When the election results came out, I felt numb. Everyone I spoke to that morning felt numb. All of the anger, the sadness, the disappointment, and the disgust meshed to form this feeling. The numbness turned into a pit in my stomach, and every time I thought of the fact that Donald Trump will be our next president, I felt physically sick.
While Trump campaigned under the idea that these are the worst of times, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and other groups have faced much worse conditions in the past. There has been a tangible uptick in racist incidents in this country during the Obama presidency. There are racists in this country who have used Trump’s name while perpetrating acts of racist violence—whether burning down black churches, physically assaulting women wearing hijabs, or screaming anti-immigrant slurs at Latinos. These types of attacks are not new in American history, and surviving in such an environment and prospering despite racism is what has defined the resilience of minority groups. From that resilience, they know they are not what the racists say they are.
Children, however, have the most malleable minds. They are the most vulnerable, the most curious. They are the ones I’m most afraid for. Children are going to grow up seeing that the highest elected official in their country—someone that the American people chose to be in charge—is a racist bully. Black children are going to grow up being told to be respectful of the cops at all times and do whatever they say despite whether they did anything wrong, despite whether the cops disrespect them. Muslim children will grow up thinking that their president thinks that they are terrorists—little girls will be warned by their families that they cannot wear their hijab in public due to fear of attack or assault. They will grow up thinking wearing their hijab is wrong. Children of Latino immigrants will grow up thinking that their president considers their fathers rapists or drug dealers, and the rest of their family lazy, as they sit at home and wait for their parents to return after a 16 hour work day. All little girls in this country will grow up feeling like men have control over their bodies, and that sexual assault is not a big deal because the president says it’s okay.
These situations are not just speculation or mindless worry. The situations laid out above are real. They’re happening to my friends from high school who are worried to wear their hijab in public. They’re happening to my aunt’s second grade students, one of whom asked if her parents were going to get deported. It’s happening to the sons of a gay family friend who woke up after the election and asked if his daddies were going to have to get divorced. So many children in this country will grow up thinking that they’re inferior. They will be surrounded by an atmosphere of recrimination that they are considered as lesser than others and feel helpless to do anything about it. They will grow up to feel that they are considered lesser and feel helpless to do anything about it. They will grow up knowing that the country they grew up in, that they work in, that they contribute towards, thinks of them as unworthy to be here.
When I was in sixth grade, and President Obama was elected and he taught me to hope. He taught me that it was never the end—with hope comes change and a better tomorrow. While that message still stands true, it has gotten beaten down again and again throughout the years of his presidency. But hope is not enough. Saying everything will be alright is not enough. Getting angry is a start, but it’s not enough. Take action. If you have privilege, use it for good, for change. Donate to services that will get defunded, like Planned Parenthood. Volunteer at places that help human beings in this unprecedented change. Don’t just hope.