A few months ago, I wrote an open letter to ISIS after the tragedy in Manchester. Last week, they struck again in Barcelona. These vicious creatures have a special place in hell reserved for them.
I never thought I’d be writing a piece about a different group of terrorists right here in the USA: white supremacists.
I’m white. And this is bullshit.
I’ve remained silent about the so-called-rally that took place last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was on vacation in New Orleans and so it was relatively easy for me to ignore the news and be distracted with all that the French Quarter had to offer. However, this very serious issue cannot and should not be ignored. Now that I’m back in Baltimore, less than 3 hours from where the hateful incidents occurred, I feel like it is time to speak out the only way I know how: through writing.
Any semi-normal person with half a brain and just a dash of common sense and decency can very effortlessly understand how this white supremacist and neo-Nazi “get together” was so, so terribly wrong. On many levels. Any white, black, brown, yellow, purple, or polka-dotted human in any country should be able to grasp that concept without difficulty.
As a young white woman in America, it is so apparent to me how disturbing and reprehensible this weekend’s events were. And as a teacher of very diverse elementary aged children, I am hurt, outraged, saddened, frustrated, heartbroken, and truly exasperated about what is currently occurring in our melting pot of a country. What is happening to us? Where is our country headed?
It’s the year 2017 but if you watch the footage from this past weekend, you’d think we’re living in the 1950s.
So, I could write an open letter to these white supremacists, who feel “under attack” for reasons I’ll never understand, and go on a rant about how unbelievably disgusting and repulsive I think they and their vile actions are. However, there is a piece of me that feels sorry for these people— really, really sorry. These Americans didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be irrational racists with fascist ideals. These individuals were molded by their environment, most likely family members, because no one is born with hate in their hearts.
I want to introduce all of the white supremacists, and those who sympathize with these groups, to some of my students instead. I’ve taught about 75 students in the past three years and will be getting a new group of bright-eyed first graders in just a couple of weeks. Out of those 75 energetic and free-spirited children, only 14 were white. I’d like you to learn a bit about these kids, some who you claim are interfering with your lives and “replacing” your race.
I’m honored to introduce to you…
*Mina: This vivacious girl is so thirsty for knowledge and affection. Her eyes widen and sparkle when she realizes she’s reading a book she wasn’t able to conquer a week earlier. She wants nothing more than to make her teachers and classmates happy. She is a social butterfly who loves to laugh, give hugs, and play with Shopkins. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
*Stanley: This little boy enjoys singing, dancing, and putting a smile on people’s faces. He doesn’t care what color the face is. Be kind to him, and he’ll be kind to you. He is a perfectionist and is often very hard on himself if he can’t master a concept quickly. He wants to be the best he can be and, like his peer above, make the adults in his life proud. He blushes when he learns a girl in class has a crush on him.
*Mack: This gentleman believes he’s the male version of Beyonce and he won’t let you hear the end of it; he’s the most suave and confident child you’ll ever meet. He enjoys being the class clown and the center of attention. He takes care of his sister and brothers like they’re his own.
*Roscoe: This boy is so hard on himself and doubts his academic skills, but loves working one-on-one with his teacher. With love and support, he can flourish. When he improves at something, you cannot wipe the smile off his face. He is so inquisitive and loves to ask complex questions; some of them so deep, I am unable to answer. His favorite thing to do is play soccer outside with his buddies.
*Shawna: Shawna wants to be friends with absolutely everyone and counts the minutes until she’s out on the playground at recess. She enjoys eating healthy and always rubs her yummy snacks in my face to make me jealous. She sticks up for her friends and always will lend an ear to listen. To anyone.
*Kayleigh: This young girl pushes herself to not just meet but exceed expectations. She wants to be the top of her class in reading and math. She asks questions, works hard, makes mistakes, and learns from them. She is passionate about animals and helping those less fortunate. She loves bringing happiness to those around her; no matter who they may be. She wants to be a scientist when she grows up.
*Melissa: She is a quiet little girl, soft-spoken, but has a big brain. It may take her some time to warm up to you, but she has a large heart and is extremely sweet. She will assist her classmates with new content they may be struggling with instead of playing in her free time. She really enjoys being the teacher’s helper and consistently sets an excellent example for her classmates.
*Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.
I could go on and on describing these students to you, and I could never accurately sum them up in just a few lines. But, I ask you, can you pick out the white students based on those descriptions?
I introduced you to white, black, and Hispanic children. How would you explain your rallies to them? Some of the children above are homeless. Many of those students come from single-parent households. Some of those children bounce around to different schools and homes. Some of them only eat when they’re at school. Can you identify them?
There are others who have two married parents and live in condominiums or single-family homes. These children come from families in various socio-economic brackets and have different cultures and backgrounds. But they are all strong, brave, and thoughtful.
I also teach Middle-Eastern and Asian students.
I teach Catholics. Protestants. Jews. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I teach children.
I can tell you right now, none of my white students will ever partake in a rally like the one that was held in Charlottesville. I promise you that. I don’t have a doubt in my mind.
Want to know why?
In my classroom, we practice respect. We learn about kindness, compassion, sympathy. Humanity.
We often have discussions about our differences, and how we can celebrate what makes us unique. My children know more about cultures, traditions, and languages around the world than you do. And for that, I am incredibly proud and grateful.
When my children learned that students actually used to be segregated based on the color of their skin, they all gasped. They could literally not believe what they were hearing.
“Wait, we wouldn’t all be in the same class?!” they exclaimed. When I nodded, they all ran over to their friends, who looked different than them, and squeezed them tightly.
These are not students who have hate in their hearts. They have so much love in their hearts it overflows. It’s contagious. And you are more than welcome to visit my classroom and meet these amazing children.
I dare you to tell any one of them that they are less of a person than you are.
My students won’t be holding torches chanting offensive nonsense in the streets, they’ll be standing up to you. They’ll be standing up for their friends, their fellow Americans. Fellow humans.
I love to travel and I will never let terrorists scare or prevent me from doing just that. Likewise, I love my country, and I will not allow you to taint all that the USA stands for with your outrageous rhetoric and twisted ideas. People of any color, race, gender, or religion are welcomed to visit and live in America.
We’ve already fought the Civil War. We’ve fought the Second World War. The Holocaust ended in 1945. We are now in 2017, people. We’re better, smarter, and stronger than then. Let’s wake up and act like it.
There are more white supremacist rallies being organized as we speak. They are called “Unite the Right” events which is an utterly appalling, inaccurate name because those racists are not “the right”. They are radicals. Just like the ISIS terrorists are not “Muslims”, they’re radicals.
I urge each and every one of you, regardless who you voted for, regardless of which political party you’re affiliated with, to take a stand. If you won’t stand up for yourself, do it for the children. Do it for the future of America. We need to let the world and our administration know that this is NOT acceptable and it will NOT be tolerated.
I don’t want my students and future children to grow up in a world where they or their friends have to fear for their safety. No child should ever question his or her worth or importance. No child should ever have to look racism or Nazism in the face and feel belittled or harassed.
We are at a crossroads.
This is not much different than the time of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King. MLK is celebrated now as a hero and a key player in our country’s history and quest for equal rights, but back then, there were many people who despised him and looked at him like many now view the Black Lives Matter movement. There were Americans who thought of him as a thug that liked to cause trouble and start conflict. There were rallies and protests back then just like there are now. Yes, some turn violent. Yes, there are some extremists. Yes, no movement is perfect. But think of the bigger picture here.
What side of history do you want to be on?
I leave you with these words from our country’s very own Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
God bless, and fight the good fight. xo