Recently Warwick High School, my alma mater had a lock down as a result of a non-violent racial incident. The news of this rocked my hometown of Lititz because they believed they didn't have a problem. As someone who has experienced moments of bigotry based on my sex and religion, I am not all that surprised. When I graduated high school, we had few if any people of color in our class, so my first experience with the color dynamic was in college. And guess what? When I was a freshman in college, the newly appointed president of the college resigned due to pressure about a badly phrased remark he made about racial disharmony on campus.
It's more comfortable to pretend this kind of hatred doesn't exist. Maybe it is about time to give our young people an education in tolerance. They need to know the faces of prejudice to recognize it when it shows its ugly face, and they need steps to take when it does. Over the past few years, the schools have tried to push an anti-bullying agenda. I applaud them for it. It is time to take another step forward. Kids need to feel safe in school no matter their race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. I applaud the programs in our area: Race against Racism, Crossroads (a forum for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, youth), the work of the YWCA--among others.
My high school held a town meeting. I am happy to see how seriously they are taking this incident. Superintendent, Dr. George, said in his address that if one child is having a problem with racism, we have a problem with racism.
I can only take a stand where I am. Tonight I am going to have a frank discussion with my kids. I don't relish the idea of having this talk, but I think it is a place to start. And, like many creative practitioners, I try to work through issues using my various art practies. Art as therapy. In this vein, I started a landscape painting of the Lititz Springs Park (very closely situated to my old high school) yesterday. As I was painting it, I tried to keep thoughts of peace and tolerance. I wanted this vibe to be part of the painting. I wish I could say I was happy with the resultant piece of art that I started. It is too early to say, but I am having difficulties with it. The work is raw. I am experimenting with a new color palette, and I am not sure it is working. Color is a tricky thing and, in the end, I hope we all make it work.