Sat, May

As Teachers, We Own James Alex Fields Jr.


WE OWN THIS MAN-Friends, citizens, educators: we own this man. He is our failure. The politicians who ran on American (read: white) exceptionalism and the people who voted for them ― and his kindergarten teacher, his granny and Mr. Rogers ― all told him he was special. And then failed to tell him he was no more special than the kids on either side of him. 


Scarier still, we’re making new ones just like him every day. We need to stop saying that this cult of racism is in its final death throes. At 20 years old, this traitorous murderer represents an up-and-coming generation of dangerous minds with superiority complexes. From their G.I. Joe lunch boxes to their light sabers, we encouraged and then chuckled at their acceptance of violence as a way to solve problems. We took them to movies with titles like “Avengers” and “Rambo” ― in which the hero is a homicidal white male. And now we are surprised when he aspired to that ideal and transformed himself into a killer? 

Teachers, this is a call to action. What if we (gasp!) stop spending an entire year of social studies schooling on ancient worlds and use a little of that time to teach current events and have students research the historical social structures that led us to where we are today? Myth busters need to bust out of science class and start shaking up history class. 

Current curricula rely too heavily on literature classes to teach “diversity.” I’ve got another word for “diversity” ― it’s called reality. Using words like diversity and (worse) “tolerance” implies that racial and social homogeny was the norm and it’s changing. Homogeny was never the norm. 

We need to teach about the dangers of worshiping the lifestyles of the rich and famous when many of those people are greedy psychopaths (or the offspring of greedy psychopaths), the entire Trump family being prime examples. We need to stop accepting plastic surgery as an ideal, in humans or in history. 

We need to stop participating in aggressive conformity through shaming those who are genuinely trying to build bridges between races, genders, religions, etc. We need to stop sucking in our breath in the face of racist remarks because we are afraid of rocking the boat and instead ROCK THE BOAT without equivocating or worrying that we are mixing our metaphors. 

This man is a hero to some. Due to the rule of law, his fate is sealed. We need to confront “the some” on every level.

We need to project the face of this man nationwide on terrestrial and internet billboards. James Alex Fields Jr., 20 years old ― loser. A failed human being. 

Because we need to recognize he is our failure.


(Sara Holbrook is an author, poet and educator who is a contributor to the Huffington Post where this piece was first posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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