In addition to working for equity and inclusion, perhaps all of us also ought to remind our kids daily, "Don't be a moron. Don't be racist. Don't think there is ever anything funny about being racist or using racial slurs. "
Photo: AJC File
Photo: AJC File

Remind our kids every morning: Brush your teeth and don’t do racist stuff

I woke up to two videos this morning from readers. 

One was a four-second video in which a young Decatur teen holds what appears to be a toy gun and says he uses it to kill African-Americans, uttering a racial slur and then imitating three gunshots.

That video led to the strong statement -- see below -- from the Decatur superintendent as the teen is a Decatur High School student. 

I understand Decatur Superintendent David Dude's frustration.

Teens do stupid things; they are hardwired to take risks and make mistakes. The question we have to ask: Why do they do so many stupid things that are also racist?

In addition to working for equity and inclusion, perhaps all of us also ought to remind our kids daily, "Don't be a moron. Don't be racist. Don't think there is EVER anything funny about being racist or using racial slurs. " 

Many parents believe their good example is enough. Or that they have talked to their children about racism and white privilege a lot over the years and feel secure their children understand and would never use a racial slur, least of all on a viral video. 

But it may be something we have to talk to our kids about every day because we don't know the cultural waters that our kids swim in without us -- both in the online world and with their peers.

White parents can look at a video of a white teen brandishing a toy gun and threatening to kill African-Americans and assume, “Dumb kid doing a very dumb thing.”  

Black Americans do not have that privilege. Both history and news events this week have illustrated that. 

The second video I received from a reader this morning showed a sweet but worried African-American 2-year-old in the doorway of his home at dark calling to his father as the man goes out to bring in the trash cans. 

The little guy yells after his father,  "Daddy, are you going to get shot?" 

Here is what Decatur Superintendent Dude posted in response to this new video, which follows several other racist incidents involving his students: 

I am at a loss for words, so I am going to share my unvarnished thoughts tonight. I am angry, disgusted, heartbroken, and so many other things. Again tonight many of us have now seen yet another racist display by a Decatur High School student. As if the racist language is not enough, this time it’s accompanied by a display of a weapon and a statement about killing people of color. What is the excuse going to be this time? He didn’t know he was being filmed? He didn’t know someone was going to post it? He was drunk? High? It happened a long time ago? The gun wasn’t real? I’m tired of excuses and I know so many in our community are as well. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!!

For a Decatur High student to think it’s okay to make a statement like that, regardless of context, is completely unacceptable. For it to happen the day after George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis police, the week after the DeKalb County NAACP installed a marker outside our courthouse memorializing African American lynching victims, the month that cell phone video was leaked exposing us to the realization that Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down in a modern day lynching . . . this is unfathomable to me. 

Our students need to know the history of this vile, hateful language. They need to recognize the biases they have been exposed to throughout their lives. They need to know why so many of us become upset when we remember people like Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many others. This pandemic may have caused a delay in some of our equity work but I look forward to getting right back on track come fall so we can accelerate this critical work.

To our students of color and their families, please accept my deepest apologies that you have once again been subjected to this. Please know that I will do everything in my power to address this.

To all of our students and their families, if you are not talking about these things, you need to be. Parents, please let your children know that racism will not be tolerated in your home, just like it won’t be tolerated in our schools. It will take our entire community, inside and outside the schools, to address the racism throughout our community. These racist beliefs and language may not have started in our schools, but they can certainly stop there.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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