Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.
Last Sunday night, I was watching a segment on Sixty Minutes which really touched a nerve, not to mention my heart. It had to do with lynchings in the deep, and sometimes not so deep south. Lynchings that occurred post- civil war era all the way through decades of desegregation. It made my stomach turn to hear the gory details—the details of women being strung up if their husbands couldn’t be found, of children being doused in gasoline and then burned to death, of white children looking on with their parents and learning to accept that because some people look different they somehow deserved this.
It made me sick. Pure and simple. Sick. I don’t often get passionate about many things, but I feel a need to step on a soap box today. So, you’ll have to bear with me while I do this.
The man who was telling these stories is building a memorial to those many, many people who were so brutally murdered and denied justice in so many ways. He made this point, we can’t heal from our past until we learn to face it and deal with it. In other words, slavery, lynchings – seemingly matters of the past, still resonate within our nations walls today.
Who we are as a nation is seen every day in the way we treat all of our citizens, every single one. This doesn’t have to be a racism issue, but I can’t help but feel that the promise of freedom doesn’t ring true for all Americans - not all of our huddle masses who are yearning to breathe free have that promise fulfilled. And if experience has taught me anything it's this - America can never be truly great as a nation until we face the past, deal with it, learn from it and then, and only then, can we be set free from it.
Racism lives on today. It does and to say that it doesn’t is simply a lie.
So where does the healing begin? When we reach out and give a hand up to someone who doesn’t have the ability to stand up for themselves. And it starts with education. I’m a teacher and one of the reasons I educate is because I believe in the power of education. It can set hearts, minds and spirits free. Children stuck in cycles of poverty and injustice deserve the best resources a school district has to offer, but it seems to me that all too often the schools that need the best of our resources are given the leftovers. Let's work to change that. Let’s offer those children stuck in cycles of poverty and, in many cases, chaos, a hand up. Let’s give them our best to enable them to be all they were meant to be.
Finally, let’s not dwell on the past. But let’s learn from it, so that healing across our nation can truly begin.