Op-EdOpinion

WILLIAMS: America Has Come to This

Recently we learned of boys in Wisconsin throwing Nazi salutes and flashing “White power” signs. This is disturbing. Who taught them to do this? Did they learn it at home or school? Did they pick it up from the chaos in our nation? I wonder if students even know what the salute means.

I wonder how their parents and teachers reacted. Obviously, the salute was planned. It defies imagination to believe so many boys just happened to throw the salute at the same time. Apparently, what they did was OK with the photographer, school administration (until recently) and the parents from whom I’ve heard no public comment.

The school district issued the following statement following a public outcry, but surely they had seen the photograph previously.

“The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. We are investigating and will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.”

I wouldn’t call that statement sufficient to address such a serious case, so I’m left to believe America really has come to this. As much as many of us tried to believe America is better than this, we’ve been greatly disappointed to learn that all of our efforts, things really aren’t getting better. It’s like what my ancestors often said: “We take a step forward, and two steps back.”

This isn’t the only disgusting incident that’s been made public from the same school. There was an incident in 2012 where students from Baraboo found it OK to fly Confederate flags, claiming it was to honor the death of a friend! We’ve certainly seen our share of pickup trucks running around with Confederate flags and guns in the windows of trucks representing an in-your-face act of racism. This isn’t just by high school boys. These are adults to whom these boys must look for appropriate behavior.

So, whatever is wrong with these boys, they learned it from adults who never taught their children the sacrifices some of their ancestors made to perfect our union for all of its citizens. They had to fight within and outside our country to protect us and to save our nation from destruction. My ancestors, as well as the ancestors of these boys, died in various wars. Either they don’t care or they don’t know what they were doing.

I’m told as many as 20,000 people from Wisconsin died fighting Confederate powers and Confederate powers during the Civil War and World War II. Many of them are buried in Wisconsin and other places in the U.S. and the World. Instead of honoring their sacrifice, these high school students have totally disrespected them. They must be taught the history of this country and who did what to allow them to live as they live today. Adults are responsible for teaching these boys what these hateful symbols mean. They run counter to what so many gave to keep us safe and be fair to all citizens.

Our hopes were so high when we witnessed the young people’s “March for Our Lives,” and their show of respect for all without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national origin or gender. These boys in Wisconsin, the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, sending bombs to leaders, bombing the synagogue in Pittsburgh, recent shootings in a California Bar, shooting of the Black man and woman in Kentucky, hate filled tweets and language of #45 — all of these minimize our progress in America. It’s time for us to realize that America is in danger of having to admit that we’re not who our country’s documents say we are.

Williams is national president of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.

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