Talking to my children about the shameful act of degrading others because of the color of their skin, was a responsibility that I would not evade.
I trusted that in the schools they would do a good job at teaching my kids about sexuality, and I signed my permission for my children to be taught about it when the forms came home.
But with racism, I wasn't going to let anyone gloss over its harmful effects, as we often do as to not make anyone uncomfortable, and to go on pretending that we are a colorblind society. If I was going to raise citizens that treat everyone out there like the human beings they all are, I could not to let down my guard.
No child is born racist or prejudiced. But for generations we have been doing a superb job at instillingthrough abuse and example, and from a very early age-- the anger, confusion, ignorance, and fear that lie at the core of what pushes someone to play out their racism.
I have met parents who don't stop to consider how their poisonous words and attitudes towards Black people are confusing and harmful to their own children. Children come into the world full of optimism and a predisposition to be kind to others. But when they get such confusing messages from the adults they look up to for guidance, the respect for others, and for themselves, starts to erode.
Granted, children not always get indoctrinated by their parents into hating others. Racism, like many other negative leanings, tend to also be contagious. If you don't assert a positive influence on your kids early on, someone else will. And that influence can only be effective when it is transmitted by example.
I feel for the parents of the San Jose State University student who for months endured degrading words, acts, and intimidation at the hand of his White roommates. I can only imagine how scary it is to be the parents of a Black young man, in a society that of late (as if we already weren't so far behind), has been getting more inconsiderate in the way it treats Black youngsters.
And I also feel for the parents of the perpetrators. I have to assume that getting their boys into college must have taken a lot of effort, and felt like a big accomplishment. It likely filled their hearts with joy, and their minds with dreams about their future. I can't help feeling for their big loss.
Whether those parents consciously contributed to the insensitivity of their boys, or these acquired it by contagion, it doesn't matter anymore. They got caught, and now will have to pay for it.
I sincerely hope the system is not too harsh with them, but still make sure that they get a lesson they and others will learn from. The truth is, if as a society we were sincere about combating racism, the biggest gathering of racists our country has seen in many generations (the Tea Party), would have been outlawed long time ago. Allowing them to publicly promote their prejudice messages, is no way of modeling a civilized society.