By Jim Gerl, Esq.
August 18, 2017
Earlier this year we ran a post asking whether special education was in trouble? Perhaps this week it would be better to ask - Is America in trouble?
White supremacists and nazis marched on Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. They carried lit torches and screamed at and terrorized local people. They murdered one counter-protester and two state troopers also died as a result of the event. Nineteen other innocent people suffered injuries as a result of the Alt-right riot.
The new and apparently emboldened white supremacists no longer feel that it is necessary to cover their faces with hoods. The accounts are disgusting and difficult to read. Here is one; here is another. The television program Vice did a documentary on the organizers and the riot - available here.
White supremacists, nazis... really?
I thought that we as a country were past this kind of nonsense. As a country, we fought a war against nazis and white supremacists in World War II. Many of us have family members who were killed or wounded in WWII fighting white supremacists and nazis. How did we get to this point? This was terrorism by extremists. Indeed, the nation can only weep.
What we believe as a country - our core values - are summed up in the Declaration of Independence, the document written by Thomas Jefferson that justified our separating from the English empire. You know the words:
"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights - that among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That's what makes us American. The very top of the list is that we are all created equal!
There is no place for these extremists in this country. We must all loudly and clearly condemn and repudiate white supremacists and nazis. To be clear, I am not advocating that the government silence these groups; even these despicable jackasses have first amendment rights to free speech. But the rest of us also have free speech right to call out these extremists for what they are. This is truly a no-brainer.
Also this is clearly not a political issue with two sides. The one is is disgusting and Un-American. The other side is one of the things that makes this country great.
OK, so now comes the part about people with disabilities. Those who are blinded by hatred, based upon race or gender or ethnicity often also hate people with disabilities. Those who can only think in ugly stereotypes also discriminate against disabled people.
The United States Congress passed a law in 1973, now known as section 504, that prohibits discrimination, including discrimination against people with disabilities. Because discrimination against people with disabilities continued to be a big problem, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
School children with disabilities are disciplined by schools at a disproportionately higher rates. Kids with disabilities are frequently victimized by bullies because of their disabilities.
If you care about kids with disabilities, you must take a position. We must fight against this rise of hatred and intolerance; the alternative is to tolerate hatred and discrimination, including hatred and discrimination against people with disabilities. Enough already.
At this most trying time, we should all take a long look in the mirror and recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said,
"It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, 'Wait on time.'"
And finally here are some resources we hope that you might be able to use:
- If you are an educator, NPR has compiled some resources for teachers to use in the wake of Charlottesville. Education week has some additional resources for teachers concerning this topic.
- For parents and grandparents, here are Nine tips for talking to children about traumatic events.
- If your clergyperson is having a difficult time preparing a Charlottesville sermon, here are some ideas. Here are some other ideas on a similar topic.