A letter to the editor written by Betty and George Merrill...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 04, 1994

A letter to the editor written by Betty and George Merrill and published in June 4th editions of The Sun contained two typographical errors. It should have said that the opinions of black people on interracial dating are "worth noting." Also, it should have said that Bull Connor attacked black civil rights protesters with "fire hoses."

The Sun regrets the errors.

Interracial Dating

Gregory P. Kane's Opinion * Commentary column May 24, ("The Last Racial Taboo") exhibits some half-baked reasoning on the subject of interracial dating.

Mr. Kane revealed that he was appalled when his 14-year-old son dated a white girl, and he uses himself as an example to prove that all black people are not uniformly in favor of interracial dating.

Fair enough on both points: Mr. Kane is entitled to his own emotions with regard to his children (misguided though they may be), and it is certainly true and perhaps worth nothing that not all black people agree uniformly on the subject of interracial dating (but then, do blacks or any other ethnic group agree uniformly on any subject?).

But then Mr. Kane does something inexplicably wrongheaded. He equates his "honesty" with regard to the interracial dating of his son to the "honesty" of Hulond Humphries, the Alabama high school principal who banned interracial dating at his school prom.

There are several things wrong with Mr. Kane's reasoning.

First, being honest about one's bigotry does not exonerate it. We supposed that Bull Connor "honestly" felt that black people attempting to integrate the South deserved to be attacked by police dogs and fire horses, and we suppose the Afrikaner guardians of South African apartheid "honestly" believed -- and still do -- that black South Africans do not deserve and cannot handle equality.

Just because someone is honest about his or her bigotry does not make it OK. It just ensures that others know about it.

The second thing wrong with Mr. Kane's equation to Mr. #F Humphries' is that Mr. Kane overlooks the fact that he did not interfere in his son's decision to date a white girl, but Mr. Humphries did try to stop interracial dating in his school.

Mr. Kane at least kept his bigotry to himself. Mr. Humphries tried to impose his on all the young people under his charge.

Third, Mr. Kane is surprisingly naive in buying the Wedowee school board party line that Mr. Humphries' position was taken only to protect the youngsters from "racial tension" caused by interracial dating.

Please! If that were so, why did Mr. Humphries tell one girl, the daughter of interracial parents, that she was a "mistake"? Didn't that remark reveal Mr. Humphries' true motivation?

Besides, if Mr. Humphries truly feared that violence would result if interracial couples attended the prom, he could have taken other measures to protect his students.

Finally, even if Mr. Humphries was motivated solely by concern and caring for his students, even if there is not a bigoted bone in his body, he was still wrong.

Either we strive for a race-neutral society or we don't. If we do, that means that those in positions of state-sponsored authority such as Mr. Humphries must not take positions or issue policies that are based on race alone.

Note that parents do not fall within this group -- a critical difference between Mr. Kane and Mr. Humphries. Mr. Humphries was wrong for this reason as much as for any other.

One last note. Mr. Kane does not have to be so afraid of his !! children dating people of other races. Based on our more than 25 years of interracial marriage and our acquaintance with many other mixed-race couples, some married longer, we can assure Mr. Kane that interracial dating and marriage is not necessarily a curse.

Indeed, it can be a source of great enrichment.

The key, as with any relationship, is to find the right emotional and spiritual match. When that happens, the racial aspects suddenly become less significant.

George B. Merrill

Betty L. Merrill

Baltimore

When Parents Are Afraid of Their Children

Over the past 20 years of my teaching experience, publischool students haven't changed much, with the exception, perhaps, of the way they dress (which is, by the way, a whole lot neater looking than the shaggy-haired, denim-clad kids of the 1970s).

Today's students still struggle with grammar, need encouragement with their writing, and love a good short story. What have changed drastically are the attitudes of many of their parents, who increasingly refuse to make their children accountable for their own actions.

For example, one of my colleagues recently caught a student cheating on a test.

The young man denied it, and the parent said to the teacher, "I don't know who to believe, you or my son." Experimentation with lying is a normal developmental phase, but children who meet constantly with reinforcement instead of negative consequences for their lying will quickly learn to adopt it as an avoidance technique.

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