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Stopping the virus of hate

April 14, 2021     By Father Steven Boes, President and National Executive Director, Boys Town

Boys Town, Boys Town History, Father Flanagan, Village of Boys Town


“It costs so little to teach a child to love, and so much to teach him to hate."
- Father Flanagan

During the past year, the pandemic has forced all of us to make sacrifices and change how we live. But for some, the stress has been magnified by an additional threat: coronavirus-inspired racism.

Dehumanizing rhetoric, acts of intimidation and violent assaults have targeted Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Thousands of incidents of harassment have been reported since the start of the pandemic. This is the cost of hate. 

Sadly, our nation has an ugly history of racial scapegoating. In 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which led to the creation of Japanese American internment camps.

Prejudice and hysteria created a situation where more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced from their homes and incarcerated. Others who voluntarily moved from “restricted" areas faced hatred and racist resentment in their new communities.

Such ugliness was all too familiar to Father Flanagan.

Boys Town was the target of condemnation and threats for daring to welcome children of every color and faith. Despite the prevailing social pressures and attitudes of the era, Father Flanagan never bowed to the bigotry. He stood against all forms of discrimination.

Recognizing the injustice faced by his fellow citizens, Father Flanagan responded with charity and love. During the war, he sponsored approximately 200 Japanese Americans, finding them jobs or helping them relocate. Those who stayed at Boys Town were able to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, working as barbers, drivers, typists and gardeners.

Just as he had provided countless orphaned and abandoned children a loving home, Father Flanagan gave shelter and dignity to those who had lost everything because of racism and bigotry. In an environment of cruelty and discrimination, Boys Town was a beacon of tolerance and inclusion. It is from that history that we can draw strength and inspiration now.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently, “We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love." As parents and caregivers, let's commit ourselves to investing in love by building solidarity within our families and communities and by modeling compassion and kindness to our children rather than indifference and intolerance. 

Today, I humbly ask you again to join with me to #TeachLove and make a commitment to promote tolerance, respect and equality. Together, let us harness the power of the words and actions of Dr. King and Father Flanagan to build a more welcoming, just and inclusive community for all.         

Teaching love is teaching acceptance, practicing forgiveness and loving our brothers and sisters who are made uniquely in God's image. But that is much easier said than done. We must do the work and put in the time to raise children who are culturally sensitive and free of prejudice. As part of that effort, I encourage you to sign up for this free four-week diversity email series​. In addition, you can find expert advice and practical strategies in this special Parenting Guide to Diversity and Inclusion. These resources are both enlightening and empowering.  

With your support, help and prayers, we can once again set an example for our nation and amplify a message of love and acceptance to all those marginalized and victimized by bigotry.

Together, we can stop the virus of hate.

God's Blessings,
Father Steven Boes, National Executive Director​


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