Thursday, November 9, 2006
On today's episode of Oprah, 64 students at a high school were brought into the gym to discuss and confront issues that divide teenagers - issues which continue into adults. Class. Race. Ideals about beauty. The whole experience seemed to have a major impact on these kids. What if something similar was done in this state for all the citizens? That day would be challenging, but necessary.
Challenge Day consisted of a series of exercises to get teens from different backgrounds to interact with each other, and in turn, better respect each other by understanding that they are all more alike than different.
One exercise is to break up the participants into groups of people whereas everyone in each group are from varying backgrounds. Then each group member would share something about himself or herself with the statement, "If you knew me, you would know..." A teenager on today's show revealed that she lied about her ACT score to make herself appear smarter. A Mississippian could reveal that being called a redneck is offensive to him or her, or that he or she feels inferior due to having the darkest skin of anyone in the immediate family.
Another exercise was for the kids to stand on one side of the gym while the facilitator asks them to "cross the line" (go to the other side of a line on the floor) if an event she described ever happened to any of them. For instance, she said that any student who has been bullied because of their size should cross the line. The students were moved to tears by this. A white football player even apologized to a black teammate for calling him racial epithets. He said he was joking, but when he saw how much the names hurt him, he asked for forgiveness. For Mississippians, anyone could cross the line if they were made fun of for living in a trailer or if or if they were the only ones among their peers who sided with the Civil Rights protesters.
Tears shed, hugs given, apologies made. Of course, on a larger scale, such a task may not be as touchy-feely as this, and security measures may need to be taken to prevent physical injury. However, it doesn't hurt to dream, and "Challenge Day" could become a reality - even if it starts in your local Mississippi high school.
Wow, do I love this idea! Cross-cultural, honest, open conversation... finding common ground, dealing with issues directly. Yes, yes, yes!
Ronni, you sound the way I felt. :-) Oh, how I would LOOOOVE to see that here!