Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a piece came out in the New York Times that temporarily broke the internet, titled: “A Voice of Hatred in America’s Heartland.” While I discussed it on Twitter, my husband followed it on Reddit, and overall the takeaways were the same: what the (bleep) is wrong with the New York Times to publish a soft, fluff piece about a NAZI?
You know who had nice manners? The Nazi who shaved my uncle Willie’s head before escorting him into a cement chamber where he locked eyes with children as their lungs filled with poison and they suffocated to death in agony.
Too much? Exactly. That’s how you write about Nazis.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) November 25, 2017
I saw it as a warning to those who have grown apathetic, complacent, and downright complicit in their acceptance of the banality of white supremacists, racists, and hate-crime mongers in our nation. I knew there were there. They paint swastikas on my fence. They stole my Obama sign off my lawn during the 2008 election. They work in my district, thinking it’s “cute” and funny to support the current president, which is tantamount to supporting and condoning his dog-whistle and seditious calls for violence. They are students who add hate crimes to their list of nonchalant violence and privilege.
We are in the center of the storm. Which way do we go?
Aside from the meta-discussion about the article itself, it begs the question: there are still Nazis next door. Right now. What do we do next?
We, teachers, choose to challenge hateful thinking, or we don’t.
I suggested this:
Then maybe it’s time the nation goes on a nationwide field trip. Start reading Anne Frank again. Teach Terrible Things by Eve Bunting. But many of the “good” people won’t. We got to this place out of apathy and fear. I need ideas and action.
— Kelly (@mrskellylove) November 27, 2017
I received this amazing response. There are so much goodness and hope in here:
Are you a parent? If so, make sure: all the teachers in your child’s school receive ongoing training on implicit bias; the reading lists are diverse; the school celebrates African American History in a big way; the school teaches kids academic language re: racism.
— SF Public School Mom (@AliMCollins) November 27, 2017
And I made a new friend.
That is how it’s done: make alliances. Discuss with purpose and action-minded responses. Subvert. Teach the picture book. Show the war images. Never forget history.
There are two questions, and we all better become fast historians, folks:
- How did Germany allow Hitler to happen?
- How did Germany recover?
We can’t allow Nazis and White Supremacists groups to flourish. They are our domestic terrorists. How do citizens in countries like Egypt fight ISIS? That is what we do–and the reason we’re all so wobbly now is that we never, ever really thought of ourselves as that.
Whatever “that” is.
When I lived in Tehran, Iran at the age of 11-12 I thought how every American kid should live somewhere else, too. Somewhere completely different. During that same time, we visited Amsterdam and I visited the Anne Frank house.
I’ve been on my field trips. Now it’s time for our children to go on theirs. Let’s lead the way.