Every year, every route, I overhear conversations on my bus. Last week, on my middle school route, I overheard a white boy talking to a black girl, first about his disapproval about President Obama, then about race. It was a calm, well considered conversation, where the boy commented on how he’d been called a racist for not supporting Obama. He argued that he had no problem with black people and his feelings about the president had nothing to do with race. While I don’t share his political views, I respected the way he spoke about race, and realized that kids today have deep, well considered thoughts about very important issues. They’re still figuring out their place in the world, deciding who and what is good and worth pursuing. While some of their thought processes aren’t completely fleshed out, like the boy’s beliefs about Obama mirroring the more negative reactionary news sources without going further into what the news bites actually mean, most of their considerations for other people are complex and fair minded.
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The kids on my bus aren’t afraid to talk about race, aren’t hesitant to explore their feelings and open up to each other. In a smaller, mostly white city like Elk River and the surrounding areas, race issues have the potential to be filled with hate and fear, as it was when I went to high school. But that’s simply not what I’m seeing on my bus routes. I’m finding kids who want to understand each other, who want to explore their differences as well as their similarities. I’ve never seen such respectful kids and it gives me a feeling of hope and goodwill for the future.
In a world where TV spews negativity and violence, where grown men and women forget to respect each other’s basic right to an opinion on a regular basis, it’s good to see kids act reasonably, respectfully and responsibly toward each other.
Jen Lindberg drives a schoolbus in Elk River and is enrolled at Anoka-Ramsey Community College