Ashley:
I live in New York and was in Mobile a few weeks ago where I had the good fortune to read your column entitled “The time is now” (July 14). I’ve never done this before, but I enjoyed reading your article and I wanted you to know that I think you nailed it right on the head. You articulated many of the feelings I have as well, and I think there are lots of assumptions on all sides of this issue. There are two quick stories I’d like to share with you.

1. Regarding the part where you wrote that what we all have in common is that we love our families: I have been a teacher for 20 years, mostly fourth grade, and I remember years ago hearing another teacher say that no matter how difficult a child is in your classroom, you have to remember that when you are talking to their parents, they love their child no matter how bad they are. Those words of wisdom have been very helpful to me through some tough conversations I’ve had to have with parents.

2. Children from the Poospatuck reservation attend the school district where I teach. Many members of the tribe integrated with freed slaves, so that many members look African-American, not Native American. In fourth grade, students learn the history of local Native Americans in New York.

For about 10 years, some of the members from the reservation have come to our school for Native American Day, where they share artifacts, dance, food, etc. Last year the daughter of the woman with whom I’ve been coordinating this event was a student teacher in my class. I asked her to please let me know if there was anything she wanted to add to or bring into the curriculum that would be helpful and her response took me a little off guard.

She said that, surprisingly, everything we taught was accurate, and she was pleasantly surprised. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there have been periods in our history when curriculum has been skewed, but with the scrutiny education is under right now and the fact that she was studying to be a teacher, I was surprised by her answer. It was such a broad generalization that somehow we would all be teaching the wrong information.

It made me realize that white people are not the only ones who make sweeping generalizations about groups of people. We need fearless, honest dialogue so that we can deal with ALL of the assumptions made by ALL people.

Thank you for your fearlessness in writing your article. I think most people feel as you and I do and we all need to stop being silent. Thank you for starting the dialogue. I will try to pay it forward. Keep writing.

Donna McInerney,
New York