Our parents constantly preached responsibility to us, and we routinely rolled our eyes at the discipline we received after we made a mistake. But what happens when our parents or guardians are no longer around to deliver an appropriate punishment when we fail to live up to our responsibilities, our communities, our nation and one another? This weekend, I was able to visit the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site while attending the National Women’s History Project Conference. The story behind this museum lies in the hearts of the “Little Rock Nine,” the nine black students who faced immense discrimination as they were the first to integrate into Little Rock schools.
As I stood in the museum, I felt the room get smaller. It became harder to breathe because I was overcome with the horrible pain present in that place. I could only think of two things: What causes so much hate, and will my children say to me, “Why didn’t anyone stop this?”
I have been struggling with my first question for a long time, mainly because no one has the answer. For a country based on equality, we have done a spectacular job of being anything but equal. What makes us believe our time is different? That in our time, our hate is justified.
If history isn’t to repeat itself, then someone needs to take the needle off the broken record.
As I stood in that museum, I could not take my eyes off one poster – but I desperately wanted to. The picture showed a teenage black girl walking to school with white girls, and behind them was a group of boys who were yelling with hateful expressions on their faces.
We repeat this scenario every time we judge someone because of their religious preference, sexual preference, color or status.
And I can’t help but wonder what my children will think years from now.
What will the next generation see when they look at us? Will they see a diverse group of men and women who demanded justice, peace and equality? Or will they see men and women who sat on the sidelines and waited for someone else to take care of the problems that didn’t directly affect their lives?
I pray our children can grow up in a world where men and women are paid equally for the same work – and they never have to fight for it.
I hope our children can live in a world where violence against women and children is a distant memory. I pray that they do not inherit the discrimination of our generation.
I imagine a world for our children where peace and kindness overcome violence and hatred. Mostly, I pray that the next generation never has to experience the fear that citizens worldwide experience today.
Make it happen. Don’t wait for someone else to fix the world’s problems. We cannot change the past, but we can make a positive impact on the present and the future. It is our responsibility – one that cannot be taken lightly.
JoHannah Hamilton is a junior anthropology major from Burleson.