The sky is red. It’s obviously red. Everybody knows the sky is red, and nothing you can say will change my mind.

When you stop and think about it, doesn't it seem weird that there aren’t more kids out there claiming that the sky is red? In fact, have you ever heard anyone claim with any degree of seriousness that the sky is red 100% of the time? Hell, have you ever even heard someone claim it as a joke?

I mean, I guess it’s not that hard to imagine. Kids just… don’t say the sky is red. From early in preschool, when they’re first learning their colors, they can see the sky is blue. Maybe someone will tell them once or twice that the sky is blue as a way of teaching them the color, but then it never comes up again. They figure out the color of the sky, and they spend the rest of their lives agreeing with the idea. It’s a non-issue.

Thinking back on it, I don’t think my parents ever told me the sky was blue, simply because it was a non-issue. They knew I could see the sky for myself, and I knew my colors, so it wasn’t important to reiterate. It never would have occurred to me to call the sky red because frankly, it’s not, so why would I?

Yesterday, in my neighborhood, the home of a black family was vandalized with ‘the n-word’, a word so odious and layered with history that we refer to it as an abbreviation and not even the word itself. The perpetrator was found (caught, incidentally, bragging about what he had done) and immediately, the neighborhood jumped to the defense of the child, saying that he came from a good family with good, strong values and that he made a mistake.

I agree that he made a mistake, absolutely. But I’d like to question the rest of the assumptions.

See, I grew up with a good family, and with good, strong values. And I can honestly say that it never occurred to me — and still hasn’t — to disparage someone of a different race with a racial insult. It wasn’t a temptation, or an idea, because it just wasn’t considered. It was like claiming the sky was red. It would have never crossed my mind.

There’s two ways of learning something: by being taught something, or by experiencing something for yourself. So my question becomes, which one of those things didn’t happen, and did it not happen on purpose?

I don’t know this family (literally — I don’t know who wrote the racial slur) so I’m going to assume that they’re good, upstanding people whose child made a terrible mistake. But that means that somewhere along the line, something failed with this kid.

We learn in one of two ways: either by being taught, or experiencing something for ourselves. And if a young person thought that writing a racial slur on the property of a racial minority was even an option (either as an insult, a terrible joke, or a complete lapse of all higher level thinking)