Sunday, September 10, 2023

See Our Tea

I spent Labor Day weekend in one of my favorite places. Disney World. In fact, I dipped into that PTO stash, pulled the kids out of school for a couple of days, dashed up to Orlando on Wednesday evening, and checked into our hotel to make an extra long weekend out of it. We had my daughter and the grand-kids there, all of us celebrating a few September and October birthdays, including my fiftieth (hard to believe, I know). Then, the craziness started. My brother's family from Florida, my sister's family from Minneapolis, and even my aged parents from Kansas all surprised me on Friday, ambushing me in the theme park. We rolled through Epcot, twenty-three deep, a surprise birthday party/family reunion with everyone from the two-year-old talking to Crush the sea turtle to ninety-one-year-old Grandpa scooting around on his motorized chair.

And we do look a sight together, strolling through the international pavilions, from France to Mexico, with our international party. My Jewish, second-gen immigrant mother, my Jamaican and white American daughter, my African-American wife, the light-skinned mixed kids and the dark-skinned mixed grand-kids. Then my sister's family, with her half-Japanese husband and her kids, some mixed and some Zambian. Pretty much everyone biracial in some way or another.

Rides got crushed, snacks got devoured, tantrums got thrown (but only a couple, and only one was from a kid), and then it was time to go. Usually, our exit from Disney World is pretty nostalgic, saying goodbye to the big banner sign on our way out and talking about our favorite rides and best memories. This time was different, and far less nostalgic.

This time Nazis camped around the sign, shouting obscenities and waving around hate symbols.

Just a couple of days before our vacation, a racist attacked customers and workers at a Dollar Store in Jacksonville, after being turned away from an HBCU, where he could have caused so much more terror and bloodshed. Our governor held a press conference to deliver a weak statement about it, and got roundly booed for his efforts. 


He and his office have spent years attacking Black history in the school system, watering down the teaching of the history of slavery, trying to highlight its "benefits" to the enslaved. He's been a one-man army against the boogeymen of "wokeness" and "CRT," which he seems to think is the biggest threat to kids today. But, to paraphrase that famous statement from Muhammad Ali, wokeness didn't round up my ancestors in concentration camps and murder them. CRT didn't string up my wife's ancestors. Or, more recently, CRT didn't fire my wife from an accounting firm because she decided to go natural with her hairstyle soon after Obama's inauguration, coincidentally, and some perceived her new look as a "statement." No, white supremacy did that, and in his speech, the governor, after years of winking at it, couldn't even name it as such.

All I hear on the subject is the concern that teaching the truth about slavery, about the history of racism in our country, will make white kids feel bad. I'm starting to think it's not so much about preventing white kids from feeling bad, as it is about preventing kids of color, especially Black kids, from feeling good. Where is the concern for my kids, grand-kids, nieces, and nephews? How are they supposed to feel when their history is attacked, censored, and watered down so that their classmates don't have to be inconvenienced by the truth? How can they even celebrate the resilience and strength of their ancestors, which CRT opponents love to point to, if they're denied access to the knowledge of what those ancestors overcame, not just in their classrooms, but libraries and other venues as well?

Who's concerned about my eighty-seven year old mother, the daughter of a Jewish woman who fled Germany during Hitler's rise to power, having to see the very symbols of that hatred, hear the same slogans and curses, that forced her family to leave their home in the first place?

I'm hearing a lot of concern, from the governor and from others like him, about math books being too woke, or beers being trans, or kids feeling bad about learning of the atrocities of slavery and apartheid in this country, but I haven't heard him or them stating any concerns about the Nazis who have been so emboldened lately that they publicly shout their hate from overpasses, park entrances, and street corners, in dozens of instances.

This is why I'm opting out of the culture wars. The major threat to my family right now does not involve bathroom choices or SEL in science textbooks. I'm becoming numb to any politician shouting about wokeness and CRT, partly because I'm not convinced that they even know what those words mean, and partly because I can't hear them over the literal Nazis shouting threats to my family and waving swastika flags. 

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