It’s never too late to stop hating

Adam Griffiths

I grew up in Warren. I spent a year and a half in a high school that was split demographically almost exactly half white, half black. Race wasn’t something I thought about.

And then I moved to West Chester and spent my last three years of high school at Lakota East High School – a school that was only 6 percent black.

Suddenly, race was an issue. One day during the afternoon announcements, a student announced that all black students could report to the cafeteria the next morning for the first meeting of a new black awareness student group. One of the last issues of my high school magazine, The Spark, dealt with race in the cover package. We wrote stories about racial profiling, multi-racial families and relationships between students of different races.

I came to college more racially sensitive than I ever thought I would, and that surprised me. I spent most of my young life side-by-side with black friends and classmates. They were who they were. I was who I was. We worked and lived together, and that was life. It was never something I asked my parents about.

During spring break, my little brother, who is a sophomore Lakota East High School, was playing a video game online. I was sitting at the kitchen table working when I heard him using racial epithets, searching for a target in whatever combat game he was playing.

I proceeded to remove his Xbox 360, and I didn’t give it back to him until the next day. He didn’t get why. He didn’t understand the reason why he wasn’t allowed to use certain words because of his skin color.

The same day, a story ran in the Cincinnati Enquirer about increased racial tensions in the Lakota Local School District. A middle school teacher had removed two black students during an exam, citing educational handicaps as the reason. This wasn’t the first time in recent memory the NAACP became involved in Lakota handlings. Last semester, the theater department at East decided to put on Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” a racially charged drama from the 1940s. After pressure from the NAACP, the play was reworked and performed under its later title, “And Then There Were None.”

Various friends still in high school were enraged that the play was canceled – they didn’t understand why the play was offensive.

And that’s key.

I see it in our generation. We don’t understand the meaning, the connotations and denotations, of the words we use so casually. It may seem obnoxious to say, but we don’t understand the implications of the words we don’t understand. Yes, we are ignorant, but we don’t know how to rectify this ignorance. Many of us were never taught the significance of the N-word or the cultural etymology of phrases and epithets that fall out of our mouths like air. We aren’t programmed to think before we speak, so we speak freely, and when we speak, we say things that reveal the serious lack of education that persists the racial problems in our world.

After our discussion of the story in the Enquirer over dinner between my 8-year-old sister, my brother and I, my sister wanted to write a letter to the editor of her own.

I set her up at the computer and edited spelling, but nothing else.

When an 8-year-old gets it this well, it’s painful: Are we too old to change?

“Both black and white people can be offended by words, sometimes scared. A person can feel beaten up when insulted by words. Some teachers and parents are very unaware that this is going on. Very smart students sometimes, after getting insulted, lose self-confidence, going from A’s and B’s to C’s, D’s and F’s. To have better schools, try to stop this.”

It is never too late to stop hating. It is never too late to take someone’s hand and realize that we are all human.

Think before you speak.

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].