“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion”
This is a tweet sent by ex President of the United States, Barack Obama, in response to the racially fuelled violence in the USA in which he quoted words first penned by the late Nelson Mandela. And this is the subject of my final address to the Form V class of 2017 as I stand here before you, with your fellow matrics from Girls High, at the last Friday assembly I will have with you. You have attended well over a hundred of these assemblies and at each one I have tried to share something with you that I believe is important and that can help you become a better version of yourself. This is my last Friday assembly message and it may be the most important.
You are leaving us now and you leave behind your influence – the impact you have had on others through the various connections you have made. You start on the journey to responsible adulthood and, in some cases in the years to come, parenthood as you bring new people into our world. You will want to do what is the very best for them always – you will want to teach them what is good and right. Do not let your issues become theirs. Don’t force your personal hangups upon them and don’t let any bigotry or bias become theirs because they will learn from you.
Racism and bias is a learned behaviour – of that I am convinced. I see children play together and it is years before they even describe each other in terms of the colour of their skin. They learn that they like some kids and don’t like others. They learn that they have fun with some and not with others. But they associate these things with the person, not with the colour of their skin.
People who say that children as they grow don’t see race are wrong – we do see race and we do see different skin colour. So what? What is learned though is the bigotry, stereotype and assumptions of superiority and inferiority associated by an adult world with that skin colour. An adult world that should know better. An adult world that should, instead of teaching stereotype, bias and hatred, be teaching understanding, acceptance and togetherness.
To perpetuate the divisions of the past by teaching our children words, beliefs and feelings that are hurtful is to destroy any hope we have for our future. And these lessons are learned on all sides of the political spectrum from far right to far left. Or from “facist” to the new word I learned this week “anti-facist”. As an aside, one of the political commentators spoke about this new word “anti-facist” and said that a better word would be “human”.
And so my final brief message to you to is one of legacy – both now and in the years to come. You will leave a bit of yourself behind when you leave us soon and we will remember you for that. Let us remember you with sadness at your leaving and with joy for what you meant to us. And then you will start creating your own legacy for your adult world. Think on what I have shared today and be the generation that refuses to follow mine, that refuses to associate quality of character with things like colour of skin, sexual orientation, religious belief, economic worth, age, gender and all other things that our adult world uses to judge others. Be different. Be human.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt
Deuteronomy 10 verse 18- 19
“Prejudice is learned. What will you teach others through your actions and words?”
“And among His wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors. For in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of innate knowledge!”