For Those Who Are Not Ok

This post was also featured on Patheos’ Unfundamentalist Christians blog.

Well.

Donald Trump has been elected the next president of the United States.

How is that sitting with you today?

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image via pixabay.com

As regular readers know, I teach ESL to 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at an “inner city” elementary school in Atlanta. My 45 students are all Latino but one, primarily 2nd generation Mexican-Americans. And this week has been, by far, the worst since I began teaching seven years ago.

I’m not sure which was the worst moment this week:

  1. On Wednesday, when 2nd graders who can barely speak English asked me why Donald Trump and other white people in America don’t like them, and one boy said brightly, “Mrs. Love, I’m white too, look!” as he held his arm up next to mine to compare our skin colors.
  2. On Wednesday, when my 5th graders asked me very detailed questions about when and how their parents (and possibly they themselves) would be deported. “How do we get papers for our parents? Is it too late now?” “What do we do when the police come to our house? Do we try to hide or…?”
  3. When I tried to offer reassurance that everything would be ok, these same students said, “You keep saying it’s going to be ok but it won’t be. It will be ok for you, but not for us.” And they are right.
  4. On Thursday, when multiple 4th graders told me their families were planning to preemptively move back to Mexico or Honduras before January 2oth. These are places these children have never known except through brief visits, if that.

As a reminder if you’ve been living under a rock, Donald Trump has promised to deport anywhere from 2 to 11 million illegal immigrants, and has said that citizen children of illegal immigrants could also be deported. Don’t believe he said this? Look here and here.

Every single one of my students is a U.S. citizen. Though I do not know the details, I suspect that some/many/most of their parents may not be. (Do you see how the upcoming Trump presidency is already making me scared to be definitive in writing?)

What I am hearing from my children is twofold: 1) We are scared of Donald Trump and what he wants to do to our families and 2) We are shocked that people in America, the only home we have ever known, are ok with this happening to us.

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image via pixabay.com

It is worth noting that I suspect my students haven’t encountered much racism in their lives up to this point. This part of Atlanta is overwhelming inhabited by people of color, and I had already guessed that that I was one of the only white people these children have known in real life. (Read more about that here.) Our school has two white students in it and three white teachers, including me. So this feeling of being an outsider in the place that is their home is entirely new for these children, and strange.

I watched the election returns in horror on Tuesday night. I will never forget the feeling of what a horrible, awful shock that night was – like a punch to the gut. I thought about *Maria, my 3rd grader who was so excited at the prospect of a woman president. I teach sheltered content 3rd grade Social Studies to Maria’s group, and our current unit happens to be on democracy and the three branches of government. Maria always draws a woman when asked to draw a picture of the Executive Branch. I thought about how disappointed she would be.

The nausea stayed with me for the rest of the week until about Friday afternoon. I had a hard time eating and sleeping. Wednesday was particularly bad. I cried off and on throughout the day.

And why was that? I know not everyone gets it. I’m seeing a lot of complaining on Facebook from conservative friends about “whiny safe-space liberals” and people being overdramatic. Even my husband, who is basically apolitical, bless him, encouraged me to try to relax and not tear myself up prematurely over something that hasn’t happened yet. I appreciate that.

But this is my response to those who can’t or choose not to understand why people are upset: If you have nothing to fear you don’t get to say that everything will be ok. Like my student said, we know everything will be ok for YOU. That’s not the point.

As a side note, I continue to be embarrassed by many of my fellow evangelical Christians, who overwhelmingly supported Trump. I just don’t get it. If a presidential candidate’s racism, sexism, misogyny and xenophobia are minor character flaws that you are able to look past, you are a) very privileged indeed and b) not at all looking out for the least of these as we are called in the Bible.

(Feel free to rail at me about how abortion is the worst evil our country has ever known. I am pro-life, for what it’s worth.)

So now what? That’s what I’ve been pondering since Tuesday night. I will be an ally. I will advocate for my students, their families, and the millions of others like them across this country. I will speak for them. I will write for them, starting with writing to my Senators and Congressmen this week. I will get more politically involved. I will be all in.

I will also hope and pray that everything will be ok, because I have this luxury. But I will work on behalf of those who fear things won’t ever be ok again.

*Name has been changed.

 

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10 thoughts on “For Those Who Are Not Ok

  1. This is so sad … I read this on UnfundamentalistChristians and found your website. They also published one I wrote back in January called “What’s an Evangelical Voting Bloc?” and I added a comment today because my Evangelical Christian family voted for him and I am not sure what I’m going to say to them when we get together after Thanksgiving. I KNOW why they say they voted for Trump but I think it goes deeper than that. I’m saddened and appalled. I am glad that your kiddos have a teacher like you who will listen to their fears and let them know there are a lot of us who are standing up for them. (Do you know about the safety pins?)

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    • Hi, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’ve been so sickened by this turn of events, and what it has revealed about many Evangelicals’ priorities. Thanks for the encouragement. 😊. Blessings to you today.

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  2. Hey Holly,
    It’s refreshing to read your articulate account of last week… I faced the kids at breakfast on Wednesday a.m. and encountered much fear and uncertainty. In fact, it took me a few minutes to get out of my truck – I broke down and sobbed as I pulled up to our school. (I texted a friend, “how do I walk into my Title I school with my white self?”)
    I spent the a.m. calming the kids with the idea that Obama is our president through the holidays… I too plan to continue social justice aspiring ally path; to talk to other white people & challenge govt. (I marched against HB 87 and will mobilize again). I will comfort my students and try to instill confidence, resilience, and hope for their futures. Through all of this I will be grateful to know you are down the hall making a difference with the kindness and love you show our wonderful students every day. You rock!

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  3. Hi Jesse,
    Thanks for reading and commenting. What a hard time this is for our students, and for us as teachers to a lesser extent. I’m struggling right now with how to answer students’ questions honestly while helping them remain hopeful. However, I feel like our school is exactly where I need to be right now to help our students make sense of all this. Thanks for your support and the ways you help our kiddos!

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