ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK
…this time by an American fascist.
People destroyed by terrorism – and here I include the perpetrators as well as the victims – are victims of one of the oldest problems faced by humans – tribalism.
Whether it’s religious tribalism (the Crusades), nationalistic tribalism (Aryan “race” vs. the “other”), or idealogical tribalism (the Union vs. the Confederacy), it is a large and apparently permanent part of human society.
In ancient times, when danger threatened, we would gather in our tribal group for safety…there is strength in numbers…and defend ourselves against the enemy – the other tribe(s). They were to blame for our hardships. They took our land, stole our livestock, and threatened our children. They were “different” and threatened “our way of life.”
In the modern world, especially during difficult economic times, the tendency is to blame the “others” for our hardship. In 1932, in Berlin, it was the Jews. In 1950 it was the Soviet Communists. In 1964 it was the Chinese Communists. In 2000 it was the “radical islamists.”
And it’s always the “immigrants.”
WE ARE ALL AFRICANS
Evolution teaches us that homo sapiens first arose in Africa…all of us, therefore, originate from Africa.
Every white person in America is a descendent of European immigrants (or is, herself, a European immigrant).
Yet, Conservative Republicans, without a hint of irony, argue for more stringent or more limited immigration. Indeed, the ancestors of many current administration members, including both the President and Vice-President, would have been turned away at the gate under their own proposed immigration rules. Other white Americans trace their ancestry back to European immigrants who violently and ruthlessly ejected or eliminated the native American population. In other words, no “white” Americans can claim ancient ancestry on this land. We’re all immigrants.
The racists who marched in Charlottesville fight, they say, for the survival of the “white race” and “white civilization.” Yet, biologically, we’re all connected. All our ancestors migrated from Africa. Our DNA is the same. We are one species. Our genetic differences are unimportant.
It’s tribalism. Primitive. Fear of “the other.” Ignorance.
REACTIONS TO CHARLOTTESVILLE
What follows is a small sampling of the outrage, venting, and emotion-laden posts by both education and non-education bloggers.
What should Betsy DeVos have said?
From Andre Perry at the Hechinger Report
[DeVos’s] generic and woefully insufficient statement effectively sanitized the hate that Nazis, Klan members and so called “alt-right” demonstrators put on full display as they shouted Nazi slogans such as “Sieg Heil” and waved Confederate flags, while carrying military gear. DeVos, the nation’s top teacher (clearly symbolic), failed the basic test of providing leadership to teachers, education officials, as well as counselors on how educate students out of bigotry, white supremacy and violence.
From Diane Ravitch’s Blog
H.G. Wells long ago wrote that “civilization is more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” On a day like today, it seems that catastrophe is leading the race.
In this post, Nancy Bailey doesn’t deal with the specifics of the Charlottesville violence…however, she brings up important questions and thoughts about how we, as teachers, deal with children’s mental health issues.
From Nancy Bailey at Nancy Bailey’s Education Website
Until there is a school shooting, a suicide, a bullying incident, or a student is arrested for outlandish behavior, and these days that can include very young exasperated children in kindergarten, school officials do little to address the real mental health needs of children. When they do, it is usually in a punitive manner. The incarceration rate of youth is high and the draconian zero tolerance laws leave students with mental health issues lost in a world that cares little about them.
From Doug Masson at A Citizen’s Guide to Indiana
…it’s no surprise that these guys (and it seems to be almost entirely male) had an event that came to violence. White supremacists like to talk tough and invoke violent metaphors. Judging from the things you see out of the broad overlap between “Men’s Rights” activists and white supremacists, you see a toxic view of masculinity that regards nonviolent responses to challenges as emasculating. Their beliefs and fragile egos make them almost uniquely unable to co-exist with other ideas or turn the other cheek when confronted.
From Rob Miller at A View From the Edge
Let’s not try to fool each other. Racism is alive and well in America. To say otherwise would be ignorant of reality. Sometimes it is subtle and unintentional like the examples cited above. Other times it reveals itself as a group of white men parading swastikas, burning torches, and making Nazi hand symbols. Anyhow it reveals itself, it is a stain on our nation.
from Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer
Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here’s mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus
Ed Brayton suggests we read Richard Hofstadter…I concur.
From Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars
This is the inevitable result of the ignorant, populist nationalism that is promoted by Bannon, Gorka, Miller and Trump. When you tap that vein, this is what comes flowing out. Right-wing populism is inextricably tied to fascism, not just in Germany but here too. Every time it has broken out in America, the result has been the mass deaths of racial minorities. Read Richard Hofstadter.
…and then he gives us a specific.
In the early 60s, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Hofstadter traced the tribalism that wended its way through American history. The enemy was always there, he said. Brayton explains…
Immigrants in particular are always a target. Each new wave of immigration brings about a reaction of nativism, bigotry and xenophobia. Irish, Polish, German, Chinese, now Mexican and Latino, or Muslim, all make convenient scapegoats. Demagogues skillfully push the buttons of fear in the minds of those given to such emotions, something that study after study shows maps almost exactly with conservative political ideology. This is just the latest incarnation.
At best, it results in bigotry and violence — at best. At worst, it results in passing laws that allow certain groups to be murdered with impunity and in official state violence, as against Native Americans, Mormons (at one time in at least two states, it was actually legal to kill Mormons), the Chinese and others. It results in throwing people in prison for being anti-war or for protesting for equality and justice, something the constitution was supposed to protect against.
Brayton includes a link to Hofstadter’s 1964 piece, The Paranoid Style in American Politics…a must read.
Faced with an uprising of hate and fear Steven Singer (gadflyonthewallblog) writes a blog poem to white supremacists. Here’s an extended quote…
The face of America is changing. And it’s increasingly brown.
It’s got curly hair and unexpected features. It’s fed by different foods and nourished by different beliefs and customs. And it’s often called by a name that doesn’t derive from Europe.
People are starting to speak up. They’re starting to call you out.
And you don’t like it.
More than that you’re scared. Terrified.
It’s all going to end. The lie you told yourself about being special.
So you huddle together with others just like you, shivering and crying and blowing snot onto each others shoulders pretending that it’s a rally for white pride. It’s really just the world’s biggest pity party for boys too scared to be men and own up.
How did you greet your class this Monday morning? How do you talk to children, of any age, about the divisions in our society? How do you handle hate, bigotry, and prejudice in your classroom?
It’s no longer possible to close your classroom door and ignore racism in America – if it ever was. Pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t help your students.
From Caffeinated Rage
…I would not field any comments or invite discussion until I had the class do one thing.
On a piece of paper that I would not take up or force them to read in front of the class (unless they wanted to), I would ask them to define the word “HATRED” – its connotations, denotations, and actions associated with it.
Then we would start class.
NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia on talking to children about race – resources included…
Do not shy away from talking about this terrible topic with the young, I beg you. There is, perhaps, nothing harder than a conversation on race. But do it, because how we feel about race; how we react to racism informs how we feel about and react to all other forms of bias and prejudice. Children of all races, religions, all gender attractions and gender identities, of all cultures and social classes must have a safe space to speak and ask questions and wonder and think and be angry and be comforted.
This post from the Answer Sheet was published in July 2016. Need help with the topic of racism in your classroom?
Teaching Tolerance was founded in 1991 as a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center and is dedicated to reducing prejudice and supporting equitable school experiences for all children in America. It provides free educational materials, and its magazine is sent to nearly every school in the country.