The country in which I live is reeling from an unprecedented and divisive Presidential election. Are we going to drown in the wake of hatred that threatens to overcome our land? I beg you to be kind to one another. Now, maybe more than ever, we desperately need it.
There are people in the United States and beyond who are hurting and afraid. This includes religious and ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, or even anyone who has felt different or mocked or had their rights oppressed. Many of them are feeling vulnerable, and those feelings should not be dismissed. Even if your vote was different from theirs I would encourage you to treat them with compassion and respect and make an attempt to understand their concerns.
When the pinnacle of a country’s power is attained by a person who openly acts unkind (I can make a list of examples, I just choose not to) it makes you wonder if the people in that country value kindness. For any of us who have ever been discriminated against or felt “other”-ed by those with power, it makes us sad and uncomfortable.
We are not just afraid because of who won the election, we are also afraid of how we will be treated by those we encounter in day-to-day life. Judging by accounts I have read it is apparent those fears are valid.
Story after story has emerged of individuals being subjected to hateful treatment by their fellow human beings, and it began even before the final votes were tallied.
Earlier in the week a young man in a wheelchair attended a Trump rally to protest, saying “I wanted to go because Donald J. Trump made fun of disabled people.” The Washington Post reports that as he and his Mother were escorted out, “Trump supporters near them started pushing her son’s wheelchair, and calling her a ‘child abuser’ and telling others to ‘grab her p—y’.”
As a mother and a member of the disability community this horrifies me. Did his choice to exercise his right to make a peaceful protest warrant such treatment?
Stories are pouring in. They run the gamut of intensity from snide, insulting comments, all the way to physical violence and destruction of property. Many of the stories are directly connected to people I know or their friends.
A friend of my sister shared that the day of the election one of her children’s black classmates was asked by another student, “Are you packed yet?”
Jennifer Boyle, an extended family member who teaches in a Denver public school, shared this disturbing encounter endured by one of her students:
“A, a 16 year-old black female, told me she was spit on this morning by a white male Trump supporter on her walk to school. After he spit on her he ripped the Hillary sticker off her backpack. No bystander, of which there were many, intervened”.
Jennifer also wrote of the myriad of emotions experienced by her students the morning after the election:
“As I walked through the double-doors of my school students greeted me with hugs and tears. Several came to me for answers (there are none) this morning about how someone who used hateful and divisive rhetoric became president-elect in the early morning hours. Others came in because they needed to feel heard and needed to feel safe.
G, a 16 year-old Latina, came to me in hysterics worried about the safety of her family.
P, quietly cried for 90 minutes straight during my planning period.”
(Jennifer and other teachers are quoted in this Chalkbeat article.)
Emily McCloud, another extended family member, is a teacher in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. The vast majority of her students are minorities, and she had this to say:
When I greeted kids with “how was your weekend?”, they responded with worries, heads on their desks, or tears in their eyes. My Principal has had to send 2 staff emails today to try to support the school.
As my colleague said today: “I don’t know how I’m supposed to stand in front of a room full of students and try to teach math when all they’re thinking about is their safety, their family packing up to leave, or how a country that they’ve come to for hope and a future might not be able to provide that anymore.”
We are talking about CHILDREN, here. Children who have been subjected to hate, sometimes at the hands of other children who have been taught to hate. Children who are terrified. Children who are very tender and fragile right now.
My friend Dilshad Ali, a Muslim journalist and editor from Patheos, understands their fear. Dilshad stated in an interview for a CNN article, “I woke up today and I finally felt it. It felt personal, like the election was a vote against me.”
People are afraid. Whether you agree with someone on certain issues or not, please keep that in mind. People all around us are in need of our reassurance and care.
Let me be clear, I am not placing all the blame on one side. I am saying that we need to treat one another better, friends. We are all in this together.
I implore all sides to conduct themselves with a spirit of kindness and decency. I yearn for the return of compassion and civil discourse. After all, “We don’t have to agree on ANYTHING to be kind to one another.”
These have been a dark few days. Don’t let hate win.
Today, in your corner of the world, be the light.
Jennifer Bittner is a neurodivergent person, mom, writer, and concerned citizen of the United States of America who hopes we can all just be excellent to one another. You can read more at the Facebook page Seriously Not Boring, or follow this blog for post updates.