When a kid rides the school bus, we expect they might encounter some silly songs, loud conversations and possibly a paper airplane or two. What we don't expect is for them to have to bear witness to racist behavior and hateful words. But that's exactly what happened to one middle school child this week when she recorded kids on the bus reciting a racist chant that included repeating the N-word over and over again.
A 13-year-old Rockville, Maryland, student was riding her bus home from Robert Frost Middle School on Tuesday when students around her erupted in a racist chant. When she arrived home, she showed her parents a seven-second recording of the chant she'd made on the bus, in which the kids around her can be heard saying, "1, 2, 3, 4, how many n*****s are in my store?"
Her outraged parents posted the video on social media, along with a message about how disappointing it is that their daughter had to experience this kind of racism on her ride home from school. As her dad pointed out, these kids likely learned these racial slurs at home, and it's disturbing that a large group of middle school students could be so ignorant about how hurtful and hateful their words truly are.
The video of the chant has been viewed more than 200,000 times and prompted a meeting between the family and school officials. Officials say they're launching an investigation into the incident and plan to use this as a "teachable moment" about race, culture and diversity. Given the horrifying nature of the chant, it seems those are lessons these children desperately need.
As parents, it's our job to promote equality and respect in our homes so our children practice it whenever they leave our doorstep. That means having frequent discussions with our kids, not just about "treating everyone the same way" or being nice, but also about privilege, the history of racism in our society and how certain words, actions and phrases work to oppress and intimidate people of different races, cultures, genders and sexual orientations.
It's completely unacceptable that a group of 13-year-old kids would think it's OK to say the N-word or any other racial slur. And while it's admirable that one student recorded the incident and spoke out with her family, it's something she shouldn't have to do. A child shouldn't be forced to listen to racial slurs on her bus ride home or to encounter casual racism throughout her school day. Eliminating racist behavior starts at home, and an incident like this should be a huge red flag to all parents that we're simply not doing enough.
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