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Replacing pitchforks with understanding, healing

As the fallout from a young athletes social media post spreads through South Dakota and beyond its borders, the communities involved can set an example by moving forward with positive action instead of negative repercussions.
I have not seen the snippet nor do I have the desire to do so. I know many people have and many have described it in great detail.
I know how disgusted I felt when I heard the term used by the young man. A lot of damage has been done in that moment of ignorance. He certainly did not think before he posted the video. What this teen did not only shamed himself, his family and his team but also his school and his community.
If he understood what he was saying, would he have chosen to post the video? Would he have used that slang that cuts to the hearts of our friends and neighbors? Would that young man intentional caused the damage he has by letting those words cross his lips?
In speaking with Mobridge-Pollock Superintendent Tim Frederick last week, his focus was not on the negative, but how this incident can be used to further understanding the diversity in our communities. This is a moment that can change education in the state’s school districts.
We are not that far away from a time when in some communities, teachers needed to speak German to teach their classes. English was a second language for a long time especially in this region.
In South Dakota we are not that far from segregated boarding schools and assimilation of the Native Americans in our state.
Remembering this may also help us in understanding where we are in today’s society. Understanding the culture of those who live next door or down the street will help us to understand our own feelings. Education is the key.
That young man had to have heard that term somewhere. It would not have been used if he did not feel comfortable with it.
I have often said in this space that words matter. Kids repeat what they hear from adults. Most humans are not born hateful and cruel, we learn it from the adults around us as we grow up.
This is a time to reflect how we are influencing the children. Racists remarks, negative comments about those less affluent or socially accepted, creep into the make-up of our children.
We are at fault. We need to change it. This incident needs to cut to the heart of our community as a whole.
Despite the negativity, sometimes you just need to step back and take a look at the situation with an open mind.
I have shared my opinion about the punishment I thought should be dealt, but then cooler heads prevailed and I was swayed by more constructive conversation.
Now for me, it is time to reflect and move forward. Although we cannot take away the hurt this caused our communities as a whole, we can turn this into a moment to reach out to others and let them know we will make a change.
The punishment this young man will receive and has received will last long into his life. He has lost opportunities, self-respect and self-worth. He and his family have experienced threatening backlash that borders on criminal. He has already suffered repercussions for his actions and that will continue.
So instead of calling for a pound of flesh, let us move forward with the healing. Not just for the basketball teams or schools involved, but for our communities and our state.
No more verbal flogging is needed. It is time to put the pitchforks away and instead arm ourselves with healing, education and understanding.