If I could describe my mental state following the election in one word, I’d choose “scattered”. At first, there was a lot of crying, a lot of despair, a lot of hiding under the covers. As I slowly crept back towards a somewhat functional state, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to act and to resist all that a Trump presidency represents: racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, elitism. I felt responsible as a white, straight, cisgender woman with class privilege to buck up and do something and do something fast.
I was soon scattered in a million different directions trying to determine my best course of action. Divest. Donate. Protest. Boycott. Call government officials. Be loud. Listen more. Be in community with like-minded people. Be in community with friends and family with different ideologies. Engage. Disengage. Challenge. Give space.
There are so many ways to respond to Trump’s election, and I’m pretty much trying to do them all at once. It’s only been three weeks since 11/9 and I’m overwhelmed and frustrated that no clear path has revealed itself to me as THE righteous way forward. Multiple truths abound, there is so much need and it’s hard to sit in a place without clarity when I feel such a sense of urgency.
As I’ve struggled with how to be most effective in the days following the election, I must admit I’ve also struggled to stay present for my kids. To say I’ve been distracted as a parent is perhaps the understatement of the year. My phone is always in hand, my thumb constantly refreshing Facebook and Twitter so I can bear witness in real-time to the next atrocious cabinet appointment, to the latest horrific act of harassment, brutality or vandalism, to the newest ridiculous tweet from our future commander-in-chief.
But last night, my four-year-old son reminded me that while I may be scattered around what actions to take as an individual, my strategy as a parent is crystal clear: to raise big-hearted children who are racially and socially conscious. This was true before the election. This remains true now.
My son was getting ready for bed and I asked him to pick out two books for us to read together. He chose I am Jazz and Full, Full, Full of Love. I Am Jazz tells the true story of a transgender child’s path towards claiming her true gender identity. Full, Full, Full of Love tells the story of Jay Jay, a Black child who spends every Sunday at his Grannie’s house for a family dinner.
My son asked to read I Am Jazz first. When we got to the part where Jazz is teased by some of her classmates, my son interrupted and said, “that’s not very nice.”
“No, it’s not,” I responded. “What would you do if you heard Jazz being teased?”
“I’d say, I don’t like that. We should be nice to each other!” I nodded in approval.
“It’s okay to be different from other kids,” I reminded him. “In this case, Jazz is different because she is transgender but like her mommy says, being different is cool! Her parents and her friends love Jazz for who she is.” My son said, “yea, they love her no matter what.”
As we read Full, Full, Full of Love I took the opportunity to name race with my son. In our family, we name race openly and often. We are not raising our children to be colorblind, as research supports pretending race doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter in our society actually perpetuates racism.
My son noticed that everyone in Jay Jay’s family had brown skin and that in our family, we all have peachy skin. I agreed and said, “yes, everyone in our family happens to be white. Jay Jay’s family might identify as Black.” I then asked him what he thought our family had in common with Jay Jay’s family. “We all like to eat!” he said, laughing. “That’s true,” I giggled.
We finished our books and I tucked my son in. For the first time in many weeks, I felt really present and I felt filled with hope. Our seemingly small interaction hammered home the awesome opportunity and responsibility I have as a white parent with many privileges to raise kids who recognize and value differences instead of fear them. Teaching my children to have compassion and empathy, to understand privilege and power and to be advocates for themselves and for others is one way I can resist Trump’s hate-filled platform.
So how do I do this? What tools exist to help me raise racially and socially conscious children that are developmentally appropriate? As my son reminded me, the books in my kids’ library matter – I must make sure to include titles that embrace a multitude of perspectives around race, gender, religion, class and sexual preference in age appropriate ways. The toys on my kids’ shelves matter – I must make sure the diversity of the world can be reflected in their play. The friendships and experiences we cultivate for our children matter – the parks we visit, the activities we participate in, the families we spend time with all must expand my kids’ worldview beyond what’s true for our family.
This is all a work in progress. I am in a work in progress. I get guidance, education and inspiration from organizations like Raising Race Conscious Children, Raising an Advocate, EmbraceRace, Charis Books & More, My Reflection Matters, WeStories, Showing Up For Racial Justice Families and more. Building community with like-minded parents has been crucial for me in order to hold myself accountable as well as feel less isolated. I cultivate strength and solidarity working alongside other parents who are striving to raise kids who embrace differences and combat injustice.
When I think about all the various actions I need to take to resist and reject Trump’s agenda as an individual, I remain somewhat scattered. When I think about the actions I can take to resist and reject Trump’s agenda as a parent, however, I feel laser focused. I feel powerful.
The work we do in our families is the ultimate grassroots organizing. I thank my friend, Beth-Ann, for naming this for me. I hold this truth closer than ever before and it’s in this spirit that I move forward in resistance of hate and bigotry.