It’s been a couple months since the devastation set in after the protests and that deadly attack in Charlottesville. It’s been more than two years since finding hope again after the Charleston church shooting. And now, it seems people with values steeped in hate and racism are becoming more emboldened. More and more, their thoughts creep into our communities and on social media feeds.
I recently read about how—back in early fall—a Black nanny became the target of a racially charged letter. DNAInfo reported the note–from an unknown neighbor–called for Heather DeJonker to fire her African-American nanny and mentioned that they “do not need an infestation” in their community. DeJonker, found that letter in an unstamped letter in her family’s mailbox.
I still can’t believe people are quietly slipping notes into people’s mailboxes, inboxes, and comment boxes to spread such hatred. However, I don’t know if or how we can stop it.
Standing Up To Hate
DeJonker and Maria Ippolito, who both employ Ferrai Pickett, said they took the letter to police, contacted a city official, and installed security cameras, but felt they needed to do more. So they organized a “Stand Up To Hate” play date.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, about 200 people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds gathered at a local playground for the play date. It took place on October 26, nearly two weeks after DeJonker found that letter.
A Teachable Moment
DeJonker, Ippolito and Pickett also wrote an open letter to the sender. In it, they wrote: “We decided to use this letter as a ‘teachable’ moment for our sweet children who represent the future of our fractured country. We believe in this future which is why we won’t sit quietly and let hate win.”
As a show of solidarity, the three women wore matching t-shirts to the play date with the message, “kindness is always cool”.
These women responded to a situation rife with hate by standing together and showing love and kindness, and their children saw that. With every game they played with children who looked nothing like them, they learned to see beyond each other’s differences. With each construction paper ring linked together in love, they learned not to fight hate with hate. And those are great lessons.
Leading By Example
Kindness is something I always try to teach my daughter, but each day I learn the best way to teach her things like this is to lead by example. She needs to see me treating others with kindness. It’s like this quote from Brené Brown: “First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see.”
We have a crucial role in the lives of the children around us. Studies show that in order for a young child to become prejudiced, someone has to teach them. And the older they get, they rely more on their own experiences. It’s in our power to help shape the experiences—through what we say, what we do, and how we respond to situations. We can be kind when others are rude. We can be thoughtful when others are reckless. And we can show love where others show hate. Let’s not squander that chance.