn’t own a house in the immediate vicinity. Stupid logic. Period.
#3 How do you “show those whites” you are angry and wronged?
Just maaaybeeee “Joe” and I know a different Rodney King. Maybe his Rodney wasn’t ganged up on and beat by 15 cops during a time in LA where police brutality was all too prevalent. And during a time when a targeted community had every reason to be afraid and angry. How quickly we forget history and how quickly our minds and hearts become hardened.
Of course "Joe" ends this thread with a long rant of how he isn't a racist. Here's an excerpt:
"I do not care if a person is black or any other color as long as they act like responsible human beings. Some of the people I admire most are black people. For example, Condoleza Rice, Charles Payne, Alan West. All are smart well spoken and admirable. When I see people who can't put a sentence together, use profanity every other word and act like the world owes them a living I don't care for that person."
The classic, I know black people, excuse. Of course he picks republican, well off African Americans and cites "well spoken" as his criteria, although he forgets Charles Payne dropped the f' bomb on FOX last year. "Joe" also inserts a judgment of, "the world not owing THEM anything"... it's so subtle but even in his defense he oozes racism.
I’d like to go on record as saying a potty mouth doesn't require swearing. Nor does being a racist require using the n* word. Some of the biggest racists and offensive speakers have been people who don't swear or name call directly but rather say things like, "THOSE people don't get married because they get more money from the gov't being a baby mama." "THOSE people don't want to work, but they also don't want to take care of their kids. That's why we're here." (said by a conservative religious leader) Yes, I've had average people say those things to me in conversation. And they're racist. Period.
This kind of racism scares me. It’s not eccentric where you see it a mile away. It’s not Paula Deen playing dress up and talking explicitly like a bigot. No, this stuff is scarier. It creeps into social conversations. It invades little minds, figuratively and literally. Kids immersed in households and social circles that talk like this and stereotype turn into George Zimmerman’s who justify their heinous actions and judgmental thinking. This self-righteous stereotyping is dangerous.
Here’s why this is concerning. Because kids who learn to stereotype, judge, and hate grow up to be employers who refuse to hire or in turn treat poorly the employee who is a minority. They grow up to be politicians who make laws that disenfranchise minority voters and or make laws burdening them with food and housing choices. They grow up to be the Sikh Temple shooter or a George Zimmerman who target to kill and justify “standing their ground” by calling them “thugs”. Or maybe they just grow up to be everyday citizens like “Joe” who perpetuate stereotypes and justify murders and crime in social conversations and in turn teach their children to judge and hate further perpetuating a primitive, self-righteous way of thinking and living.
h/t to Monologues of Dissent for bringing this video to my attention! Thanks. This teacher is amazing.
Either way, narrow-minded thinking grows up to be harmful to our civilized, inclusive society. Kids who are immersed in casual stereotyping and or directly taught to be judgmental and hateful grow up to be racist adults who exercise power in the world. We need to take the social and emotional learning of our children seriously, because at the end of the day THAT will be the lens through which our children see the world and exercise their tested content knowledge, character, and power.
Until we focus on respect, conflict-resolution skills, compassion, self-regulation, self-confidence, and resiliency as much as we focus on high-stakes test scores, we will continue to have kids like Columbine and Sandy Hook who use violence as a way of solving internal and external conflicts. High-stakes testing kids may be bright 'regurgitators' of facts, but they’re not whole. They’re not creative thinkers. They’re not compassionate. We have to educate the whole child. This blog is long enough already, but I will extensively cover character education as my blog develops.
When I teach in the classroom, I read Dr Seuss every chance I get and no matter what you think, no age is too old for Seuss. The Sneetches is a great book for teaching diversity, acceptance, and community. But by all means, this is just one of many items to teach this concept. But don’t rely solely on Dr. Seuss or some other author to teach your child this lesson. The power of this lesson comes after reading the book, during the discussion with your child afterwards. So engage, talk, listen, and model compassion. It’s a priceless gift you can give to your child. Kids need to know that they don’t have to change to be like the oppressor, rather the oppressor needs to change how they think and diversity (color, ethnicity, the specific looks of traits, behavior, choices, gender, sexual preference, fashion trends, thinking, etc) need to be valued.
Self-confidence among other character traits are so often overlooked in education because a test score tells us so much more about a kid. <insert incredible amounts of sarcasm> Without confidence a child, teen, or adult for that matter, cannot build healthy friendships or intimate relationships, cannot take academic risks in class/career for fear of ridicule from peers, cannot be assertive for themselves in times of conflict or when being dominated/controlled. Kids who bully/stereotype/hate, tend to have self-esteem issues too. Yet somehow, we say knowing 2+2=4 is the MOST important thing in education.
Academic knowledge doesn’t stop the racism in “Joe” or George Zimmerman. Academic knowledge doesn’t save Trayvon. But character education can save the future Trayvon's of the world and other kids discriminated against. This should scare the hell out of you, so start caring about more than test scores. Start caring about the words your adult peers use in conversation. Start caring about our future and how we can reduce aggressive, hateful behaviors. Because these kids grow up. And they can either be a power that helps this world or hurts this world. It’s up to us to focus on the right things to get them there. Teachers matter. Families matter. Public policy matters.
Let's stop allowing the non-n* word racists from infiltrating this world and our government.
**More in depth
PBS - Frontline episode on A Class Divided (another reason PBS should be saved from gov't extinction) When you watch the full video, at 8:36 notice Brian's silent mouthing while he's being told he's less than. Then, when they get to throw the collar away, he is the one trying to decimate it. You can see all the anger he has pent up directed at that collar. Chew on that for awhile... watch the video again for the non-verbal lessons. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeK759FF84s)