The Marketplace of Ideas

America was founded upon the core belief that everyone has the right to freely make political and social statements regardless of his offense to anyone or to the masses as a whole. Over the years we have seen flag burning, KKK marches and other forms of free speech that some of us deem offensive. We, however, must submit these forms of expression to the marketplace of ideas, and allow healthy vigorous debate. Limitations have been put in place when verbal and expressive speech rise to a level of a threat to public safety or when the government has a compelling interest to prohibit it. We saw that happen in Charlottesville, although it ultimately ended in violence, injury, and death. We hear pejorative comments daily about people of other races, cultures, and ethnicities. Some of us are silent, while others speak out in protest. Regarding racism, classism, sexism, or any other “ism”, a progressive society can not grow when we use prejudicial statements to denigrate cultures and races that are not of a privileged class. It’s incumbent upon those of us who want to mature and grow to recognize the injustice in the world and seek to remedy it by first acknowledging that it exists. Dismantling this hierarchy may be nearly impossible in our lifetime, but that does not mean that we should not work to bring cultural equality to America. As both a Teacher and a Christian, I am charged with loving everyone equally. That love is shown through my daily interactions with friends, students, colleagues, and with strangers with whom I may have brief encounters.  I look to Jesus for the blueprint on how I should treat others and how I should think about them. Without his Spirit to help and guide me, I am hopeless. But all thanks to God who gives me strength.

Christians (and others) are taught to treat everyone in the same manner in which we want to be treated. God desires that we treat everyone with love and respect regardless of wealth or status. God clearly says in his word that he is not a respecter of persons, and that He treats everyone the same. In the book of Acts, Peter proclaims that  he “Sees very clearly that God shows no favoritism.  In every nation He accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all (Acts 10: 34-36).” Furthermore, the Bible says in the first chapter of the book of James,

My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

This same principle can be applied to anyone of another class, culture, or race. We are to treat others with dignity and respect regardless of social status. I have often read editorial comments in the New York Times in which readers have stated that racism does not exist anymore. Our individual prejudice may not rise to the level of either a Neo-Nazi or a racial or cultural supremacist, but we must admit the impact that prejudice has on our lives.

Additionally, as a teacher, I have an awesome responsibility to promote fairness and to teach social and moral responsibility. Teachers are to teach and treat all students equally. I teach students of color. I have no white students, and I have had only a few Asian students during more than two decades of teaching. I am well aware of the disparities in education regarding students of color. All teachers should strive to promote equality in the classroom regardless of the challenges faced in meeting that goal. View all children in the same fashion similar to that of your own. Some of us have challenges with our own children, yet we work assiduously to overcome them. Do the same with your students. Students of color are suspended more than white students, often for minor infractions. Moreover, students of color are either denied opportunities or are not presented with the same opportunities as their white counterparts. If a school is unsuitable for your children, then it’s unsuitable for others. Let’s help that school improve by eliminating the prejudicial policies and educational practices that foster disparate impact and do not further equality for all children. Let’s treat our students with the utmost respect and work to educate them without prejudice. When we show our students how to treat others respectfully regardless of status, they learn from our example.

Like Martin Luther King Jr said,  Let me be a drum major for justice and accomplish small great things so that the world will be a better place. Prejudice has no place in our world. Let’s work together to dismantle this scourge on society. We have to befriend people of other cultures and seek to know them better. Only having one friend of another race or culture is insufficient. Branch out. Let’s go to places where we are likely to meet them. Have conversations with our friends that explore these issues. Read articles and books that highlight these issues. Make an honest attempt to understand the thoughts and backgrounds of other cultures. Our world will be much richer if we see the best in everyone regardless of social, racial, or economic status.

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