America: Is it what we say we are?

Dr. E. Faye Williams | 11/21/2018, 6 a.m.
Recently we learned of boys in Baraboo, Wis., throwing Nazi salutes and flashing white power signs. This is disturbing. Who ...

Dr. E. Faye Williams

Dr. E. Faye Williams

Recently we learned of boys in Baraboo, Wis., throwing Nazi salutes and flashing white power signs. This is disturbing. Who taught them to do this? Did they learn it at home or school? Did they pick it up from the chaos in our nation?

I wonder if students even know what the salute means. I wonder how their parents and teachers reacted.

Obviously, the salute was planned. It defies imagination to believe so many boys just happened to throw the salute at the same time. Apparently, what they did was OK with the photographer, the school administration — until recently — and the parents.

The school district issued the following statement following a public outcry, but surely the officials had seen the photograph previously.

“The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. We are investigating and will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.”

I wouldn’t call that statement sufficient to address such a serious case, so I’m left to believe America really has come to this. As much as many of us tried to believe America is better than this, we’ve been greatly disappointed to learn that despite all of our efforts, things really aren’t getting better. It’s like what my ancestors often said: “We take a step forward and two steps back.”

This isn’t the only disgusting incident that has been made public from the same school. In an incident in 2012, students from Baraboo found it OK to fly Confederate flags, claiming it was to honor the death of a friend.

We’ve certainly seen our share of pickup trucks running around with Confederate flags and guns in the back windows representing an “in your face” act of racism. This isn’t just by high school boys. These are adults to whom these boys must look for appropriate behavior.

I’m told as many as 20,000 people from Wisconsin died fighting Confederate powers during the Civil War and Nazis during World War II. Instead of honoring their sacrifice, these high school students have totally disrespected them.

They must be taught the history of this country and who did what to allow them to live as they live today. Adults are responsible for teaching these boys what these hateful symbols mean. They run counter to what so many gave to keep us safe and to be fair to all citizens.

Our hopes were so high when we witnessed the young people’s “March for Our Lives” in March in support of tighter gun control following the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and their show of respect for all without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national origin or gender.

These boys in Wisconsin, the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, the mail bombs sent to leaders, the mass shootings in the synagogue in Pittsburgh and the bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., the shooting of the black man and woman in Kentucky, the hate-filled tweets and language of #45 — all of these minimize our progress in America.

It’s time for us to realize that America is in danger of having to admit that we’re not who our country’s documents say we are.

The writer is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.