Alright, I had intended to say this back around election week and never got to it. But considering my recent post about MLK Day, which suggested that having school on this holiday makes our district “look like a bunch of racist redneck confederate-flag wielding Trump-supporters,” I feel like it’s time I mentioned this. The simple fact is that that I don’t know who you voted for, and my statement may have offended you. So in case it did, I would like to explain myself and why I find it so disheartening that this man is not president.
I know, in my heart, that not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a horrible racist person who thinks we should go back to segregation or put Muslims in concentration camps or something like that. And if you voted for him, and you have met people accusing you of being such a person, I am sorry. I am sorry on behalf of the hypocrites who are grouping every one together. I am trying very hard not to do that, but I admit, I sometimes find it difficult.
The truth is, a lot of people voted for President Trump for different reasons–healthcare, job security, beliefs on abortion or gun control, whatever. Heck, there may have been things that he said that I agreed with. (Actually, I’m pretty sure there were–because our education system is totally messed up.) But for me, this election came down to rhetoric, and President Trump could have agreed with me on every other topic. He could have said he plans to completely re-vamp education by all but eliminating standardized tests, making test companies more accountable for proving validity, and significantly raising teacher slaries in an attempt to follow the European models which have worked so well. But I still wouldn’t have voted for him. Because of his rhetoric. Because I’m an ESL teacher.
Every day, I walk in to work and I teach students who are immigrants, students who are the children of immigrants, students are migrants and the children of migrants, students whose families fled their homes because they were in danger, students whose families came to the United States in the hope of finding a good education and a living wage, students who are constantly faced with the simple fact that they don’t fit in. It is my job to help them fit in, to help them belong. And I do. And I care about these students. Immigration is not just job security for me. For many of my students, our town is the only place they know. Others are scared to return home because they lost family members in violence. Others come and go but are working toward attaining citizenship, or have already attained it. These are kids just like all the others, and they are scared.
I teach five grade levels, and my students range in age from 6 to 16. These are some things my students have to say about Donald Trump and the election:
“I don’t like Donald Trump. He’s mean.”
“He wants to kill us.”
“And enslave us.”
“We won’t get to see ______ again.”
“Does this mean I’ll have to go back to Mexico? I don’t want to go to school in Mexico. The school there is not good.”
And the ever present, “Who did you vote for?” Their eyes beg me to tell them that I think they belong.
And I tell them honestly, I did not vote for Donald Trump. And by doing this, I tell them that I have heard their fears. I tell them I am on their side, that I do not want anything bad to happen to them. I do not want them to have to abandon the lives they have grown used to living, leave behind their neighbors and friends and go to a world they may not remember or may not even know because they look different or speak different than I do. I tell them that I will do what I can to stand up for them because they are important to me.
If you voted for Trump, you probably didn’t do it because you think immigrants should be killed or enslaved. You may not have even done it because you think we need strong restrictions on immigrants. Maybe you did it because you think he’ll bring back jobs, or you’re afraid Clinton would take away your hunting rifle, or because you just wanted a change. But if you voted for him, you did nothing to stop the rhetoric.
These are the fears of American children. And you may say, “well he’s not going to do that,” but if you remember being a young person, you might remember that no matter how many times your parents told there was no monster under the bed or in the closet, you were still afraid. Your fear was still real. Well, this is their monster, and their fears are very real. So if you voted for Donald Trump, not because of, but despite his rhetoric, then you have to find a way to stand against it. And if, like me, you voted against him because of his rhetoric, you still have to find a way to still stand against it. If we don’t, we send a message that this rhetoric is perfectly acceptable, and those kids’ fears just might become realities.