“But that’s not right!” he shouted.
In 2000, the year he brought the book home, we lived in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. I taught English as a Second Language at the University of Illinois and had colleagues and students from nearly every race, religion, and ethnicity. Jeff taught at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, which had students from 40 different countries and a diverse staff. Our babysitter was African-American, and our boys helped Korean children carve jack-o-lanterns for the first time.
Our discussion that day was about history—rather ancient history to a five-year-old and even to me. We talked about how the laws had changed—thanks to people like Rosa Parks. We talked about how neither Al nor the kids in his class had to follow those rules anymore—and how all his classmates could grow up to be whatever they wanted to be. I spoke with such confidence in 2000, confidence that the worst was behind us, and while there was still much work to be done, we were headed in the right direction.
My husband and I had worked in the Philippines before our kids were born—with refugees from three Southeast Asian countries many fleeing oppression (above left) and colleagues from several others. In 2001 we moved to Albuquerque, NM with its Native American reservations and pueblos, a permeating Spanish-American heritage, and good friends who were refugees from the ugliness of Yugoslavia’s collapse. We’ve lived in rural Indiana Amish country for several years now and I miss that kind of diversity in our daily lives—and treasure the diversity of my Facebook friends.
My sons are 21 and 23 now, and the fact that the protesters in Charlottesville look so much like them and their college classmates horrifies me. How could I have been so wrong as we sat together discussing Rosa Parks in 2000? I pray for young parents and teachers—like TJ—who have to try to explain these ugly images and hateful slogans to kids. It’s much harder to shield kids from the news these days—and I am wondering if that’s such a good idea anyway.
Hate is wrong. Hating anyone much less people you don’t even know for being a part of a certain group goes against everything Jesus said, everything Paul said. It’s not Christian period. We are all created in the image of God. To quote TJ, “It’s just not right!” It wasn’t right in the United States in 1861, in Germany in 1935, in Cambodia in 1978, in Rwanda in 1994, or anywhere.
Parents, think about how to talk with your children about what happened in Charlottesville. If they have a phone they have probably seen the images and watched the video clips. I don’t want them to be afraid—but I don’t want them to be ignorant. Many of the commentators are right: ignoring this movement of hate isn’t going to make it go away. Now that it’s out in the open, it’s time to call it what it is: evil, pure, hateful evil.