Full disclosure: I can be a vitriolic writer. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Thanks to a potent cocktail of bearing witness to insane levels of stupidity coupled with my own laziness, I’m often a profane, sarcastic asshole making futile attempts to hammer home the central truth/ridiculousness of an issue. For example, how Republicans have demonstrated a bottomless capacity for elevating violent and/or racist degenerates to positions of power as long as they vote for tax cuts for the rich. For Chrissakes, we’re learning that Trump essentially stole money from kids with cancer, on top of the ever-growing mountain of shit pouring out of his administration, and there’s barely a peep coming from Republican corners. Screw shooting somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue – which now, somehow, hearkens back to a quaint, more innocent age – Trump pocketed money meant for cancer kids.
Is he Satan? Actual fucking Satan?
But I’m getting away from the point. Despite my cantankerous online ways, I make it a point to keep those discussions walled off from my kids. Grade schoolers shouldn’t be burdened with staring into the depressing abyss of politics, and they especially shouldn’t be exposed to rhetoric that they’re not equipped to handle. From either side. Also, I’ll never forget the awkwardness when I found out that my best friend’s family was voting for Bill Clinton instead of George H.W. Bush, which I just assumed all “good” people were doing thanks to my evangelical upbringing. I’m pretty sure 12-year-old me said, “But Bill Clinton kills babies,” so thanks, pro-life movement.
That said, I did have one discussion with my son leading up to the 2016 election. He had read in his Scholastic News that Trump wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, so he asked me if that was really true because it didn’t make any sense. I carefully told him that, yes, it’s true, and then I asked him what he thought about that. What he said floored me.
“But making friends with everybody is what life is all about.”
Here was a little boy telegraphing the thing he worries about the most in this world: Making friends. So I’ve already taken one in the feels right out of the gate, and now I have to explain to him why a grown-up would impede something so basic and pure because of what country somebody was born in. Clearly, I’m not going to say, “Well, son, obviously Donald Trump is a racist,” and run the risk of him repeating that at school. Instead, I went an almost equally as stupid route.
“Don’t worry, buddy. It’s not going to happen. Hillary Clinton’s probably going to win.”
Idiot. Goddamn idiot.
Needless to say, Hillary didn’t win. So not only did I walk my son right smack into the wall of finding out his old man doesn’t know what he’s talking about (I thought I had a bit more time on that one.), but like an asshole, I’d needlessly slapped him on a partisan team that just took a stunning loss. And now he had to go to school feeling very confused about what the hell just happened to his world. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only idiot parent who placed their child on a team. Except those parents not only chose the winning side, but they armed their munchkins with all of the required rhetoric. And that’s when I knew this election was the start of some shit.
When my wife brought my son home that day, she told me he was upset because kids at school were saying they were glad Trump won because “Hillary Clinton is a criminal who belongs in jail.” And while my son didn’t say anything, he didn’t understand why his dad would want a criminal to win.
Granted, that’s an extremely mild example of the fallout from Trump’s win. But two days after the election, students in York, Pa., not far from where we live, were reportedly yelling “white power” in the halls while holding Trump signs. And from there the instances of Trump-related hate crimes and incidents at schools began. Like someone had ripped a Band-Aid off of a dam that was waiting to explode after eight years of Obama.
And it didn’t just magically go away.
In a must-read report, Buzzfeed teamed up with the Documenting Hate project to investigate the rash of Trump-inspired bullying that continues to affect schools across the country. It is as sickening as it is maddening.
On a school bus in San Antonio, Texas, a white eighth-grader said to a Filipino classmate, “You are going to be deported.” In a classroom in Brea, California, a white eighth-grader told a black classmate, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong.” In the hallway of a high school in San Mateo County, California, a white student told two biracial girls to “go back home to whatever country you’re from.” In Louisville, Kentucky, a third-grade boy chased a Latina girl around the classroom shouting “Build the wall!” In a stadium parking lot in Jacksonville, Florida, after a high school football game, white students chanted at black students from the opposing school: “Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The problem has also become a minefield for educators and school boards because, not surprisingly, parents don’t see the problem or else their kids wouldn’t be parroting rhetoric they’ve picked up at home. Some even argued that the schools were suppressing political speech.
The same argument emerged in May when a high school in North Carolina confiscated yearbooks after administrators discovered that one student’s senior quote was “Build that wall.” A message on the district’s Facebook page called the quote “inappropriate.” Hundreds of people left comments, mostly criticizing the decision:
“This is a violation of the student’s rights!!!”
“What is so ‘racist’ about the quote?”
“Quoting the POTUS is never inappropriate!”
I often hear people optimistically saying that once an older generation or two dies off, we’ll see greater improvements on racism and bigotry (Read: less conservative thought) in America. But clearly there’s a whole generation of assholes being grown right in front of our faces, and they seem to be more brazen than ever, which The Advocate pointed out back in April.
Still, the change in thinking and ideology is not happening fast enough, but the idea of “waiting for them to die off” is wrong-headed. Firstly, because as we have seen in the recent presidential election, new bigots are born every day. There’s no shortage of #MAGA hashtags and Pepe the Frogs being produced by young people who are more brazen in their bigotry than at any point in my lifetime. Bigotry and its marriage with conservativism isn’t going away, because our world keeps producing new racists and homophobes; you can partly blame our nation’s disinterest in proper education.
So what can we do? If you have kids in school, be vocal and let administrators know that you support their efforts in maintaining a safe learning environment. Show them you have their back. And if they’re not stepping up, get on their asses. It shouldn’t be a controversial statement that kids need to feel safe at school, but thanks to the Family Values party, it’s apparently perfectly okay for minority children to live in constant fear of racial slurs or being torn away from their parents. Which is what happens when you build a political movement on such Christ-like virtues as “Fuck Your Feelings.”
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I want my country back?