How did E.R Braithwaite gain respect and love after all the racism and prejudice he endured?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One reason why Braithwaite is able to gain respect and love despite enduring harsh realities of racism and prejudice is because he embodies the lesson that he teaches to his students.  Braithwaite stresses to the kids that they cannot take the form of the world around them.  If they wish to change the world and demonstrate agency to create personal and social change, they must understand the realities of the world and not capitulate to them.  It is for this reason that Braithwaite is able to endure so much of fundamental unfairness that is around him.  He accepts the barbs and insults that the world places upon him because of his commitment to refuse to take the form of the world around him.  It is for this reason that he teaches this lesson with so much in way of authenticity and absolutism to his students. He lives it.  Due to the fact that this is not something that rings hollow with the children, they begin to understand him and the lessons he is teaching them.  His credibility with them is because it becomes clear that he recognizes the importance of the lessons being taught due to his living them.

Braithwaite understands that in order to create lasting social and personal change, one cannot acquiesce to the world around them.  There is racism and prejudice.  There is unfairness.  Yet, Braithwaite teaches the students that to simply respond to these without understanding them and seeking to actively transform them simply repeats the same pattern of self- destruction upon which others before them have embarked.  Braithwaite understands that simply getting angry and being dismissive of the racism and prejudice he has experienced is not going to change these realities. The only chance for transformation lies in the ability to recognize these realities and seek to actively use autonomy and agency to fundamentally change that which is into what can be.

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