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X is for…

April 27, 2013

X is for Xenophobia. Xenos in ancient Greek meant “stranger,” so this word literally means fear of strangers. It was extended to refer to fear of foreigners, and in its broadest definition can mean fearing anything foreign or strange. As a graduate school dropout who was once sifting through the murkiest depths of literary theory, fear of “the Other” is a dominant theme in contemporary criticism. We fear what we do not understand, and we do not understand those who are different from us. And when we fear what, and whom, we do not understand, well, we know what happens next…

It’s not easy to embrace the unknown, the different, and perhaps that is too much to expect of any normal person. But we can at least resolve not to let fear rule our judgment. 

Friday, April 26, we observed what has become an annual tradition in my school district, which includes Columbine High School. It’s called “A Day Without Hate.” There are t-shirts, posters, a rally and free concert, and an effort on by the staff of every school to promote tolerance and positive values that day. It was begun in 2007 at another high school in the district as a response to the Virginia Tech shootings and quickly spread, becoming not just an official event across our county, but now being observed at schools in 12 states, including seven colleges. 

ImageThe t-shirts are always white, and if they don’t buy a t-shirt (the proceeds go to scholarship funds and various tolerance-building activities), students are all encouraged to wear white, the color of peace, that day. For one day we try to put differences aside and simply be nice to each other: an effort that certainly should happen 365 days a year, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

I am including one more video here, and I hope you will take the time to watch. It was made not at the school where I teach but another middle school only a mile away. It’s especially powerful because one of the teachers speaking in it lost two friends and was shot six times himself as a junior at Columbine. He was in the same class at the school as another friend of mine, who “only” suffered permanent hearing loss in one ear. If you’re short on time or attention span, you can skip to 1:47:

Of course, the emotional and psychological suffering for survivors of such events cannot be fully understood by most of us. The fact that they both wanted to go into teaching (in the same district, no less) speaks volumes to me about what it truly means not only to conquer fear and hate, but to take an active stand against it. Our only hope is to begin with children…

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

― Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2013 12:17 pm

    Love is easier than hate. I don’t know why people go straight to hate. Great post Jason.

    Like

  2. April 27, 2013 1:01 pm

    I applaud your district and its staff and students for taking a proactive stand against hate. Moving on and refusing to be defeated is what true courage is about.

    Like

    • April 28, 2013 8:50 am

      It started with just a small group of students at one high school, so I think it’s a valuable lesson for all of us in education to encourage those in our classrooms. If you can’t make them believe that one person can change the world, they can at least see that a few committed individuals, working together, indeed can.

      Like

  3. April 28, 2013 9:14 am

    Great post and video. That last part is so true, no one is born hating anyone. And that’s the part that gets me the most. I can’t understand how a person (so-called parents) could TEACH their kids to hate others because they’re different. Like Becca said, love is so much easier than hate.

    Like

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