It’s 2017 and white supremacists are marching with torches. There are people defending their right to fly the confederate flag. There are people opposing the removal of statues depicting former confederate leaders. When I think about this, I can’t help but remember the removal of a symbol from my childhood…
When I was in kindergarten in 1987, Hasbro announced that they would no longer be including Mr. Potato Head's pipe as an accessory because they did not want to promote smoking. This was a very big deal to a 5-year-old kid whose favorite toy was Mr. Potato Head.
Nobody could say for sure that the distribution of Mr. Potato Head’s pipe would actually encourage kids to take up smoking, but Hasbro chose to remove it. They did it at the risk of losing customers who would defend the classic symbol. They did it because the health of America’s youth was more important.
I had an older version of Mr. Potato Head that included the pipe. I could have clutched on to the symbolic accessory and thrown a temper tantrum if anybody tried to take it from me. But I thought smoking was a disgusting and harmful habit so I promptly ripped that worthless piece of green plastic into a million pieces. I threw them in the garbage and never looked back.
But this is not about Mr. Potato Head. This is about racism.
Donald Trump is being criticized for his response regarding the horrifying rally that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. He had the opportunity to denounce white supremacy as disgusting and harmful. Instead, Mr. Trump chose to denounce the “many sides” involved in bigotry. I’ll let you decide what this says about the president’s values.
But this is not about the president of the United States of America. This is about racism.
I’ve been warned never to write about anything that makes me deeply emotional. I cried as I watched the news this weekend. I’ve been warned never to write about anything too political. I just called out the president by name. I have chosen to go against these warnings. I did so because, as a counselor, I have an ethical obligation to behave in a culturally competent manner. I did so because, personally, I believe hatred is disgusting and harmful and it belongs in the garbage.
But this is not about me. This is about racism.