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We need to talk about race

Native Son is an example of an African-American novel that discusses the issues of race.

It's so important now more than ever, that we teach about real-life issues in school. With the horrific death of George Floyd, we need to bridge the gap between black and white views of the world to avoid instances like the killing of Floyd and the violent protesting that ensued afterward.

It is not enough to simply read Toni Morrison's Beloved, but it is of the utmost importance to have thoughtful and meaningful discussions about race as it pertained to the book, but also as it pertains to society today. The same goes for reading Native Son, A Raisin in the Sun, The Bluest Eye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, or any other African-American lit text. If your curriculum does not include African-American lit, it should.

We can no longer be scared to engage in discussions of race because they make us feel uncomfortable. This not only goes for race, but for other heavy topics as well - suicide, abortion, depression, teen pregnancy, sex, etc. Not talking about such problems only leads to issues that further divide us as a society.

It has been 150 years since the Civil War ended. It has been 145 years since the fifteenth Amendment went into effect, giving blacks the right to vote. It has been 66 years since Brown v. Board of Education, desegregating the public school system. It has been 52 years since the second Civil Rights Act was passed in 1968. It has been the same number of years since MLK Jr. was shot. It has been 12 years since Obama was first elected president. And yet, we still have racism in this country.

Will it ever go away? Probably not entirely. We don't live in a Utopia. People are sinful by nature. Instead of looking to one another and embracing differences, too often we look to one another and just see our differences.

Until I started working at Crete-Monee High School, I had very little contact with black people. It was the same thing for when I started working at Elim Christian Services. Only up until then, I had very little contact for with those with special needs. I lived in a bubble largely with those from my own race, of people who looked like me and thought like me. Both experiences changed my life for the better.

I am a more well-rounded individual today. I understand the world and other people more. I feel that I have become much more empathetic. It is important that we look outside of ourselves and try to think about what we all are going through. We need to have honest, open-hearted discussions about race without pointing the finger or becoming overly defensive. Emotions can flare high in these types of talks, which is the reason no one likes to engage in them. But we need to talk about these things logically and with open arms. Why do we think the way we do? Why do we act the way that we act? Where does it come from? Black and white people alike need to ask these questions and challenge each other. It is the only way that we may bridge the gap.

Some may read this and not agree with me. And that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. But I've found that when I have had serious open-hearted discussions about race pertaining to the literature we've read in class, students begin to warm up to those talks and have felt relieved that they had an outlet to voice their concerns. They come to class the next day asking if we could continue the conversation. And that's just what we need - a conversation. Because a conversation doesn't hurt anyone. It doesn't kill anyone. It doesn't steal from anyone. It helps and heals and forges relationships. But we have to want to do it. John Lennon once said, "War is over. If you want it." Do you want it?

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