Let’s reach back to 2015.

That’s the time when in our nation’s history a racist fissure burst. Donald Trump rode his hotel’s escalator to the ground floor, proclaiming his candidacy for President of the United States and soon thereafter a disease of hatred spread across our land, first infecting Mexicans, then Muslims, then the disabled, then Black Americans. When I thought he couldn’t sink lower, he expressed contempt for government employees, ridiculed leaders of other countries and referred to developing nations as ‘shitholes’. It became OK to hurl words of hate at all races, religions and nationalities.

In a few instances, when referencing either logo or mascot, the 59-page PHRC Final Order used the word nickname. The word also appeared once in the December 2 Neshaminy School Board press release announcing their decision to appeal.

There’s a website listing racist terms for every ethnicity on the planet. I won’t dignify those hateful words by sharing any of them with you. I will though, after perusing the Native American data, tell you there wasn’t one nickname among the 79 racial slurs listed for Native Americans. There is nothing familiar about the racial, harmful and hateful uttering of the R word, especially when using it with the word nickname.

(Photo from International Business Times)

On the Basic Cable station Paramount, the series “Yellowstone” includes Native Americans in the cast of this drama set in present day Wyoming where tensions between the Natives and townspeople form part of the plot. One of the principle characters in the series is Monica Dutton, a Native American married to a son of the prominent ranching Dutton family.

In Episode 2 of the second season, racism of Native Americans is witnessed when Monica goes into a woman’s boutique looking at different items. The owner—a Caucasian woman—watches Monica anticipating she will shoplift an item. Yes, you guessed it. The owner accuses Monica of stealing, calls the police who order Monica through the humiliation of a body search. However, the boutique owner gets payback for her racist behavior when she learns–too late—that Monica is a Dutton.

I recommend the series to all for its portrayal of Native American culture. No mimicry of feathers, red paint, incorrect narratives or nicknames.

I flipped opened my 1987 Revised New Lexicon WEBSTERS DICTIONARY and searched the word nickname.

It’s defined as “…name by which a person is called familiarly, other than his real name.”

My December 8, 2019 post, ‘Words Matter’ noted that the Neshaminy School Board will appeal the PHRC Ruling. I am hopeful that supporters for Donna will continue the struggle to erase the R word from Neshaminy High School… and ultimately everywhere else it wrongfully appears.

Chaos in our Classrooms

Back in the day, growing up in Doylestown and attending Central Bucks High School, our classrooms had a reputation of being sanctuaries for learning Civics: The three branches of government, the cabinet names and the importance of presidential elections. At each cycle of the presidential election, one of those now extinct-dependable lever voting machines was rolled into the lobby where  we experienced civic responsibility by voting for our choice.

While there has been recurring news coverage of physical and verbal confrontations between anti-Trump and pro-Trump supporters, our main stream media has failed to report on how this presidential election has affected students in our nation’s schools, from Kindergarten through 12th Grade.

Several days ago a special 16 page report from SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance landed in my mailbox. On the cover is an angry image of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, captured in one of his all too familiar moments with his mouth contorted into a mercurial circle.  I can almost hear the hurtful, divisive and racist statements spewing from his lips.

Cover of special report by 'Teaching Tolerance' on Presidential Primary Civics in the Classroom

Cover of SPLC special report
published by ‘Teaching Tolerance’

Compiled by Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen B. Costello, the report is an insightful  exmination of the impact of how the 2016 presidential campaign is affecting students in our nation’s schools. It summarizes the opinions from a survey completed by nearly 2,000 educators from across America. Their responses were  accompanied with over 5,000 comments. More information about this survey with the  questions asked is available online at

In Costello’s Introduction, she writes how immigrant students or children of immigrants and Muslims “… expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.”  This national increase in uncivil political discourse and anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment has become a concern to teachers.

Most sadly, “… 40%” of teachers were hesitant to teach about the election. The report is then broken down into two categories: Impact on Students and Impact on Teaching. Various instances of teachers’ responses described how students were “terrified” that the outcome would change their lives.  Beyond immigrants and children of immigrants, these students included Muslims, African Americans and children of color. Although their ancestors arrived here as slaves before the American Revolution, African-American students were fearful that they would be deported back to Africa.

Here are two quotes from teachers lifted from Impact on Students:

My fifth-graders got in a fist fight on the playground yesterday … when one of the boys quoted Donald Trump.”

“… ‘dirty Mexican’ has become a common insult. Before… it was never heard.”

The other section, Impact on Teachers overflows with comments ranging from frustration to disappointment to hope to determined responsibility. Teachers are between a rock and a hard place as they tiptoe in the classrooms each time students voice their preferences for a presidential candidate. Many teachers expressed how pleased they were to see their students engaged in research and writing about the primary system and the candidates. Although some teachers have stayed neutral still others chose to stay completely away from this time honored Civics lesson. Even then one teacher wrote:

“I have thrown caution into the wind and have spoken out against certain candidates which I have NEVER done …but I feel it’s my duty to speak out against ignorance!”

Since the inception of SPLC’s program Teaching Tolerance, its mission of promoting peace and diversity instead of bullying and racism was a classroom success.  A teacher in Edmonds, Washington commented that for his students this election ” … stands out for modeling the worst kind of behavior … I hope they don’t walk away thinking this is what politics is all about.”

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the chosen presumptive presidential nominees. I wonder… Just what conversations are  happening inside the homes where the youth of our next generation live? School will soon be out for the summer … What will happen on our playgrounds or at local swimming pools or on the fields of competition?

Teach Tolerance

Teach Tolerance