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Counselor’s Corner: Speaking Up

Hello Mommy friends! In our little corner of Metro Detroit Mommy we talk about a lot of things right? Bullying, wellness, healthy development and activities that help our kids to be better and us to be happier. We also take the time to discuss current affairs. In today’s column I want you to read a Facebook and Linked In post that I felt needed to be written and shared. I know that using my own voice and my own words can bring about change, healthy and meaningful dialogue and a better understanding for all of us collectively. Please read it and if you are touched in any way…please share with those in your own network. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments as well. -Tara

A couple of years ago when Cannon was almost two I walked with him through the Civil Rights area of the Henry Ford Museum. It is an impressive exhibit. He was a wobbly little guy at the time and pretty smiley and happy. When he saw the large replica of a KKK member his face looked terrified and he wobbled backwards and did his best to run as fast as his little legs would carry him. This made an impact on me. He was not old enough to understand that this group represents death to people like him and me. DEATH, not free speech, DEATH. They hung people like me because of our heritage. They burned us, raped us, tarred and feathered us. They hate us. Justifying the KKK is shocking to me and something I never thought that I would see, but I am seeing it.

I learned about the Nazi party in more depth when I read “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself” in elementary school and later I was assigned “The Diary of a Young Girl”  by Anne Frank in middle school. I learned more about them when I was involved in a theater class right after high school that highlighted the true terror of the train cars that people of Jewish heritage were stuffed into and the gas chamber showers they were forced into as a sick and evil way to exterminate their race. When I was in graduate school me and a few other diversity advocates had a docent led tour through the Holocaust Museum. It is interesting when you think that you have seen the worst of it only to be enlightened that what you read and even acted out was only a small glimpse at terror and hate.
I learned about how things first started off simple. People told jokes about Jewish people. Jokes are harmless right? Then they began to blame the Jewish people subtly for their own lack of progress in life. Things took a turn when books became banned and there were special rules and identifying sentiments for Jewish people. This eventually led to a loss of wealth, jobs and status simply because of heritage. Later the familiar things were showcased to me by the docent the train cars, the gas chambers but also the fact that terrible experiments were done on people who were Jewish. One of the most disgusting facts about the Holocaust that I do not hear people talk about is how they skinned people and used their skin as lamps. Yes lamps. 
When people talk to me about freedom of speech, justification or that we should ignore what we are seeing now when swastikas are being waved in the faces of people who look like me or who look like other groups who have been terrorized and marginalized historically, I do not agree. History is important to understand. If you do not know what to do right now I implore you to take a trip to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Holocaust Memorial Center. Start there. Right now we are being primed for these same events that we overcame a long time ago. I realize that a lot of people want Facebook to be fun hey me too…but my silence and oversharing of puppies on this forum at a time like this would not be congruent with my heart. I cannot ignore what is happening because you see I am the target. My son is the target. The Nazi party and the KKK have not all of a sudden changed their ideologies. So turning off my screen does not protect me. Being quiet only gives them power.
I give seminars and lectures on anti-bullying and we talk about the danger of being a bystander and how watching but doing nothing, saying nothing and justifying only empowers bullies. Lastly, many people point to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and say that more people should be like him. Keep in mind that he was non-violent not non-verbal. He went where people told him not to go. He sat where it was illegal to sit. He was not well-liked by the majority and many people who were silent watchers of terror thought he was a trouble maker and that he should be happy with how things were and not try to impact change. One of the quotes that I love by Dr. King is how I will end this post. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” #antibullying #speakingup
Tara Michener
Author: Tara Michener