Parents try to teach their children to use their words. It’s an important life skill to be able to identify emotions -- and, as we get older, to articulate complex ideas.
Here’s a chance for parents to use our own words. Two political candidates in Missouri recently handed us a perfect opportunity.
First, there’s Jeanie Ames, a Missouri woman running for the school board in a suburban St. Louis district. Screenshots of her Twitter feed, which she has since made private, were posted on a photo-sharing site and reported by the local media. She referred to Michelle Obama as “a giant rat.” She tweeted that the Black Caucus is what is wrong with America and that Puerto Rico is “one trailer park payment away from being homeless.” She also called for a ban on Islam in America and for another “crusade.”
Decent people are horrified and disgusted by her beliefs, but we can’t afford to look away from the ugliest parts of our communities. We have to expose the ugliness for what it is, especially when it’s coming from a person running for a seat on a school board. And it’s important that we show these harsh realities to our children; they should be just as aware of who wants to control their schools as we are.
Children should know exactly what it is to call for banning an entire religion. It’s called bigotry.
Supporting a “crusade” to rid America of an entire religious group? That’s what the Nazis attempted when they murdered 6 million Jews.
In her online bio, Ames calls herself a “Confederate.” The Confederates fought to preserve slavery in the South. Ames tried to describe these views as “politically conservative.”
That’s an insult to political conservatives. These tweets are racist.
Remember, even David Duke doesn’t call himself a racist. Nowadays, white supremacists want to be called “alt-right” or “white nationalists.” Instead, we need to call these beliefs what they are.
This may lead to another discussion of why some people feel comfortable sharing hate-filled views on social media. It’s likely because they have created a supportive audience of like-minded people, and those who disagree don’t want anything to do with them. When the rest of us are silently disgusted, these views become normalized. If our children don’t hear us loudly condemning bigotry, they’ll think it’s a common way to think. If they don’t hear us calling such remarks what they are, they’ll have a distorted view of what “politically conservative” means.
But let’s not stop there. We’ve also got Courtland Sykes, a Missouri Republican running for U.S. Senate. Sykes is making national headlines for reposting his position on women’s rights, as reinforced to his fiancee: “I want to come home to a home-cooked dinner at 6 every night, one that she fixes and one that I expect one day to have daughters learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives.”
He also states his goals for his future daughters: “I don’t want them to grow up into career-obsessed banshees who forgo home life and children and the happiness of family to become nail-biting, manophobic, hell-bent feminist she-devils who shriek from the tops of a thousand tall buildings they are (sic) think they could have leaped over in a single bound -- had men not ‘suppressing them’ (sic).“
The best advice to give our daughters is: If they encounter a man with views like this, run in the opposite direction. These are outdated, misogynistic ideas of what women should or should not be. Women are just as worthy of having a career and a family as men are.
Here’s a chance to explain the power and abuse of social media. Parents should say Ames’ tweets were racist and Sykes’ post is sexist, and be able to explain why to their children.
Let’s make a social media example out of these two.
And, for those in other parts of the country sneering at the ignorant, backwards candidates we’ve got running in our state -- don’t think for a minute these people aren’t in your communities, too. The last election proved that millions of Americans are willing to overlook candidates’ comments that vilify and denigrate racial and ethnic minorities and insult women.
So talk about these social media posts with your children. Call them what they are, and ask your kids to do better than we have been.
Use your words.