It is my fault. I didn’t know it at the time, but it is.
I surrounded myself with like-minded, passionate, educators. I would work with them on projects that would provide other teachers with tools to support ALL students. We believed that all children deserve access to a high quality, challenging, engaging, education which will provide everyone with the skills they need to be critical thinkers and empathetic members of society.
I attended workshops and twitter chats that focused on elevating our profession and empowering all students. We would discuss ways to eliminate achievement gaps and increase inclusion.
I worked with and for organizations that promote equity and teach all children to care for themselves, each other, and their community.
I knew there was hatred in the world, I’m not blind to it. But for my own sanity and in the hope that I could remain cordial to those who hold differing opinions, I would block posts from hate groups or sites which promote negative thoughts and hurtful memes. I didn’t see the hate growing.
I was living my life in a way that, unwittingly, shielded me from what blindsided me late at night on November 8th.
Don’t get me wrong, I have traveled across the country many times over the past few years. I have felt uncomfortable in many places, uninvited, and unwanted. Afraid to go into restaurants and stores. Using the public bathroom felt unsettling. My son laughs at me because he doesn’t understand why I would rather drive out of my way to go to a self serve gas station than interact with a stranger who may be offended by me.
My son just thinks I’m afraid to talk to people. If he only knew that I try to keep him from the reality of how some people treat our family. Sometimes, when I’m with him, I might throw some people off for a hot second. Since I have a child, I might be a straight woman who happens to be partial to short hair and tattoos. And in that moment, I can pass. Unlike my black and brown friends, who will never know that feeling, however fleeting.
I spent free time in Provincetown, MA,, where being everything hated by the right is celebrated and welcomed. I marched in pride parades and felt indestructible. I felt proud. I heard the slurs, but I chalked it up to a small group of hateful people who don’t know any better. The operative word here is “small” and, I naively thought, very far away. Deep in the south somewhere. Not close by. Not standing next to me on line at Dunkin Donuts. Not in the car beside me at a light.
Living in the Northeast, just outside NYC, I also was sheltered from the hatred. I saw very few Trump signs and when I did, I reacted with a visceral sense of fear. There were so few that I took that to mean his supporters were few.
I don’t watch news channels, I listened to him actually speak. I didn’t need pundits and commentators to paraphrase for me. I tried to understand what he was saying, which was often difficult to understand due to his rudimentary use of the English language. I found some of the things he said utterly comical. I believed that only very few people didn’t see through his false statements and fear-mongering. How could anyone think someone so vulgar and hateful could be looking out for anyone but himself? I honestly believed we were better than that.
I didn’t realize how many people feel that their lot in life is due to anyone other than themselves. I was mistaken to believe that most people blame others for their problems. I was really off track. Freedom isn’t free and life isn’t always fair. As the main provider, I work four jobs to make ends meet. It’s what I have always done. I work hard. I don’t expect that to change because of the president.
Now I won’t shelter myself from the hate because I will never get blindsided again. I won’t shrink from public places because I don’t want to offend you. I will be who I am, louder and prouder than ever before. Yes, even in your red state! I am not here on earth to preserve your comfort, but to show you that we all belong here and we all are free to love and live in peace.
I underestimated hatred. And it is my fault.