Dear Charlottesville protestors,
I had good lesson plans for next week. We were going to start the first research project of the year and learn about prepositional phrases. Time permitting, I was thinking about jumping right into pre reading activities for The Outsiders. Well, needless to say, that won’t be happening. Instead, we’ll be talking about you.
We’ll be talking about the fact that, unlike the KKK demonstrations my African-American students have heard about from their grandparents, today’s domestic terrorists no longer feel the need to cover their faces. We’ll talk about how people who read Diary of Anne Frank when they were my students’ age somehow came away from that with an irrational hatred and fear of Jews.
We’ll be talking about what my students can do to keep themselves and their families safe. It’s not the first time we’ve had these conversations. We had them after a Klan protest in some of my students’ neighborhoods. We had it after a student and his hijab-wearing mother were heckled at the grocery store. We had it after a truck full of grown men threw garbage out the window at my twelve-year-old students while yelling “Trump.” I’ve gotten pretty good at this talk, unfortunately.
I am grateful to you for a couple of reasons.
First of all, thanks for showing yourself so clearly. Thanks for showing the world that clean-cut, educated, articulate young men (and women) can be the face of racism, bigotry, and terrorism. Thanks for forcing people to take a side, so that my beautiful, brilliant immigrant and refugee children can figure out whom to trust.
Secondly, thanks for the reminder. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of school, especially at the beginning of the academic calendar. Sometimes, I forget to look beyond dress code and benchmark testing and parent conferences. My students are focused on catching up with their friends and starting a new year, and sometimes they forget too. Thanks for reminding us that what we do is essential for our survival as a nation.
Thanks for reminding me and my kids that their voices—their accented, multilingual voices—are what America needs.
They will learn to use those voices. You have given them every bit of motivation they need. And they will use them to defeat you—not by shouting you down with the angry cries that are your weapon of choice, but with the power of their intelligence and compassion for the world around them. Your time has passed. Theirs is on the rise. Look out: We’re coming for you.