Letter: Schools should teach hateful speech is wrong

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Like almost 6 million other people, I recently watched the VICE special episode “Charlottesville: Race and Terror.” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend taking the 22 minutes to watch it.

I was horrified by what happened in Virginia this August, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. The group that came together was mostly young, white men dressed in khakis and polo shirts. Frankly, they look and dress like me and my friends at Yarmouth High School. What’s worse, while the extreme language these alt-right groups use can’t be heard in the lunchroom at my school, small ounces of racist sentiment often can. Racism exists in high school.

This probably won’t come as a shock to many people, but it disturbs me that this prejudice seems to be regarded as inevitable. We need to do a far better job teaching young kids in Maine (and the nation) that racism isn’t just taboo, it’s vitriolic. The way forward is certainly through marching and organizing, but it’s also through the classroom. Having these difficult discussions and fostering an environment for equality at a young age can help kids learn that it’s not OK to regard another race as inferior. Schools shouldn’t just have the duty to teach students facts and information, but also to help them define right from wrong and learn to treat others with respect. I don’t want my generation to slip back into the animosity of the past, and the language we use has a lot to do with that.

Sammy Potter