I walked into work on November 9th, 2016 feeling frail and numb. Some feeling is returning to my being, but even as I stand here in my kitchen and type these words, tears are welling in my eyes and I feel a tight knot in the pit of my stomach as I recall the look on my beautiful student’s face when she saw me the morning after the election and said with all seriousness, “Ms. Dukes, Trump won. We’re going to die.” This is forever embedded in my psyche.
I teach ELA to seventh-graders in Queens, NY. They are little — 11 or 12 years old. They are Black and Brown children from the U.S., India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, and Central America. They are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs.
They hold various immigration statuses.
They are bewildered, upset, and scared by the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. Presidency.
I spent all of Wednesday speaking with and listening to my students about the results of the election. On Monday, after researching in groups the candidates’ positions on the issues they felt most important, the students held a mock presidential vote in each of my classes. Hillary Clinton was resoundingly their selection (86% grade-wide).
What happened? What went wrong? I feel strongly culpable that our kids charge the adults with the turnout of this election. After we spoke and listened to both the acceptance and concession speeches, I gave my students some time to free journal write about where we as a nation go from here, what they felt about what happened, how it happened, and why it happened.
I invited my students to explore their thoughts and feelings about the results of the election in writing by responding to these prompts:
1- What issues were important to you during this election?
2-What would you like to see from Trump’s presidency?
3- What is your role as an American?
Their responses were profound.
“Issues I saw [were] people caring and agreed with Hillary still voted for Trump. I hope he is not very cruel to immigrants…I did not like the fact how even though he wants to deport illegal immigrants he still was elected President.” – R.L.
“I didn’t care that much when Trump was running for President because in my mind I was pretty sure he was going to lose…I hope that Trump is a cooperative president. By that I mean that I hope he achieves peace between all of his rivals and he does not start a war with anybody. My role as an American is that I am a free Brown boy and no one but my parents tell me what to do and I will not agree with someone’s opinion of doing harm to others and I will fight for peace for everyone. In my opinion, I don’t think Donald Trump is going to be the best president because of what he has done like not being kind to many and he had hatred toward people that have done nothing to him (immigrants)…Donald is also going to be a bad president for what he says like ‘Grab ’em by the…” – M.D.
“I think that Donald Trump will cause more problems in America because of what he will do to immigrants. Maybe the immigrants will try to fight back. That can cause all hell to break loose, or in other words, he will cause a war. I don’t think that Trump’s presidency will make America any more better than it was before. I think he will make it worse” – J.A.
“The issue with the election is that Donald Trump won to be president! Most of the country picked Donald Trump – how? He is s very bad person. I would like to see Trump being more nicer and don’t send immigrants back to their country and don’t take away Obamacare and more. Donald Trump should stop harassing girls and stop being so rude. My role as an American is to get education.” – E.L.
“Based on this election, the issues that were important were education problems…many citizens are not able to have a good/proper education. Some of the people who voted didn’t have a proper education” – J.J.
“What I would like to see from Trump’s presidency is that he should be more polite to women and not be racist…I am from the U.S.A. but my parents are Ecuadorian and they aren’t citizens. I feel scared that they will be deported…” – name withheld
Publicly I’ve been quiet about the whole election until now — on purpose. I realize that my voice is no longer my own and that I must be mindful of disagreeing and defending without emulating the very hate and anger that I despise….the very hate and anger that is now the face of the US presidency. I instead have chosen to lend my ear to the voices of my students and to use this platform to amplify their voices beyond our classroom. As you can see, they are awake. They have spoken. We must act.