Message from Roger Brooks: Teaching About Charlottesville

Dear Friend of Facing History,

All of us who denounce bigotry have been watching the events of this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, with sorrow and in disgust. The display of racism, antisemitism, violence, hatred, and ignorance we saw is in direct opposition to the values of Facing History and Ourselves.

As educators, our first concern is the millions of young people watching Charlottesville unfold. As we return to classrooms across the United States and the world, we will be called upon to manage difficult conversations about the evil, base bigotry at play. We will need to provide historical and cultural context for the violence, for the references to Nazi language and events, and for the legacy of slavery in the U.S. that underlies the pain we see across the nation today. Everyone who believes in a world guided by knowledge and compassion, not bigotry and hatred, must stand against the actions of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Facing History is here to help. Our teaching resources on the era of U.S. Reconstruction and its aftermath provide tools that link history to the events happening now. And our newly revised core resource, Holocaust and Human Behavior, gives powerful context to the resurgence of Nazi-era references, while also giving perspectives that allow students to avoid facile and false equivalencies and deepen their critical thinking.

In your discussions with students, ask them what echoes from history they noticed in the coverage of Charlottesville. Ask students, whether or not they’ve had direct experience with hate speech, why language and symbols can evoke such passion and pain. What do they feel responsible for learning in order to understand the hatred and violence that occurred in Charlottesville? How does our experience and memory of the past affect our choices and beliefs in the present? 

These are questions we need to face around the world right now. Even if you are not in the classroom, discuss these questions with your family and your community. 

Teachers are on the front lines with young people to help them understand that they can be part of a positive change for a better future. We have an opportunity, together, to do everything in our power to build the next generation of Upstanders.

We will be sharing more resources in the coming days and weeks.

With my gratitude for all you do,

President & CEO, Facing History and Ourselves

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