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An Open Letter to Demetrious Johnson

Dear Mr. Johnson,

As the father of a young lady myself, I understand why you became angry when you learned that your daughter had been intimidated and verbally abused by an older boy on the school bus, especially because his taunts involved a nasty racial epithet.

There is no difference between you and I, or my daughter and your daughter, in the eyes of God, Mr. Johnson. As Paul told the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

However, it seems to me that you aren’t interested in seeing justice done here. You’re exploiting this situation, but beats me if I can see what you want out of this.

There is no question that the ten-year-old boy who called your daughter a n—– deserved to be punished. And he was–he was suspended from the school bus for a week, ordered to sit directly behind the driver when he returned, and he has to meet with a counselor for “sensitivity training.” He had to deliver a hand-written apology to your daughter, which I understand he did.

For a ten-year-old with no prior record of misbehavior, this seems fair.

But I see in the news today that you’ve filed a class complaint against the Parkway School District, charging it with race discrimination. This action that could lead to the loss of federal funding for the schools in our area. Is that really what you want?

Parkway’s interim superintendant has said that he’s called and sent certified mail requesting a meeting with you. He apologized publicly this week. An advisory panel of parents, teachers, and administrators has been appointed to review the district’s policies on discrimination.

But instead of responding to him, you organized a protest march of 75 people at the house of our school board president. Flyers with the superintendant’s picture have been distributed that accuse him of supporting “KKK practices” against you.

Against you? I thought your daughter was the one on that bus.

That’s what bothers me, Mr. Johnson. This isn’t about your daughter. It never was. It’s about you.

That’s why this incident was on TV and in the local newspaper less than 48 hours after it happened. That’s why the story has been kept alive in the local media for three weeks. That’s why you equate the superintendant with white-sheeted lynch mobs of the old South.

Please, Mr. Johnson. West Saint Louis County isn’t exactly “Mississippi Burning”. You’ve lived here for 15 years. You know this.

The incident on the bus was ugly and should never have happened. I am truly sorry that your daughter was victimized in that way. I pray that our daughters’ generation can put aside the hatred that has burned between Americans of European and African descent for far too many years.

But the bottom line is this: The boy was disciplined. He apologized. The superintendant has apologized. He might even do it to your face if you’d give him the chance.

The time has come for you to be a man and forgive.

That’s more difficult than continuing to hate, Mr. Johnson, but as one who escaped the Darst-Webbe housing project and went on to a successful career in college and professional football, I have no doubt that you possess the courage and inner strength to do the right thing.

I see that Rev. Phillip Duvall is advising and assisting you in your action against our school district. Maybe he can you show the chapter and verse where Jesus said, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

In Christ,

Derek Gilbert

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