As an educator I take the events that happened in Charlottesville, as well as the removal of statues in Baltimore last night, as an opportunity to educate. So my wife and I took this opportunity to educate my 11-year-old daughter. We had to explain to my 11-year-old what this is about, about Nazis and White Supremacists in America, about the Confederate flag, about statues of Confederate heroes that are being removed.
Do you know what we taught her about all those things? Understanding. Understanding that to some people, those symbols are symbols of hate, of intolerance, and racism, both by the people doing the hating and especially those who are hated. But we also told her that to many others, those symbols are part of their history. That in the South, their heritage includes the Confederate flag and heroes of the Civil War, and that’s okay, that both things can be true. That hopefully the people who claim it’s “heritage, not hate” don’t forget that to other people those symbols are symbols of hate and racism, that they understand why many people are against those symbols.
I also taught her to understand that most Neo Nazis and White Supremacists want me
and my family, along with anyone who is not White and Christian, to leave or die. That we are less than human. That in the face of that kind of hate, there is no reason or understanding. That their blight must be ended, but is unlikely to be anytime soon. That those people have children, whom they are teaching that same hate to, and she may some day have dealings with. I told her that she must understand they don’t know better, and she should try to change their mind by being the better person, by being all those things they think she cannot be, but to never, NEVER let them dehumanize her. To fight when she must.
As a person of mixed heritage, one who has been called coon, nigger, tar baby, Spic, wetback, and countless other insults, one who has been beaten by racists and threatened by the KKK despite that I am also half White, I chose to teach my daughter understanding and not hate. I, personally, feel those symbols, the Confederate flag and statues of the confederacy, should never present at our schools, at our courthouses, and at our state and federal buildings. But I understand why people are upset at their removal, and I understand their place in history. I can see why they don’t want their history removed from plain sight. But do they understand why it should happen? Can they see that their history is built upon the backs of enslaved people, that to this day are still dehumanized?
Black, White, Hispanic, Southerner, Northerner, everyone should take a side, debate and converse with others who don’t agree with them, and protest the government if they disagree with their decisions. But if you cannot see both sides of an argument, if you cannot consider another human’s viewpoint, even for a moment, because you’re so entrenched in your own, then you need to rethink your place in a society. If your teachings and understandings tell you to hate, that others are less than you because they disagree with you or think differently than you, you are no better than the Nazis. You are no better than the Klan. You are the one who is less than human. But unlike you, I don’t hate you because you are less. I want to teach you, to talk to you, and help make you more. To help you rediscover your humanity.
But I will never trust you.