Don’t Lose the Lesson

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We need to be reminded of the children’s poem “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me.” After listening to the articulate and heartfelt comments by the Rutger’s team of talented, educated young women and their coach we know that it is not true; words can harm you.

Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar. – Edward R. Murrow

These ‘wrongs’ are protected by our rights. This country is still the greatest experiment in the world and does allow freedom of speech. We are divided various issues that largely center on the words we use and who can use them. This is a slippery slope. Who will make decisions on freedom of speech?

Don’t lose all the lessons that we’ve learned from this news du jour experience. Discuss what happened with your children and most importantly how they should treat people. Why was this offensive comment highlighted when Don Imus and others have a history of making offensive comments? There were a number of reasons:

The comments made by Don Imus were targeted to a specific group. Much like tossing a pebble in small pond, the ripple effect of those comments was hurtful to real people. While other comments are equally offensive or worse, they impact such a broad audience that people don’t feel the comments are directed to them and tend to be ignored, similar to tossing a pebble in an ocean. It would require a large group to mobilize and challenge those comments and hold the offender accountable.

We are in a world of 24-hour news, YouTube and convergence of technology so you will see those comments hundreds if not thousands of times. Important for young people to remember that pictures and video captured and posted on the Internet is there forever, so don’t be foolish about what you do and say.

Address the root cause of the situation and explain to your children why stereotypes are unfair and wrong, and encourage them when disagreeing with someone how to deal with that. Name calling is clearly not a solution.

Explain that when children feel something is wrong, they have a choice and can call a sponsor to say that content is offensive. If they feel very strongly about it, they can let the sponsor know that if the sponsor continues to support a particular show, as a consumer, you will no longer be a customer.

Finally, let’s celebrate and discuss the news we should – the accomplishment of these young women to reach the NCAA finals. They earned and deserved that moment.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol US artist (1928 – 1987)

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