Blogger’s Note: On July 24, 2008, I wrote a blog in the wake of an incident in which an illegal immigrant died of injuries suffered in a fight with a group of teenagers in Shenandoah just a few days earlier. I reran the blog on Oct. 13, 2010, in light of a federal trial of two of the teens, who were eventually convicted and sentenced on hate crime charges.

With racial tensions rising yet again in our nation, I feel compelled to share this blog again, with some slight modifications.

The beating death incident in Shenandoah is a huge topic on the REPUBLICAN Herald’s website. All you have to do is take a look at the number of comments listed under each story dealing with the tragedy.

Many say that what happened had to do with race. Other say it was a fight gone wrong. Nevertheless, the subject of race is apparently the talk of the region.

A co-worker was at lunch the other day and heard someone talking about the Shenandoah incident. During the gist of the conversation it was said that racism isn’t something you’re born with, it’s learned.

That said, three things come to mind.

Over the weekend, the Disney movie “Remember the Titans (2000)” was on the ABC Family network. Based on a true story, the movie details the 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team in Alexandria, Virginia. The school was integrated that year with black and white students. This included the appointment of Herman Boone, who is black, as head coach and his predecessor Bill Yoast, who is white, as his assistant. Eventually the team comes together, finishing with an undefeated season and winning the state title. (Coach Boone passed away in December 2019 at the age of 84 and Coach Yoast died in May 2019 at the age of 94.)

I have the movie on DVD, but tuned in mid-way through the network’s production. When the scene showing protesters outside the school building on the first day of school appeared, my 4-year-old daughter asked me why the people were shouting at the students. I told her it was because some people did not want black and white students going to school together.

I explained to her that many years ago students of different colors went to separate schools. Her little eyebrows lifted in surprise. No wonder — she attends day care with children of other races and it’s nothing out of the ordinary for her. I told her that today, children from different backgrounds go to school together.

I am trying to teach my daughter to be confident in herself yet tolerant of others. We all might look different on the outside, but we’re really all the same on the inside.

This brings the second thing to mind when it comes to racism being learned — a song by country singer Martina McBride called “In My Daughter’s Eyes.” The second verse says, in part, “In my daughter’s eyes, everyone is equal. Darkness turns to light, and the world is at peace. …”

Children see the world in such an innocent way. From a little one’s perspective, as the song says, everyone is equal. The differences aren’t seen.

Children are impressionable, however, and they learn what they live — which brings the third thing to mind. It is a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D., titled “Children Learn What They Live.” She said if children live with certain qualities, then they learn the things associated with them.

My mother received a decorative plate with this poem on it when my youngest sister was born, and when Amber was born, a great-aunt gave me a framed copy of it.

The poem is shared below. I believe in its words, and I still do to this day. Let’s see if you do.


By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.