August 10th, 2016
I have always believed that as a nation, we have come far in our attitudes and beliefs about race and inequality. The 13th, 15th, and 19th Amendments, Brown v. The Board of Education, Roe V. Wade, The Equal Pay Act, IDEA, Obergefell v Hodges, and many others all supported this belief. Growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, I heard relatives use the “n” word, and while there’s no way to say that word is not derogatory, at the time, many people used it out of ignorance and not overt prejudice. I never did because my mother promised to wash my mouth out with soap if I ever tried, so I grew up knowing that word wasn’t nice, even if at the time I didn’t understand why.
Once we moved from the south suburbs of Chicago to the Northwest Suburbs, I didn’t hear the “n” word again. I had very few black classmates, and those I did have didn’t seem to have any issues with race. I never saw anyone treat them with derision because of their color, nor exclude them from anything. I grew up without any personal experience or exposure to racial inequality. Well, not any that penetrated my ignorance born of white entitlement.
The older I got, the more convinced I became that race and ethnicity no longer divided people the way it once did, at least not where I lived or with the people I knew. I wasn’t a complete PollyAnna. I watched the news. I accidentally drove into the middle of a riot in Springfield, Illinois during the Rodney King riots and had to back up for blocks to avoid confrontation. I also had a group of Hispanic students that hated everyone who wasn’t Hispanic. They spoke their native language during class to exclude others from their conversations, but we nipped that in the bud and the issue seemed to go away.
But then along came Trump, who pulled the security blanket off my white, entitled, liberal ignorance and showed me how naive I’ve really been. When it seemed inevitable that he would get the Republican nomination, I wanted to hide from the news because of the violence and hatred he exuded. Just the sound of his voice was like nails down the chalkboard. However, that’s not the worst part. The worst part are all the people who think he’s going to make America great again, all the people who hold his racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and bigoted views, and who believe the propaganda he spews.
I could write another blog about when “again” is. Was that when we lynched black people in the South, or perhaps when we set up the Japanese internment camps? Perhaps it was when women couldn’t vote, or when we were slaughtering Indians and took away their land. Maybe it was when we were killing each other because half of us believed slavery was wrong and the other half profited from it. Or maybe it was when people were spitting at and threatening to kill Ruby Bridges, who simply wanted to go to school. But I digress.
Thank you, Mr. Trump for pulling back the veil and showing me how much farther we need to go. Thank you for showing me how much more we as teachers need to do to educate our young. Not to convince them that one party is better than another, but to teach them how to listen and read critically, to check their facts, to understand bias, and to get their information from more than one source before they swallow it whole. Thank you for showing me that even though I don’t think I am racist, homophobic, bigoted, or elitist, you have shown me that I am ignorant, naive, entitled, and cannot possibly understand what it is like to have more pigment than someone else, be homosexual, or Muslim and face the hatred that you’ve unveiled.
And before you think I am a diehard Clinton fan, I will tell you that this year, more than any other, I feel lackluster about my choice. However, I have fact checked, I have read multiple views, I’ve done as much as I can to apprise myself of all of the issues, but more than anything, I’ve watched Mr. Trump. I’ve listened to him babble, contradict, and demean. I’ve watched clips of him saying one thing and then a week later, swearing he never said it. I watched him make fun of a disabled journalist who dared prove him wrong. I’ve listened to him insult the intelligence of the American people, or at least those who are voting for him, by saying he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any votes.
Thank you Mr. Trump for showing me how far we still need to go.
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