Perhaps I’ve mentioned before that one of the inhabitants of my house is 2, going on 3, and cute as a button.
His skin is couple of shades darker than mine and the rest of us who live here. He’s never asked us why we’re so pale. In fact, I doubt he’s ever noticed.
That’s the thing about kids. They don’t notice stuff like that. And they shouldn’t.
When he goes to a playground, he’ll make fast friends with any kid who is there, boy, girl, black, white, Asian, Spanish.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all were so accepting?
But we aren’t.
And you know what? We never have been.
Nasty words and name-calling are as old as history. What’s changed is the electronic gadgetry that sends those words swirling through cyberspace.
I live in the Central Dauphin School District. The other morning, as the guardian of a student in that district, I opened my email to read about an incident involving some high school students and an offensive post on social media.
It didn’t surprise me. We’ve come a long way only to find ourselves still living among people who hate and people who judge. We live among people who would snatch the innocence from all the sweet little children who play so nicely together on the playground.
Somewhere along the line, our children see and hear things that make them believe it’s all right to call people names because they don’t look like us. This happens on all sides of the fence.
I know it’s easy to blame the parents, but it isn’t always their fault. I’ve heard things said in my home over the years that certainly didn’t originate here. All a parent can do then is correct, ban such words and hope the message overrides what they hear in the streets.
The other part of the equation is immaturity. We give kids today access to all sorts of gadgets that send their words bouncing from place to place.
Once upon a time if a kid called another kid a name on the playground, it stayed there. Now it riles up a neighborhood, a school district, a community. Everything gets blown out of proportion.
My mother would have washed my mouth out with Ivory soap had I uttered an offensive word. That and a lecture would have been the end of it.
Now an offensive word takes on a life of its own. It’s no longer a word: It’s a threat; it’s cause for panic; it’s time to call in the cops.
I detest the word used in the social media post, and I hate that the word offends neighbors and friends.
But I almost feel sorry for the dumb girls who appeared in the photo with that word. I want to believe they were just too young and too naïve to comprehend the firestorm that would erupt from their word.
Let’s hope they have learned a lesson, and let’s hope the community has learned to take a deep breath before panicking.
Then, like our 2-year-old on the playground, let’s all just play together nicely.
NANCY ESHELMAN: firstname.lastname@example.org