Every family in the United States originated from somewhere else. From Native Americans who migrated across a land bridge to North America to immigrants who sailed aboard a steamship to Ellis Island, many chose to come to America. Hundreds of thousands of others were brought here against their will aboard slave ships.
The stories are heartbreaking and chilling. In the first few weeks of 2017, identity-based hatred appears to be pervasive and on the rise. Two immigrants from India were shot in Kansas allegedly by a man who confronted them about their visa status; historical Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in St. Louis and Philadelphia; and, in Rockville, Maryland, a Jewish couple, who put up a Black Lives Matter banner outside their home, received a threatening note with the word “Jew” written in German and the ominous promise of “mayhem.” On January 29th, six people were killed and 19 were injured in a mass-shooting at a mosque in Quebec City. The victims included fathers, an academic, and local businessmen. They were in the midst of evening prayers.
South Africans, like many people in the United States right now, and many in Colombia and the United Kingdom, have been thinking deeply about who we are, where we came from, and where we are heading as a country. In 2016, South Africans also woke up, one morning, to a changing shift in the political landscape—a view we had become accustomed to. What seemed unlikely once was now before our eyes. Local government elections saw major cities across the country, including Pretoria, the seat of government, now in the hands of the opposition. Where once race divided our votes, now the need for an accountable, honest, and committed government has begun to unite us.
December 13, 1937 is a day etched in the collective Chinese consciousness. On that day, the Japanese imperial army marched into the city of Nanjing—then the capital of China—and unleashed a wave of violence for six long weeks. The soldiers attacked ordinary citizens and violated all acceptable international norms of war. This act of mass violence marked the beginning of World War II in Asia. It is difficult to mark the anniversary of this dark chapter today without reflecting on contemporary global events reminding us all of the fragility of peace and democracy.
Orlando. Brussels. Baghdad. Baton Rouge. St. Paul. Dallas. Nice. Istanbul. Baton Rouge, again. The last several weeks have been hard on humanity. I was on vacation from my work at Facing History, trying to stay unplugged for awhile, when the news about Dallas broke. I logged back on to social media, but just as quickly shut it off again. I was (am) overwhelmed, feeling small and fairly powerless to help heal the world and prevent such violence in the future. But, I also couldn't get away from the feeling that, at that moment, turning my back was the exact wrong thing to do. I kept coming back to some critical questions: Why is it important to stay checked in, even when I can and want to check out? In the face of overwhelming sorrow, terror, and anger, how do I remain hopeful? How can I continue to take care of myself - to put on my oxygen mask first - while at the same time not abandoning my responsibility as a human being to care for others within my universe of obligation? Below are a few strategies that may help keep us engaged and hopeful and, as the school year begins in the coming weeks, do the same for our students.
Nearly two years ago, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri. News of the event swiftly spread across national media outlets and the shooting quickly became a flashpoint for a national discussion about race, policing, and justice in the United States.