what do you do with what you don’t know what to do?

Better yet: what do you do with what’s hard?

On Thursday the Randolph Board of Education in Morris County, New Jersey, a little more than an hour northwest of Manhattan, voted unanimously to remove all holidays from their academic calendar.

A month ago the board made the decision to rename Columbus Day in a motion not on the public agenda nor discussed in any depth; it was admittedly, mostly just voted on and passed. Unfortunately, their later-apologized-for hastiness offended multiple members of the school district, especially the Italian American community, for whom the discovery of the Americas by the holiday’s Italian namesake is a source of tremendous meaning and pride.

In an effort to hopefully extinguish the uproar, the board crafted a perceived solution to the controversy. As reported by their local neighborhood news source, Tap Into Randolph: 

“… A motion was made to remove the names of all holidays that mention ethnic or religious groups, to not exclude or offend any other group. Realizing that some groups are still ‘left out’ and they cannot and do not recognize everyone, the board suddenly decided to vote on removing all holiday names and simply calling them ‘Day Off’… As the vote went down the row with a unanimous ‘Yes,’ the stunned and confused public erupted once more, with some shouting at the board, ‘What just happened? What did you just do?…’” [emphasis mine]

That’s right… 

“Day off.”

Not just Columbus Day, but Christmas, New Year’s, Rosh Hashanah…

Memorial Day, Thanksgiving… even teacher convention days.

Note one board member’s explanation thereafter: “If we don’t have anything on the calendar, we don’t have to have anyone [with] hurt feelings or anything like that.”

Hence, we ask once more: what do you do with what you don’t know what to do? What do you do with what’s hard?

My sense is we have three options. One, we discuss the difficult with fact, grace, and sensitivity to all it may affect. Two, we distort the difficult — typically minimizing or maximizing for select purposes. Or three, we simply refuse to deal with it. The Randolph Board of Education chose option three.

The Intramuralist hopes to always select option number one. In fact, on most everyone else’s calendar this coming Saturday is Juneteenth. While the Emancipation Proclamation declared freedom for all those enslaved in the United States, enforcement was dependent upon Union troops, and Texas was the most remote of the slave states. Juneteenth marks the day in which freedom from slavery was proclaimed in Texas.

The hard reality of how the above played out is that there were two and a half years between when Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation became official and when the last of America’s slaves were set free. It is estimated that there were 250,000 persons still enslaved at that time.

That’s a tough reality, friends. It again reminds us that there is a good, bad, and an ugly woven throughout our nation’s history. Thankfully, however, as Sen. Tim Scott poignantly reminded us last April, “Original sin is never the end of the story.”

So let’s not distort the difficult. Let’s not minimize nor make it either all good or all bad or all good or bad now.

Let’s not rewrite history. Let’s ensure we wrestle with fact, not fiction.

And let’s not refuse to deal with it. Let’s not erase it from our calendars. When we erase it — when we tiptoe through topics, through original and recurrent sin, through hurt feelings and holidays — we miss the opportunity to learn and grow from the totality of the issue… from Juneteenth to Columbus Day… 

May we always, therefore, uncompromisingly discuss the difficult…  always with fact, grace, and sensitivity… generously so.