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What's becoming of this world?

October 24, 2008 - Steve Murch
Today’s sign that the world is going to hell in a hand basket comes from Chesterfield, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.

The Associated Press reported that five MIDDLE SCHOOL students have been suspended from school for taking part in “Hit a Jew Day.” Apparently some sixth-grade students decided to use the day hit some of their Jewish classmates.

The AP story says that students at the school, Parkway West Middle School, began an unofficial spirit week. It started with Hug a Friend Day, but then turned to Hit a Tall Person Day and then Hit a Jew Day. The school has about 35 Jewish students, but “fewer than 10” were hit — one was slapped.

It’s likely the kids didn’t know any better, but where would they have learned to target Jews? You don’t grow up with a dislike for a race or religion, that’s learned. Some probably just went along with their friends, but someone learned that there is something different about Jews.

Hatred is a learned behavior. Most, if not all, psychologists will tell you that. Where would kids learn to hate someone because of the race or religion except from adults.

With the presidential election just days away, I’ve heard racially insensitive remarks made by people about Barack Obama. Staffers have come back to the paper and said they’ve had comments made to them about Obama that suggest racism, or at the least an uncomfortable feeling about his race. Perhaps some of that can stem from being in predominantly white Northeast Michigan.

I had a woman stop in the office last week who is struggling with what she believes is racism around town because she is Asian. As we talked, and the conversation lasted about 10 minutes, she became more and more emotional. Toward the end of the conversation I could tell she was fighting to hold in her emotions.

Prejudices can run deeper when you never have to confront questions about your attitudes. Here in Alpena, it’s one thing few people have had to do.

Thankfully, the school is doing something to turn the tables. It already had a “Honoring All Voices” program schedule to focus on combatting discrimination. Now it is moving up the program.

Too bad it had to do so because of an event in its own school.


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