|Teach Our Children Well
Our hearts break for the Buffalo families who are burdened with unspeakable grief. The sickening sadness of witnessing a teenager driven to a murderous rage by racism adds another level of grief altogether. “I need a village to help me raise and be here for my son because he has no father,” said Tirzah Patterson, whose husband was killed in last week’s racist attack. Her call to action tells us all that we have so much more to do to care for our children.
Right now, we need a village to help us raise all the children with tools we know will prevent further bloodshed. It’s too simplistic to think of these murders as simply a result of mental illness. The same goes for labeling this a crime solely caused by racism because this was a toxic mix. When it comes to racism and mental illness, we’re failing our kids.
Since the pandemic, more teens are dying by suicide or are attempting to end their own lives. New research suggests that 60% to 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health disorder compared to 20% of the general adolescent population. Even before the pandemic, families reported major obstacles to getting mental health services for their children.
Now schools have fewer resources to help kids feeling hurt, angry, or isolated. Thanks to misguided budget priorities at the federal and state levels, the counselors and nurses who are the front-line workers needed to help interrupt these crises are in short supply.
To build a sense of community, our kids need more exposure to diversity, not less. Instead of helping them bond, school boards are banning books and censoring conversations about race and gender which divide our young people and pave the way for disturbing actions. The Buffalo massacre makes the suburban Philadelphia Pennridge School District’s plan to shelve its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee before it even got started so especially tragic.
As Jonathan Zimmerman noted in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “It’s a scary prospect, to let our kids come to their own conclusions. But here’s an even scarier one: denying them the opportunity to do so. They’ll grow into the angry adults that you see at school board meetings around the nation, hurling hate and invective at each other.“
These days it’s going to be very hard to agree on race, culture, and politics. But when senseless violence occurs, we should be united to do much more to teach our children to be well and do good.