Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Needs Help Addressing Civil Unrest

DEAR HARRIETTE: When I was growing up, my parents were involved in marches and other forms of activism on behalf of the civil rights movement. I remember people constantly being in our home, sharing stories of what was going on in the world and what we had to do about it.

I have not been as vocal with my children about what’s been going on in our world, but now things are getting out of hand. Rather than being folklore, the KKK is back. With the recent unrest and death in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the hands of white supremacists, I have no choice but to talk to my children about everything. We live in the suburbs, and they go to school with many white children.

How do I help my children understand that their friends are different from the people who are espousing hate? And what do I tell them if one of their friends calls them the N-word, because it has already happened? -- Stopped in Time, Arlington, Virginia

DEAR STOPPED IN TIME: I assume that you are seeing now that there remains a need for this generation’s version of a civil rights movement. Over the past few months, there has been a groundswell of hatred brewing, and it seems to be targeted at anyone who is OTHER. Some people have become emboldened to believe that they can say and do anything they want, including being blatantly disrespectful to their peers. That would explain the friends who are demeaning your children. You must tell them that it is not OK for their “friends” to speak to them in that way. Indeed, such behavior should lead to an analysis of whether those people really are friends. Some teens bat epithets back and forth. If your children are participating, encourage them to stop.

As far as the rise of white supremacist activity, you should be worried, and you should take action -- which you should share with your children. Learn more about how you can have a voice, including writing to your members of Congress and to the president. Get involved so that you ensure that this behavior is not condoned in any way. The scab has been pulled off the wound. It is past time for real healing to occur.

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