December 05, 2012Students in a New York school dressed in black face re-enacting internationally-known musician Chris Brown beating his equally well-known girlfriend, Rihanna. Members of a private suburban swim club in Pennsylvania tossed racial slurs at young minority children who frequent the pool with a local day care center. A church in Eastern Kentucky voted to ban interracial couples from membership. Treyvon Martin.
If you cannot see something wrong with any or all of the above situations, consider yourself part of the problem.
In a time when our media and government consistently tout our "progressive progression toward equal rights for all," there seems to be a disparagingly large amount of racial prejudice being thrown around these days.
You've never heard of the above situations on the news? Not local enough, you say? Those things don't and couldn't possibly happen here in our small towns!
Here are a couple more then.
Students hid a noose in a biracial student's locker at Corydon Central High School. St. Paul's, a traditionally African American church in Corydon, was set on fire … with people holding a meeting in the basement.
Let me reiterate that.
A church. Set on fire. With people in the basement.
Those things have happened in our "small town."
Now, the reasons behind the incidents may not be fully understood or, in some cases, the facts may be incomplete, but it doesn't change the fact that they happened.
Right here in our backyard, racism has reared its ugly head and struck in the places where, as a community, our members should feel safest: at school and church.
Just so we're clear, I understand that the noose was made of dental floss and was only a few inches long, but that is not the point.
A noose is a sign of terror in many people's history and heritage and, to use that against them, even jokingly, isn't OK. It would be like painting a swastika on the locker of a student who was Jewish. Different history, same feeling of hatred.
It's hard to express my feelings over a place of worship being defiled because someone can't get their head on straight enough to see that, regardless of skin color or national origin, we're all people. We're all human.
And we're stuck here, together.
These last two situations have taken their place at the top of the list of very few times I've ever been disappointed in my community. I've never really been ashamed of living here, but for a while after this happened I was and, on some level, I still am.
Now, we're left wondering how can we fix this? Well, the short answer is, we can't.
We can't "fix" the fact that a child will no longer feel completely safe in our school system, and we cannot change that members of our community will now look at their neighbors and wonder, "Was it them?" or "Does this person hate me because I'm black?"
We can do nothing about that. The one thing we can do is to lead by example. We can stand up and teach our children better and expect better from each other, and it is high time that we do so.
Prejudice precedes hate crimes, which is what these are, and we cannot continue to turn a blind eye if we want a better, safer world for our children. We cannot continue to look the other way because it has not happened to us, because it is happening to all of us. Any person who has a child should be outraged; if this happens to one child, what's to stop it from happening to another child, perhaps your child?
Tolerance and a sense that all people are equal must be something that we instill in our children at an early age because they are our leaders of tomorrow and they are the ones who will take us forward.
And it starts with community. When a community supports and accepts all of its people and parts — regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status or level of intelligence — then and only then will prejudice disappear.
I'm not preaching that we should be a colorless, sexless or religionless society. Indeed, we must see colors, sexes and religions. Without the acknowledgment that people are different, we cannot see disparity when it happens.
However, in this changing day, we cannot continue to act as though we live in the same era as our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. It is simply intolerable to think that we can do so.
Freedom from persecution based on race, religion, ethnicity, social standing and sexual orientation must be something that we actively work toward each day — as individuals, families and a community — and it must begin today, in this moment, in this minute, in this second. If it doesn't, our children and our children's children will continue to fight the battles that we have struggled with, and I, for one, do not want my child to grow up in fear for their well-being simply because they will have been born of two races.