Black America has been the target of violence and mistreatment for hundreds of years, and we as a people have seen multiple movements for civil rights.
Just six months into 2020, we have experienced more than many would over a decade — from a devastating pandemic, to multiple deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police and vigilantes. We have seen peaceful protests turn violent, and shocking videos. We have seen the deaths of Black Americans, violence against police and protesters, as well as racist tirades from within our local community — all captured on camera and immortalized on the internet.
The image of a local student presenting a racist manifesto for the world to see has rocked the Poconos to its core. Parents, this is a teachable moment.
Our children have the world in the palms of their hands thanks to social media. These children have access to a multitude of social media apps and platforms, and what is posted lives forever, even if you think you’ve “deleted” the content.
A single post can cause a calamity, as we have witnessed in Monroe County over the last few days.
That student will have to live with their choice, and Stroudsburg Area School District has vowed to address what has happened appropriately.
Imagine a young child, no matter what race or background, viewing that video and hearing those words for the first time in their life. What would you say to them if they asked you what the words meant? Would you simply tell them that they were bad words? Would you laugh at the video? Would you be honest, and tell them what the words truly meant, and the history behind them?
As a child growing up in South Slope, Brooklyn in the ’90s, I got that talk from my mom and dad at a young age. My parents didn’t just explain to me that certain words or prejudices were wrong, they also explained why. But it wasn’t until I was 13, and living in Hazleton, Pa., that I heard a slur directed at me for the first time. I had to ask my father, who is Puerto Rican, what it meant. That moment changed my life forever. I was faced with my “otherness” as something negative for the first time, and also came face-to-face with my own privilege.
How much of a bubble did I live in that I had not heard this slur before? I had never thought of myself as very different from others, and that is part of my privilege as a woman who is half white, and passes for white.
Imagine growing up fearing for your life because of the color of your skin.
Imagine being the parent of a child who fears for their life because of this reason.
Imagine being the parent of a child who has spread ignorance via a video posted to social media.
I have never had to fear for my life, and I have never faced any threats of violence due to my background. That is my privilege. So many Black Americans and people of color cannot say the same.
Let me be clear: There is no place for hate in this community. We all work hard to keep the Poconos thriving, and everyone has a place at the table. No matter your race, ethnicity, gender, orientation or creed— everyone is welcome here.
We have the chance to make a real difference now, to stop the violence and to quell the flames of rage and waves of despair. It all starts with a teachable moment. Parents, teach your children, and be honest with them. No matter who you are, you can help mold a compassionate human that contributes to society and helps others. That lesson should not only involve teaching children the history of our country and the treatment of Black people, but should teach them about the great power their own influence holds. Even if their sphere of influence only impacts a few square miles.
Our children have power, and in the words of Uncle Ben Parker: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Teach them to use their powers for good.
— Ashley Catherine Fontones is the Managing Editor of the Pocono Record and a recent graduate of Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration. She lives in the Poconos with her husband-to-be, two cats and rescue pup.