Racism isn’t debatable; it’s wrong

I generally try to avoid politics in my blog. When it comes to education issues, I do not fully agree with either the Democrats or Republicans (or the Libertarians, Socialists or any other party).

To say that unions are good or bad or that Common Core is good or bad or that charter schools are good or bad oversimplifies complex issues and blocks real progress.

Most people on both sides of education policy debates want us to do a better job preparing our children for school, work and civic life, and none of us has figured out how. So we are stuck debating, trying to craft the right incentives, trying to figure out how to teach all kids the right stuff.

One issue is not open for debate, though, and that is the need to make sure all of our children feel safe and welcome in our public schools. So the aftermath of last week’s election obligates me to post something political.

Racist messages at schools like Maple Grove Senior High — where racist graffiti tying President-elect Trump’s name with #whiteamerica (and worse) appeared in bathroom stalls — and DeWitt Junior High in Michigan — where white students formed a wall to block minority students Wednesday morning — are unacceptable. And those are just the beginning. Black students at UPenn were added to a racist out-of-state group chat. Racist slurs were written on the sidewalk at the University of St. Thomas.

Donald Trump’s campaign messages about building a wall with Mexico, deporting illegal immigrants and banning immigration by Muslims have clearly empowered some young people to brazenly express racism toward their peers.

We must act together to put a stop to it.

Those who support Trump’s ideas need to recognize that while many thoughtful adults can take a stand against immigration and still treat actual immigrants (or anyone nonwhite) with respect, teenagers and young adults (and some older adults) cannot manage this distinction. They process in black and white, and if immigration is bad, they rationalize, then immigrants are bad, and then it’s OK to hurt them.

Students today — especially middle school and high school kids — already bully each other on social media and at school over appearance, relationships, friendships at alarming rates. We cannot give them more reasons to torment each other.

Mr. Trump said on 60 Minutes last night that he does not support these racist attacks. That message needs to be reiterated by him and by leaders in every level of government until our kids understand. No matter how you feel about immigration policy, every person is a human being and deserves respect. Every student in our schools deserves to feel valued and protected, and they deserve the chance to learn.

Take responsibility and denounce racism. Then we can talk about how to move forward as one nation.