DEAR ABBY: I worked for civil rights in the '60s. My 10-year-old daughter grew up in a racially mixed church, a racially mixed neighborhood and a racially mixed school. She has studied the history of slavery, Hitler, and other examples of what bigotry can do to a society, a country and the world. I have taught her from a very young age that bigotry is wrong, period. At the tender age of 10, she has already lost friends because she will not tolerate racist remarks. I have patiently tried to explain why racism was tolerated in the past in various societies.
A few days ago my daughter asked me a question I could not answer. "Mom, why is it OK to be a racist if you're black?" She went on to cite examples of racist remarks at her school, in the media, by politicians and on TV.
As I thought about it, she is correct. Today's America does tolerate, and in a few cases, even encourages blacks to be racist against whites. We wonder why there is violence in our schools. We despair over the white supremacist movement. We call for closer family support and guidance. Why do we not cry out against racism wherever it may be found? How can we move forward as a country, as a world, if we have not learned by our mistakes?
Please, Abby, help me out here! What can I tell her? -- MY KID'S MOM
DEAR MOM: Let's not point the finger only at black Americans. Bigotry is alive and well in EVERY community because it seems that some people have a need to feel "superior."
Explain to your daughter that racism cannot be wiped out by decree. Its demise must come from the realization that we have more things in common than we do superficial differences such as skin color or a foreign-sounding accent.
DEAR ABBY: "Glad I Tried, Joliet, Ill." wondered if her dying mother heard her say "I love you" during the last stages of life.
Abby, she should be consoled by something all hospice volunteers learn during their excellent and professional training: Hearing is the last sense to fade. It is very likely that her mother heard her last message although her mother was unable to acknowledge it. -- JOHN R. BUTLER, ROGERS, ARK.
DEAR JOHN: Thank you for your comforting words to "Glad I Tried." Within the last year or so, I read an account of a woman who was in a coma for many years. She testified that although she could not communicate, she heard everything that was said to her during those years.
I believe that a number of studies have revealed that patients hear far more in an unconscious state than most of us ever suspected they could. That's why physicians encourage the families of trauma patients to read to them, play music for them and, above all, to talk to them.
CONFIDENTIAL TO "CAN'T FORGIVE HER IN IDAHO": Perhaps these words will help you begin to rebuild your friendship. "He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven." -- Thomas Fuller.
Give it a try -- you'll be glad you did.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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