November 29, 1996 Halifax Herald

Out of the mouths of youths come words of wisdom

Stereotyping caused by ignorance is the root of racism. This truism is neatly illustrated by this gem of wisdom by Michael Levine: "If you don't personally get to know people from other racial, religious or cultural groups, its very easy to believe ugly things about them and make them frightening in your mind." (Cited from "Lessons at the Halfway Point, from the book Michael Levine).

During October, Mi'kmaq history month, I was invited to visit Dartmouth's Eric Graves Jr. High and talk with some of the students about First Nation cultures. The following week, several insightful letters were received from the children. I'll share some of their heart-warming wisdom with you:

"...We learned quite a lot about the Mi'kmaqs and how in the past years, they have many stereotypes about them. We know these are not true...I especially liked the calendar (Maya civilization, Mexico) you brought in...Whoever made it was obviously very talented...thank you for coming. Your information was very much appreciated." Sherisse Arsenault

"Thank you for coming to give a presentation to our class. I understand what you said that it is up to the children to stop racism. The children are our future...I liked the calendar you brought in..." Michelle Babineau

"I would like to thank you for coming to our school and teaching us about Native history. I think the main message you were trying to get through to us was that it is up to us, the younger generation to stop racism. I am the future and I have to set things straight. It does not matter what culture you have and what your skin colour is, we are all the same inside, and therefore should be treated the same outside.

“You also taught me some new things about Natives that I did not know before. Like the pyramids in Mexico for instance. I did not know the Natives built pyramids 2,000 years ago...I cannot repair the past but together we can pave a better road for all cultures in the future. I really enjoyed your visit, thank you." Michael Chelnick

"...I would like to thank you for coming to our school and informing us on how cruel your ancestors were treated...I just really wanted you to know that you going to all the schools, and talking about racism will make a difference, because now all the people who might have thought negatively before will probably stop and think twice..." Jennifer Curtis

"Your visit to our school was very interesting. It made me see your ancestor's life from a whole different point of view. I learned about the Natives in a way much different from the text books. I found out that the Natives would not just go attack villages. They would not even fight at all unless they were enticed. Your visit also changed my way of thinking, I learned that the Natives were the victims...I believe racism can be stopped." Greg Hodge

"I would like to thank you for the wonderful educational presentation that you gave...It made me realize how special everyone is and always will be. I learned a lot from what you told us. I feel the Natives were treated very unfairly by the English...It is a complete disgrace the way people treat each other because of the way they live or the colour of their skin. I have been working in the "Special Needs" room for two years. Everyone is special and everyone should be treated special..." Allyson Kinley

"I would like to thank you for coming...and speaking to my class. I think that your most important point was very important to the people of the future. The way you said "Don't notice the colour of their skin, don't notice the texture of their hair or their religion, accept them as they are...," was very thoughtful of you because it gives a good point...I think people like you can make a difference and put a stop to racism by talking to groups of kids like us. We are the future and I think we can make a difference,...we can stop racism." Lisa Mason

"I would like to thank you for coming to our school and talking to us about how your ancestors were treated and for (explaining about) fixing the stereotypes. I could not believe (was shocked) that your ancestors were treated worse than slaves! I was really enjoying the part of your talk when you said that it is the children our age that can put a stop to racism..." Kathleen Wartman

Thanks, kids, you made my day! Such well-thought-out comments coming from young children speaks well for the prospect of future racial peace in our country. Keep up the great thinking and always remember: Respecting one another's diversity, and accepting that we all have the right to exist in dignity and to live as equals, is the way to find harmony and peace among us.

Daniel N. Paul


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