January 7, 2021
Like many of you, I watched in anger as yesterday’s riots unfolded at the Capitol. I spent the evening, and deep into the night, listening to government representatives respond and recalibrate how they should address what they just experienced. Over and over, they highlighted the notion of American values. In reflecting on the event, I was left with the question, “What are our values? What does this mean today, in this moment?”
More appalling than the actions we witnessed are the sentiments they represent. Underpinning yesterday’s events were privilege, a sense of a right to violence, disrespect for law and order and a stunning lack of leadership that fomented and sanctioned this entitlement and invincibility. Yesterday also emphasizes and highlights the unnecessary violence against communities of color, who have actual cause to protest: the discrepancies between the policing of different groups could not have been more stark. I am hardly the first to ask what the law enforcement response to a majority Black or Brown crowd would have looked like. We all know the answer. This is white privilege in its most egregious form.
Building Values for Life has long been the Trail Blazers tagline. We believe that all children should be afforded the opportunity to develop the skills and values required to become productive and conscientious citizens. The most basic of these values and skills – kindness, respect and civility, and valuing different cultures and backgrounds – appear to be lost in our national discourse and politics.
I ask myself, both as a parent and as the leader of an organization that is built specifically on those values, how can we expect to teach our children values that the world does not seem to prioritize? Our kids hear the empty words and statements that so often follow tragic events such as these, and they are not fooled.
Over the last few years, we have seen a world evolve where every opinion, every statement, every action, is given equal heft. We don’t believe this is the correct approach, nor the approach our children deserve. Some choices are clearly kinder than others. Some choices are clearly safer than others. Some behaviors are clearly better than others. Some words are true, while others are not. We still believe these values matter.
During a time when our leaders, including our incumbent president, eschew these values, we are re-affirming our mission to ensure that children see these values lived out. We will continue to lead with kindness, with tolerance, with truth. To help young people build values for life, to take youth outside to help them grow within. We invite you to participate in this work. The New York City Department of Education released tools to help educators support young people in learning about and understanding the attack. You can find them HERE.
We certainly hope there are better days ahead. Our optimism is rooted not in empty rhetoric but by the work we are committing to doing.
Riel Peerbooms, MSW