March 09, 2023

By Wendy Gladney


What do children in elementary school know about racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, discrimination, hatred, and bigotry? “Nothing” should be the answer.  We are not born with a chromosome or gene that makes any of these things innate within us, our DNA does not dictate that we must display any of these behaviors.

The truth is all these isms and phobias are learned behaviors and ideologies. Most of us get our values from our teachers, preachers, parents, and friends. When young children use hateful slurs, profanity, or disrespectful language it is a result of their environment and home training. It is a poor reflection on our current society that so many of our young people must lose their “innocence” because of access to the Internet and friends who have been prematurely exposed to the ugliness of how we talk and treat those who are different.

Freedom of speech is important, but not at the cost of another person’s wellbeing.  We must show respect and kindness towards our fellow human beings. Our children deserve better examples from us.


Recently, my daughter and I were having a discussion and she asked me if I had heard about what was happening at the elementary school she attended.  At the time, I had not heard about it.  She told me a little Black child was given a “Golden N-Word-Pass” by a little White child. 

I have lived in Upland, California for close to 35 years and both of my children attended Pepper Tree Elementary School. As a matter of fact, my daughter was part of the first group of children to attend the school when it opened. One day when my daughter was riding the bus home from school, a little White boy called her the “N” word and when she got home, she was crying and asked why he called her that name.

This recent incident at Pepper Tree Elementary School brought back memories from the pain I experienced when my daughter came home crying close to three decades ago. It is sad to learn that over 30 years later, we are still dealing with racial slurs and insults to our children. 

A pepper tree is known for casting shade in mild climates. Right now, Pepper Tree Elementary School is far from having a mild climate and the shade they are providing is shining a light on how far we must go as a society.

Racist behavior is something that we have been dealing with in America since the beginning of time. I recently heard someone say that we are a divided nation, two countries fighting to become one.  If we are not careful, we will face another Civil War breaking up families, communities, and states.  The political environment we have been experiencing in our country has caused people to come out boldly about their true feelings about race. 

It is important that we come up with solutions to the issues at hand. We also need to make sure they have results.  We must hold the teachers, school administrators, Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s), parents, and the community accountable for solutions for the future of our children and society. Everything must be put on the table and dealt with and not buried underneath the surface.

Children must feel safe, especially at school. I think the solutions go beyond just firing someone, but rather instituting mandated sensitivity training that have consequences when not adhered to.  If not, we will continue to have children not only being hurt, but also killing each other and pondering suicide. Let us all be the difference.

Healing Without Hate: It's a choice. It's a lifestyle. Pass it on.

Visit and to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker.

Category: Opinion