August 25, 2017
RACE IN AMERICA — Students at Arlington Community High School discussed the white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Virigina, and racism in the United States. Wlrington history teacher Delvonte Anderson (below) spearheaded the discussion.
Discussions of race, acceptance and tolerance have taken a national stage since hate led to violence in Charlottesville, Va., in early August, when a group of white nationalists and right-wing activists — carrying Tiki torches and chanting messages of white supremacy — protested through the city’s streets.
Some of those discussions have made their way into homes and business offices across the country, as well as into school classrooms.
That was the case in Delvonte Arnold’s World History class at Arlington High School on Friday, Aug. 18, which he opened to select students from all grades. Arnold, a first-year teacher, showed a video of the white supremacists who had descended upon the city of Charlottesville.
Students didn’t shy away from the discussion.
“I think it’s better to see hate than to not see hate, because if you see hate you can help hate with kindness,” said Christian E., a junior at Arlington. “But, if you don’t see it, it just broods and festers and gets worse. I think we need to see the hate, talk about it and make it better.”
Christian’s classmates nodded in agreement. The class was made up of several history classes, including freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. The leader of the discussion was Arnold. He said he initiated the discussion because no one else did.
“One of the things that shocked me is that no one asked me anything about it,” said Arnold. “We’re at a day in social media where everything is about Snapchat and kids are too busy paying attention to other things, rather than politics.”
Arnold grew up in Gary, Ind., where he said he never talked to or experienced a white person until he was 12.
“One of the key reasons I decided to come to this school is because it has a high population of African-Americans and discussions like this are absolutely necessary growing up black in America,” said Arnold.
Arnold is not only challenging his students to speak up, but also carefully analyze situations.
“What about those people who may be on the left or may be Democrats who believe, ‘Hey we really don’t want to talk about it. We really don’t want to discuss it because you are hateful and mean people? What about that?’” asked Arnold.
“It’s just anger against something you don’t understand and that’s childish,” Christian answered. “We have to be mature about this. We have to fix it because if we don’t fix it, it just gets worse.”
“It’s just messed up,” said Sophomore Teaun P., with exasperation.
“Personally, I support confederate monuments because the more we get rid of history, the more we’re doomed to repeat it. If we understand the motivation of both sides, we can truly come to a peaceful understanding,” Edwards added.
It was a response that brought Arnold great satisfaction — not because of what was said, but because of the understanding Edwards said it with.
”I thought (the class and discussion were) great. I saw one student who showed great critical thinking skills talking about how discourse and conversation are necessary,” said Arnold. “Even if you don’t agree with one viewpoint, you have to be able to come to the table together and say, ‘Hey, these are my beliefs, these are your beliefs, how can we come to a compromise?”’
According to Arnold, this was the first of many class discussions on current events he plans to hold this year. His goal is to push his students to think beyond their small communities to consider the big picture.