(Todd A. Smith)

Unfortunately, things like this will become more commonplace now that schools have banned books and rewritten American history in the name of critical race theory.

A Black Little Leaguer found himself the center of attention this week in Williamsport, Pa. when his White teammates covered his head with cotton balls.

Although the children probably meant no harm and had no clue of the optics, parents, school board members and politicians all over this country should share in the responsibility because if teachers could truly teach American history, including the good, bad and ugly, maybe children would not make such mistakes and understand race relations in this nation.

Ron Dicker of Huffington Post reported, “White players were seen covering a Black teammate’s head with cotton at the Little League World Series, but league officials claimed Monday the admitted ‘racially insensitive’ optics weren’t what they seemed…

“ESPN cameras focused on members of the Davenport, Iowa team ripping stuffing out of giveaway toys and sticking it on the Black player’s head.”

Now, no one is chastising the kids for the bad optics as far as I know.

But the bad optics bring into focus why children need at least a basic understanding of real American history and race relations if America is ever to solve its problem with racism and prejudice.

When I see stories like this one, brought to my attention by a White high school classmate of mind in this instance, I realize I must remove myself from the equation.

I must realize that everyone is not me.

In fact, every middle school student was not me as a middle school student.

Thanks to my parents, I was that “different” kid, and I mean that as a compliment to my parents.

My father forced my sister and I to visit the public library on a regular basis and check out library books.

He would later quiz us on what we learned.

It is funny how little I have changed since elementary school because I have the same interests now as I had then.

Back then, and now, I gravitated towards books on Black history, American politics, the music business and basketball.

I was the only fourth grader that I knew that could quote Martin Luther King, Jr., name the United States presidents in order (backwards and forwards) in less than one minute, tell you everything about Motown Records and the Jackson family, while also reciting the history of the Houston Rockets.

By eighth grade I had read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.

That book remains my favorite book of all time.

Furthermore, by the end of eighth grade, I had won honorable mention in the Texas history fair, with my boy Jehiel Lewis, for our slide show, “Black Hollywood: The Negro in American Films.”

Forgive us for the use of the word Negro in the title.

Nevertheless, getting fourth place amongst all eighth graders in a state as big as Texas was no small feat.

Our classmates won first place for their history fair project on Black artist, John Biggers.

Suffice it say, we were probably some nerds and overachievers who really loved history.

So long story short, none of us would have allowed White kids to put a mountain of cotton balls on a Black youngster because we knew, even as middle schoolers, how that would be perceived by the masses.

This new generation might not have that luxury because many schools refuse to talk about racism because it upsets racist parents, racist schoolboard members and racist local, state and national politicians.

When I went to school, we at least learned some of the truth about slavery, Jim Crow, Rosa Parks and King.

My classmates and I, Black and White alike, knew certain words were off limits, certain stereotypes might lead to a fight and that special word might lead to a brawl, or at least a school suspension, as one of my White classmates learned in eighth grade when she called Lewis the N-word.

But with all that said, I feel sorry for this generation, unless they are history buffs/nerds like I was, and still am today.

Some White child growing up today might lose their job in the future because they said something racially insensitive, unbeknownst to them because their parents and elders tried to shield them from reality.

Some Black people might lose their job because they said something inappropriate about one of their Latino or Latina colleagues at work.

Some Muslim employees might offend their Christian boss one day and get disciplined at work because adults want their children to pretend that everyone is the exact same.

Some straight employees might eventually lose their job because they unknowingly said something homophobic that offended their LBBTQ+ co-workers.

And some Hispanic person or Native American might lose their job for saying something that they did not know was anti-Semitic, offending one of their Jewish colleagues.

Or we as adults could stop sugarcoating reality, and teach these children the truth about different races, religions and sexual identities because, like it or not, they see the differences everyday anyway.

They just learn how to respond to those differences by the elders in their lives.

Do they accept a person as a brother or sister, even if they look different?

Do they acknowledge hatred and bigotry and do something to reduce it?

Do they love someone even if they do not agree with their religion or lifestyle?

Or do we just keep making the same mistakes, generation after generation?

While children will always make mistakes, sometimes adults must take the blame because a lot of the bad behavior and mistakes we see from our children are because we provide horrible examples for them their entire young lives.

That needs to change immediately.

Todd A. Smith
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