Bankole: Stop post-election prejudice

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

The presidential election madness should be over. Donald J. Trump won with 47.5 percent of the popular vote, but people should not exploit his campaign slogans for further division and alienation. His election is not a license for prejudice at a time when the nation is on edge after a bruising campaign. And schools, in particular, should not be a sanctuary for hate or recrimination. There is no reason minority students should be targeted for their origins and dispositions.

That is why the actions last week of some students at Royal Oak Middle School chanting “build the wall,” during lunch time, referencing one of Trump’s key campaign slogan is unacceptable. A video of the incident went viral with nearly a million views and should be seen as nothing but a callous way to humiliate and traumatize Latino students.

This nation’s diversity should be embraced, not mocked. And the diversity of students should be celebrated in schools, not frowned upon. Schools should not be a theater of bullying and full-blown exercises of prejudice.

Make no mistake. Prejudice is taught and feeling negatively about a person of a different race or social status is mostly a learned behavior. If students in a middle school are chanting “build the wall,” what will they be shouting when they are in college?

That should give everyone serious cause for concern, especially because we all believe that our children are our future.

Let’s also remember that the “build the wall” phrase with its explosive political undertones has left many immigrant families fearful, vulnerable and despondent in the wake of Tuesday’s election. Children of these families should not have to feel fearful or hesitant to go to school.

Royal Oak Middle School officials have an opportunity to teach and model tolerance and inclusivity and not to toss the perpetrators of this incident out with the bath water of prejudice.

Nelson Mandela, the former South African leader and challenger of his nation’s apartheid policies, reminded us that “no one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Shawn Lewis-Lakin, the superintendent of Royal Oak Middle School, said in a statement the school is working to address the issue.

“Because of the strong emotions and intensity of rhetoric that the posting of this incident to social media has elicited, we have had families express concern regarding student safety. Know that we work with our partners in law enforcement on responding to any and all threats that have been or will be made involving our or schools,” Lewis-Lakin said.

It appears what happened in Royal Oak is becoming a trend here and across the country. John Deiter, superintendent of DeWitt Junior High School, said another racial incident happened there Wednesday when some students locked arms in a school hallway in a symbolic gesture blocking targeted minority students.

Maple Grove High School in Minnesota had a similar experience the day after the election with a racist graffiti stating “Trump train,” “whites only” on a locker room door using the “F” and “N” words and calling black students monkeys and urging them to return to Africa because “Now the white people are going to take over.”

Should these acts of intolerance leave us with the conclusion that the future is doomed for our children? I refuse to accept that. The future would be bright for the kids of this nation — be they white, black, Latino, Arab, Jewish, Asian or any other nationality or color — if we resiliently drum it into this nation’s consciousness that diversity is what has made America great.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.

Twitter: @bankieT