Courteous Comments with Kirt Manion

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press

Throw kindness around like confetti. 

Southeast Nebraskans should be familiar with the phrase. 

It’s been plastered on billboards and printed on t-shirts. 

Otoe County schools came together not that many years ago with one objective, to #BEKIND. 

In order to achieve kindness in any meaningful way, however, it must be accompanied by understanding. 

And understanding only comes through education. 

Learning isn’t always easy. It requires us to be brave, to look beyond ourselves, to step outside of our comfort zone, and sometimes, to step aside. 

When we confront ideas or concepts we don’t understand, we shouldn’t reject them out of hand. 

Exploitation is required. 

Just last week, Governor Pete Ricketts came to town for a town hall meeting about the need to “scrap the standards” as it relates to teaching students about Critical Race Theory and issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

I am not about to claim I have some ultimate understanding of these issues. I don’t. Some of it is jarring. Some of it is confusing. 

But none of it is an attack. And it’s not un-American. 

No matter what we think as individuals, we all need to acknowledge that there are gender identities other than those which align with sexual assignment at birth. There are sexual orientations other that heterosexual. 

Understanding about these issues requires that we listen to people who have these different orientations and identifications. 

Kindness is then achieved when we work toward understanding. 

In terms of Critical Race Theory, we must come to the grips with the fact that the history we have taught often has fallen short in acknowledging the American experience of African Americans. 

Slavery was awful. And the fact that it ended didn’t mean that it’s impact isn’t still felt today. 

What is the impact? Where have we fallen short in teaching the whole story and with acknowledging the agency of all people? 

To understand, we need to listen to those who have lived through it. 

When we work toward understanding in these areas, kindness is possible. 

As a reminder though, a journey toward understanding isn’t clean or comfortable as much as it’s messy and complicated. 

No one is going to reach understanding and exhibit kindness by throwing away information or indefinitely delaying discussion. 

Some of us may not like or understand these topics. But the issues aren’t going away. 

The world is changing and the only way to navigate these issues is to dive right into their midst. 

Work to understand and then you’ll deliver on kindness. 

It’s either that, or admit we weren’t really all that serious about that kindness thing to begin with. 

Kirt Manion