I cried myself to sleep in the early hours of this day. Terrified. Exasperated. Demoralized. How could this country have lost its moral compass? What will happen to our children? How could we possibly live within a reality TV show? My only comfort was the unquestioning love of my dog who had no idea what was wrong with me. But she loved me.
Those friends who were awake at 2am were silent. I’m sure they were as numb and despairing. But a series things happened that stirred something in the depths of my sorrow.
- I remembered the hope and joy I felt early in the evening when I held the infant son of friends. That’s when the tears came. Remembering that innocent face, I thought of the potential bigotry that this tiny bundle could face because of his brown skin and the venom of hatred that had just been legitimized by this election.
- A young mother posting on Facebook during these dark hours asked, “How do I explain this to my children? You tell your kids don’t be a bully or a bigot. You tell your kids do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome.”
At this point I could have buried my head in the blankets and sobbed into oblivion but hope and direction also came from a FaceBook post.
A Huffington Post article written by Ali Michael, Ph.D. (Shared at the end of my post) gave me a direction and sense of purpose.
Our children need us, all of us, now more than ever!
I share with you my pledge.
I will honor the results of this election because I believe in our process. But I will be MUCH more vocal in the fight against bigotry.
I will speak up! Silence is dangerous. Silence has brought us to this dangerous precipice. I will work to help our children learn to speak up, to love, to live with diverse and sometimes conflicting ideologies. I will fight hate with kindness and understanding.
At my age, I cannot endure the possibility of my life ending in a country so filled with divisiveness, fear, and bigotry. I will help to create hope and understanding.
Today I need to put one foot in front of the other and move forward, as though I lived in a country united and welcoming to all.
Please, join me. Help teach our children. A better place can come from this darkness.
What Do We Tell The Children?
Ali Michael, Ph.D, Teacher, educator, consultant, writer, filmmaker
“What should I say to my students after the election if Trump wins?” a principal asked me recently. Good question. What should we tell our children?
Tell them, first, that we will protect them. Tell them that we have democratic processes in the U.S. that make it impossible for one mean person to do too much damage. Tell them that we will protect those democratic processes ― and we will use them ― so that Trump is unable to act on many of the false promises he made during his campaign.
Tell them, second, that you will honor the outcome of the election, but that you will fight bigotry. Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school. Tell them you stand by your Muslim families. Your same-sex parent families. Your gay students. Your Black families. Your female students. Your Mexican families. Your disabled students. Your immigrant families. Your trans students. Your Native students. Tell them you won’t let anyone hurt them or deport them or threaten them without having to contend with you first. Say that you will stand united as a school community, and that you will protect one another. Say that silence is dangerous, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong. Then teach them how to speak up, how to love one another, how to understand each other, how to solve conflicts, how to live with diverse and sometimes conflicting ideologies, and give them the skills to enter a world that doesn’t know how to do this.
Tell them that we will protect those democratic processes ― and we will use them ― so that Trump is unable to act on many of the false promises he made during his campaign.
Teach them, third, how to be responsible members of a civic society. Teach them how to engage in discussion—not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of understanding and being understood. Students need to learn how to check facts, to weigh news sources, to question taken-for-granted assumptions, to see their own biases, to take feedback, to challenge one another. We need to teach students how to disagree—with love and respect. These skills will be priceless in the coming months and years as we work to build a democratic society that protects the rights of all people ― regardless of the cooperation or resistance those efforts face from the executive branch.
In the aftermath of this traumatic election, I hesitate to even exercise my voice in this way. In the past year, I received hate mail and a death threat from white supremacists for blog posts like this.
Finally, remind them ― to ease their minds ― that not everyone who voted for Donald Trump did so because they believe the bigoted things that he has said this year. Many of them voted for him because they feel frustrated with the economy, they feel socially left behind, and they are exercising the one power they have. We need to challenge Trump and his supporters to differentiate between their fears and the bigotry catalyzed by those fears.
In the aftermath of this traumatic election, I hesitate to even exercise my voice in this way. In the past year, I received hate mail and a death threat from white supremacists for blog posts like this ― blog posts that are, let’s be honest, fairly insignificant expressions of personal opinion from a person with very little power. I am not a threat. And yet people have threatened me ― and my family ― for expressing my view that we should build a world in which all human beings can live freely in the wholeness of their identities. I fear that this kind of intimidation will only increase in the event of a Trump victory. I fear that it will worsen tomorrow ― as soon as I hit send ― if Trump supporters are emboldened in their aggression towards people with whom they disagree. And yet the only thing that makes me feel safe in this moment ― as I stare into the face of a possible Trump victory ― is to speak up and speak out, and to invite others to do the same.