May 2, 2010
Posted by Eyre
I recently stumbled upon the Southern Poverty Law Center's website, and they have a hate map--a map that lists and describes the known hate groups in each of the United States. Knowledge is power, but the visual was quite disheartening.
I guess it would be easy for me as a white, heterosexual to just ignore things like this, but I can't. Every day, I hear a cruel comment from a student or a co-worker. Every day, I am certain that some of my students are made to feel inferior and/or are bullied because of things that they can't help and shouldn't be ashamed of.
Just this past week, I had a discussion with my students. We're getting ready to read Ayn Rand's Anthem. My students argued and debated whether it is true that all men are created equal and what that phrase in our constitution was really intended to say. We also discussed our different perceptions of sin. I was quite proud of the arguments that several of the students offered. Yes, some of the students were more mature than the others. One boy saw our discussion as an opportunity to tell a joke about Mexicans, uncaring that two students in the room were born in Mexico. Those two laughed. What else could they do? I, on the other hand, did not laugh, and he will be getting some tolerance counseling during lunch detention this week.
This is a very religious community. I was quite proud of my students who said that it was God's place to judge, not ours, rather than using religion as a weapon in our discussion. I did point out to them that some of the very same students who agreed with them had made some very judgmental comments about other religions and orientations within my hearing just the day before. I encouraged them to each consider their own actions towards their schoolmates in regards to our discussion. Some seemed to give it thought; others were uncomfortable. Some didn't get what I was trying to say. I ended with the way I always end this discussion---You don't have to like everyone, you don't have to agree with everyone, and everyone doesn't have to like or agree with you. If you truly want people to consider your opinions and listen to you with an open-mind, then you have to be willing to do the same. Cruelty never really changes anyone's way of thinking.