#IAmForChange–Honest Conversations: Why Action is Needed to Combat Hatred

Honest Conversations: Why Action is Needed to Combat Hatred

By M.C.S., a local community member

In 2006, Harvard University researcher Elizabeth Spelke sought to answer the question of how our most basic instincts come to fruition, and if they have an effect on us as we grow old. During this study, she studied how babies responded to people who didn’t look like them; how babies responded to people who didn’t speak the same language as them, even if they couldn’t speak themselves; and she concluded that babies have an innate sense of prejudice, even before they can begin to walk.

Yet, as she’s devoted her life’s work to discovering these innate abilities, she’s also convinced of the philosophy of the beauty of human nature. She says, “human will is ultimately more powerful than nature because humans are capable of rejecting certain aspects of their evolutionary inheritance–recognizing them as wrong…”. We are unique in our ability among nature in that we are able to learn and progress in our knowledge and in our instinct.

This is why education is the biggest key to unlocking our doors that hinder progress as a society in favor of exclusion and indifference.

Education is a powerful tool that can be used to combat the spread of hatred and nip ignorance in the bud. In fact, that is the point of education. Education isn’t just about the area under the curve or the average GPA but also about making a human being whole in mind, body, and heart. It’s hard to teach empathy, but it’s also something that is learned every breathing moment of our lives. Every single moment that a student spends in a classroom is an opportunity, one in which educators can challenge hateful beliefs, and students can emerge more empathetic and confident in their own identity. North Allegheny builds leaders, but we need everyone in our schools to feel like they have the power to influence their own society. 

Crawling up steps to demand their rights | ShareAmerica
8-year-old Jennifer Keelan leads physically disabled protesters on the March 12, 1990, “Capitol Crawl.” (© AP Images)

Never have I ever seen the picture of disabled folks forcing themselves up the stairs of the US capitol in their fight for rights in a school; never have I seen a poster of the Stonewall Inn in a teacher’s classroom–there are students who need to hear these stories. Who need to see that, in the living flesh, they can soar to heights they cannot imagine, no matter what society may constrain them to–especially when some of their rights may be under assault. As people who love this country, it’s our responsibility to show them that they are just as loved as anyone else is.

In addition to representation, it is important to consistently challenge what we learn. It is important to have honest conversations about prejudices that have permeated through our country’s history. 

It is important to be educated. It is okay to be educated. It is patriotic to be educated. 

By reading literature expounding a plethora of different viewpoints, by discussing and challenging our most deeply held beliefs and those of others, students grow into a generation of leaders that champion kindness above hatred, inclusion above discrimination, curiosity above ignorance. We need to be straight with our kids and tell them that our country has flaws, just like we do, and that what makes living in America so great is the fact that we have the rights and powers to move past our flaws.

And along these lines, it is important to remember that due to the culture we currently find ourselves in, it is more important than ever to live up to the words of #BeTheKindKid through active enforcement, and make sure that no one is indifferent to ignorance, prejudice, and hate.

Looking back at the Charlottesville protests of 2017 which deeply and negatively impacted me: think about all of those white supremacists–with those flaming tiki torches. If one more semester, even one more class period had been used differently, would these individuals have emerged with less hate in their hearts? If a teenager who goes on to join a white supremacist group had been allowed to have an honest conversation with a black student in high school, would they have taken the same path? What if they had been honestly taught about the horrors of slavery and the pervasiveness of its legacy–would they have gone on to hold that same anger in their soul?

Hate fuels fear. Fear fuels indifference. Indifference enables hate. Strong leaders are needed at every level of our community in order to combat fear and indifference; no one is left out of this. #IAmForChange because this cycle must be destroyed. North Allegheny teems with leaders, and so this standard must be exceptionally high. Breaking the cycle of indifference, fear, and hate, through education allows society to harness the power of truth and compassion towards progress.

You all have the moment to choose action over indifference. I am on the side of action; NA For Change is on the side of action; what side will you choose?

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