I have experienced so many emotions since learning that 25.5% of this country voted to elect Donald Trump as the next president of our country. Mad, angry, shocked, frustrated, betrayed, scared, and worried are just a few of the feelings that have flooded me. As an educator and a student of human emotion, I understand that love is the only answer to all the issues that this country is facing.
This is why I choose love, but there are things that we need to discuss. Love does not involve blindly accepting what is given to you. Love means questioning and exposing things that need addressing. Love requires us to feel uncomfortable and to take risks to better ourselves. Tough love is an absolute necessity if we are going to move forward and obtain any kind of peace.
Before you read on, I need you to recognize that you might not be ready for the kind of love that I am going to dish out. Real love requires brutal honesty and a step outside of the very comfortable confines of the realities that we have created for ourselves. I ask that you proceed with an open-mind and recognize that this entire piece is grounded in nothing but love for my fellow human. If we are going to continue moving this country forward, we need everyone to embrace love and stand together.
First, we need to acknowledge something. I do not think that everyone who voted for Trump share the intolerant and bigoted views as our president-elect. But if you did vote for him, surely you were aware of the attitudes that he has shared over and over about those who are not white heterosexual men. If you supported him in spite of his hateful rhetoric on Election Day, what does that mean?
It means that you are complicit in the bigotry that numerous others do share with this individual. His words have incited and empowered deep-rooted hatred among his most intolerant supporters. Your support and assistance in his victory has enabled them to commit acts that are more deplorable than everything said during the election cycle. The first step in moving forward is acknowledging that you have played a role in the violence and begin to explore ways to make a positive difference.
I am tired of people saying that the violence and hatred have existed long before Trump was elected. Your refusal to recognize the connection of these events with the approval of them from our next president makes you an unspoken supporter of the violence. Clearly, there have always been issues, but in my 31 years on this planet, I have not witnessed a week of intolerance and bigotry as we have experienced this past week. There is a reason for this.
If you want us to believe that you do not condone these actions and do not feel the same way, speak out against it. I have seen very few Trump supporters, including our future president, stand up against this violence and hatred. Instead, I hear calls to “get over it”, “give him a chance”, or that “we need to work together”. You have no right to tell your fellow human how they should think and feel. If you are not privy to their lives and are not a part of these victimized groups, you cannot fathom what they are experiencing.
With that being said, please stop equating your experiences with instances of intolerance to lifetimes of it. Have you experienced negativity a few times because of the color of your skin, your religious views, or something else that you cannot control? That is unfortunate, it really is. But it pales in comparison to an entire life of being judged and ostracized as a part of the minority population in this country. Stop acting like you understand because you don’t and, quite frankly, you are embarrassing yourself while delegitimizing their struggles and experiences.
The past week has been incredibly difficult for a lot of people. There is a genuine, justifiable fear for the safety and well-being of people and their families. I have seen it in my students, my co-workers, and my friends and family. There have been acts of violence, discrimination, and intimidation directed at our Black, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ brothers and sisters, women, and all who are not part of the majority. We have seen it in our schools, our colleges, our streets, our neighborhoods, our stores, and many other places. This is our problem and it is up to all of us to fix it.
We all have a role to play in exposing and defeating the hatred that we are seeing in our nation. The first step is to take a stand and say you will not sit by idly while this is happening to our brothers and sisters. When you see it on social media, share it and talk about it. When you see intolerance and violence occurring, support the victims and stand up against the oppressor (if safe to do so). These are things that everyone can do, in some way, shape, or form.
To all those in our schools, your roles in this post-election environment are more important now than ever. We must work with our students and each other to discuss these issues flamed by intolerance based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religious views. Change always starts on the frontlines and the schools will be at the forefront of this revolution.
To my school administrators, please do not diminish the impact that this election cycle may have had on your schools. As cultural leaders, we need to keep our eyes open and ears listening to what is occurring in our buildings. Take the time to speak to your staff and students and allow them to express their feelings. Over the last week, we have had so many issues of intolerance and hatred take place in our schools. We must teach our students how their actions impact those around them. Hold assemblies or smaller class meetings, but be invested in the feelings and experiences of your school population.
To my teachers, please do not close your classroom off to discussion and conversation. Instead, take the time to embrace the feelings and fears of your students. Depending on the environment where you educate, the conversations will differ. What will be the same is the genuine need for love and caring that all of your students need. Create safe places, allow students to share what they are feeling, stay silent and give the room to the students, encourage tough conversations, and be a guiding light in what is a dark time for a lot of them. Lesson plans can wait, but tending to the emotional well-being of our students cannot.
To my students, please do not fall victim to the rhetoric that you have heard from your future president over the last year. We are all members of the same race, the human race, so please remember that. You are the future of this country. You have the power to create lasting change in this world. Whenever you feel powerless, know that you have more power than you could ever imagine. Be open and appreciative of each other and work together to create positive change in your worlds. The future lies in your hands, so fight to make it a place that is safe and welcoming for everyone.
Creating change is never easy. There have been countless people fighting for equality and equity for years in this country. Some of us are showing up late to this party, but showing up is the first step. At this point, it doesn’t really matter who you voted for. We must stand up together and proclaim that this violence, hatred, bigotry, and intolerance has no place in America. We will continue to make America great by choosing love to help us lead and mold our future.