In a somewhat delightful role-reversal, it was J who offered the optimistic viewpoint yesterday after my riled-up blog post. Having shared that a neighboring school would be joining ours in a show of solidarity yesterday morning—and my feeling angered that these types of gatherings only occur in times of atrocity or within the boundaries of our personal identifications—J said that maybe one of those kids will one day be in a situation where others are speaking antisemitically and that kid will get to say, “You know, the school across from mine growing up was Jewish, and they were pretty normal and fine to me.”
J pointed out that maybe one kid gets to not engage in hate-speech because they were exposed to a community different than their own when they were young. And, of course, he’s right.
When we hear so much about speaking into echo-chambers, pandering to one’s own side, or read a sarcastic meme about, “I wrote a diatribe on Facebook and actually changed somebody’s opinion” or “I read someone’s diatribe and was convinced of my own inaccuracy”…
then I suppose any opportunity to walk out of one’s own comfort zone, out of one’s own community, to step a foot in a school that doesn’t belong to our own; or, as the recipient of the kindness, to see that others are willing to cross out of their circle of identification and hold hands with someone who by appearance or religion or socio-economics are different from us,
then I suppose it is not only worth the effort, it is worth my respect and appreciation.
I was genuinely moved by the show of…solidarity…yesterday as the mostly Hispanic students sat next to our mostly white/Jewish ones. I was moved by the speeches of the principals of both our schools. I saw that what was happening on the stage between the two of them, by appearances so different, was a potential manifestation of what could be happening between our own students in years to come.
(I also did say afterward to one of their teachers that it felt a bit hollow that we only do these things when there’s a tragedy, because I still vehemently feel we need to cross our respective streets in moments of normality and of joy in order to build real and regular relationships with those “different” from us.)
But. I must admit: it was an experience that was more about unity than about division or ideology (even my own), and I am grateful that our students and teachers got to experience it, despite its precipitating event.