Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Our Students are Terrified

Last night, I could only get a few hours of fitful sleep after staring at the ceiling and repeating the litany against fear.

Today, in my school, after a faculty meeting that felt like a group therapy session, I taught. I taught my students of color and my white students. I listened to the conversations they had with each other, and I tried to offer some peace and hope to them.

I don't know if I was successful.

Here are some things I heard today:

"Run fast, he's going to build the wall!" "Stupid, if you run, you'll be stuck on the other side."
"Can he actually build the wall? That's a joke, right?"
"Can he kick me out?"
"How long can I stay in the country?"
"RIP America."
"Can he take our rights away from us?"
"If Trump can make fun of people, why can't I?"
"If your president can curse, why can't I?"
"If I'm not here, it's because I got deported."
"If my grandmother has to leave the country, do I go with her?"
"When's the purge going to start?"
"How long before someone kills him?" "If they kill him, Pence becomes president." "Oh yeah, that's worse."
"He grabbed women. How come he can still be president?"
"He becomes president in January? My birthday is in January. He just ruined the whole month."
"Is it true that China's going to war with us because of what Trump said?"

I think that Clara Jeffrey of Mother Jones said it better than I can, but I feel terrified and energized, filled with nervous energy and a reminder of purpose. We have a long fight ahead of us. I couldn't answer most of my students' questions - and I don't even know if Trump could, as he seems to be just as cloudy about his policies - except by reminding them that we will find out, and we'll find out together, and we'll respond together.

I know of at least a half dozen students who cried in school today. One of them wrote this. She is young. She is afraid. She is not alone. She said I could share this. Minor edits made / details changed to protect her identity.

Donald Trump he worries me
My brother my friends and family
are they going to be deported or killed
I don't need my friends and family to leave me or die
because my Mom died when I was young
it was sad and tragic and I can't do this again.
Donald Trump scares me
he makes me cry in front of my friends
he is racist and sexist in so many ways
Joanna is Puerto Rican my brother is Black
does that mean they'll be deported back?
This is not happening
no I won't let it happen
I won't let it go
I don't like Trump or Clinton in fact
I don't really care but honestly
Donald Trump scares me
and I have a lot to say but not enough time now
so I guess good bye
before I cry again.
This is the voice of youth.

On the plus side...

I had multiple discussions with students about youth activism. I got to explain the branches of government a few more times. I was able to get students to talk to each other. I taught about the national debt, about gerrymandering, and began organizing a defunct anti-racism project. I had students explain the difference between atoms and molecules in three languages, a bunch of pictures, and two raps. I was reminded again and again how dedicated, caring, and hard-working my faculty is. 
I am reminded that Trump is one man, this is one moment, and there will be more humans and more moments. Half of the country, at least, knows what's up. Hopefully more.

Always further, never finished. 

1 comment:

  1. Your students aren't alone in how they feel. Lots of adults were feeling scared, worried, hopeless. Especially since yesterday, 9. November was the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the start of the pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany. Unless you are Native American, your family came to these shores as an immigrant. We are a nation of immigrants. The country was built by immmigrants. Maybe instead of defining ourselves by our heritage, we should think of ourselves as American. Our heritage defines us and should not be forgotten, but we must stand together as one. Not Italian-Americans (me), Hispanic-Americans, Black-Americans... Just Americans. On a recent visit to St. Mary's Cemetery in Milford, I was very moved by a memorial inscription of the Angorta Mor, The Great Hunger, the potato famine and emmigration in Ireland 1840s. "We have walked in your footsteps. We have seen your yesterday. We who came after you have realized your dreams of tomorrow. You endured and you prevailed through all of lifes trials in the old world and in the new." Our grandparents, great-grandparents, they came here to seek a better life. Some were brought against their will, but their hope was for a better tomorrow. We are their legacy. We keep the dream alive to make life better for our children. "Those that do not study history are doomed to repeat it." But even in the darkest times, there is hope, always hope. But what to do? Start in small ways and begin with ourselves. No more racial slurs at someone if one disagrees. No name calling or telling jokes even if no slur was meant. If we hear these things, we just can't stay silent. Silence is agreement. We need to stick up for one another. I don't have all the answers. I just know we are stronger when we stand together.