To my fellow educators in Charlottesville, VA, my heart is with you. We do not know why your city was chosen for this tragedy, but let’s not harp on the negative. Let’s instead say your city was chosen to be a beacon of hope. The same way that Watts, Ferguson, and Detroit was chosen before you. The events in those cities, tragic as they were, opened our eyes. Now, it is your city’s turn. It is your city that has shone a light on the bigotry and the hatred we are trying to eliminate from our country.
All weekend, we watched the horror of the events that claimed the life of a woman and two officers. Our hearts ache for their families, who will not have their loved ones anymore. My heart also aches for you, my fellow educators, and how you must now move forward in your schools and classrooms.
I cannot imagine what it must feel like to experience such a tragedy in my city. I cannot imagine having individuals whose hearts are filled with hate use my city as a rally for their racist agenda. I cannot imagine having individuals chanting racist words marching with tiki torches on a college campus we as educators hope our students will attend one day. I cannot imagine what you are dealing with in your classrooms today in response to the horrific events of this past weekend, but I hope you are dealing with these events in your classrooms. I am sure your students are going to want to discuss what happened. You owe it to them to have the open dialogue.
To my educators of Charlottesville, it is imperative you address these conversations head on. I say this because it was some school or some educator that failed to educate these white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Now, they have fallen off the path towards peace and hope and are sprinting down a cliff of hatred and violence. I’m not asking you to do something I’m not willing to do; I plan to address this with my students as well.
Our students must understand there is absolutely no place in our country for this type of hatred. Unfortunately, the individual in the White House would not acknowledge these individuals by name, but you must inform your students the cause of this pain and inform them the voices behind this hatred are white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists. Label these individuals and do not allow your students to be confused. This was nothing more than a terror attack on our country. This was not violence by many sides, but violence from one side. Also, let them know the city they call home does not condemn this type of rhetoric or violence.
We have these conversations with our students to ensure their minds do not become corrupted with this type of hatred. Schools can help eliminate this bigotry and hatred in the minds of many people. This can only happen when we have conversations about it.
Remember, you can’t be who you don’t see. Our students do not see enough heroes. We need to show them more heroes. Show them the countless individuals who fight and fought for equal rights. Make sure your students do not forget the names of Heather D. Heyer, Lt. H Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates. Their names should be immortalized like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. These heroes lost their life due to the horrific events of the weekend.
To my educators in Charlottesville, we all stand with you. We will do our part to educate our scholars that this is not America. I know your job is already hard and it just became a little harder. Luckily being a teacher makes you a superhero and teaching is your superpower. Use that superpower, like you do everyday, to educate your students and spread the message of peace and love.
Sincerely a fellow educator,
David McGuire is a principal in Indianapolis. He wrote this post for Indy Education.