Letter to Class of 1985 to Right a Hurtful Wrong
Last updated 1/10/2021 at 11:24am
In 2016, I was compelled by something deep inside me to right a wrong. The wrong, I felt, was how I had been treating other people my entire life. At the time, Lake Wales News, print newspaper, was still in operation and I thought I would write a letter and submit the letter to the editorial department in hopes it would get published. I had never sent a letter to a newspaper before, but I had a heavy heart and I wanted to apologize.
I was raised in the same town I live in even to this day. Our population growing up consisted of white, black (African American), Hispanic (mostly migrant workers) and some Asian. But I was raised to believe I was better than anyone else because I was white.
Rather than writing the letter to the newspaper, I decided to write my letter and address it to my high school graduating class of 1985. I posted my heartfelt apology to our Facebook page on January 18, 2016, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2016. I felt, after all, they were the ones I would have hurt the most, whether they knew it or not.
The letter was posted not knowing what the resulting action might be. Would my classmates, resent me, cuss at me, rebuke me, hate me, say bad things about me and my family? I decided I didn't get to choose how they responded and that was not the purpose. But how they responded was with grace, compassion, honesty and openness.
There are, to this day, 40 responses to the post but I think it is important to continue the conversation to a wider audience. This was how I felt but I wonder how others feel. The great conversation started that day was only seen by 39 people, but I think it is time to send this out to a wider audience and start, perhaps, a new conversation. The conversation that can, I believe, start to heal our town, out county, our state and maybe even our country from some of the underlying hurt and conflict. Let it start with me . . .
An Open Letter to the Class of 1985 - The Class with Class
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
To celebrate this holiday I have decided to write a letter to my graduating class. I would like to apologize to my African-American classmates. This has weighed heavy on my heart for quite some time and I would like to say I am sorry.
I grew up thinking I was better than you and I am not. I will not apologize for my family in the way I was raised but I will say it was wrong. We lived in a divided place due to ignorance and fear. I think my parents' generation was afraid of what they didn't know. Culturally there are many differences and they did not take the time to embrace those differences but instead tried to keep them away.
I started to change the moment I looked into my daughter's eyes 24 years ago. I had moved to North Carolina - to the great melting pot of Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. It was there I met many people from all walks of life who told me the words I used were wrong and hurtful - but I didn't understand until I looked into those little tiny eyes and realized I had a clean slate. I literally had the ability to write anything on that slate I wanted.
It was in the early morning hours I said to myself, "I am going to raise this precious little girl to look at people as people and not as a color." We never used the N word, ever. As a result, she is a great person who sees everyone as equal. I am very proud of her for never giving in to peer pressure to make fun of others and for having so many friend which span across all races and cultures.
I would like to say I am sorry for ever making fun of anyone from another race and for looking down on my friends who were able to cross those stupid invisible likes. This became so real to me when I saw a classmate right before the class reunion last year. When I asked if she was going, the bigoted spew that came from her mouth was revolting. I could not believe she still harbors such prejudice views of our world. I felt sorry for her and her friends who did not attend because we had FUN! I was so happy to see everyone!!
Our class has come together and we celebrate each other! I hope we stay close and hold each other up to make this place we live the best it can be because we are multi-cultural and better for it.
Terri Miller (*Mooney at the time)
Best Dancer 1985!!
Celebrate Good Times Come On!!