Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you know that the last few weeks have been challenging for us as a country. Our individual differences have been laid bare in cities such as Charlottesville and even a few days ago in Phoenix showing just how bad things have become. As a parent, it can be difficult to talk about the hate filled atmosphere that has been prevalent in recent events. We discuss what is being said and I always come back to the same piece of advice: Be mindful of what's going on but focus on running your own race.
My oldest daughter is someone who is deaf-disabled. This means that she is deaf and has an additional disability (in her case cerebral palsy). She is bright and attends the regular school program at our local school for the Deaf. Because of her unique set of challenges, she can be the occasional target of bullying. She has an aide with her for most of the day and since we have an excellent relationship with the school, the bullying is kept to a minimum. A few years ago, however, my daughter was called a racial epithet at school. As African Americans living in the south, we take racial issues seriously and tend to confront such issues head on. By the time she came home and told us about the incident, the school principal was already aware of the situation and had addressed the issue. The students involved admitted using the epithet and were disciplined in accordance with the school's conduct policy and as far as the school was concerned, the incident was sufficiently addressed.
I took the opportunity to use this as a major life lesson for my daughter. She obviously was upset because one of the students who used the racial epithet joke was a "friend." I told her what happened was unfortunate but that life is not always fair and she should use this as motivation to stay focused on her goals and to run her race. I reminded her that she was doing well in school, had a high grade point average and as her Dad, I see a very bright future for her. That being said, I also told her that there are people who will only see her skin color or disability and will never want her to achieve her goals. I further advised that she needed to ignore the "noise" and continue to achieve in spite of the attempted distractions.
Fast forward to the events of the last few weeks. In the aftermath of the incident in Charlottesville, I saw a conversation on social media where a white nationalist said that he opposed immigration and race mixing (his term) because his main objective was to preserve America for those that looked like him (white). He also said that America was “built” by white people for white people. Facts based on Census Bureau data (like America is a nation of immigrants) aside, this gentleman probably has seen studies about white people soon becoming a minority in this country and is suddenly less interested in diversity.
The last presidential election highlighted the differences that we have as a multi-ethnic country and many "fringe" groups are using racial and gender discrimination as a way to "Make America Great Again." Parents are seeking ways to explain the events of Charlottesville and Phoenix to their children. My advice to them is to encourage their children to be diligent in running their own race in spite of the current noisy environment and to never lose sight of their established personal goals. People may use offensive language toward certain groups but, as Bill Gates once said, soon those very same people may be forced to use a different term: “Boss.”