Like so many of us, last night I was inconsolable. I was sleepless. This morning, I dragged myself out of bed and cried some more. I stood in the kitchen embracing my husband saying, “I don’t know how to do this.”
Before I left for work, I texted my Jewish family about everyone having all of their documents in order. Just in case. I texted a friend, “The Holocaust wasn’t that long ago.” I texted a friend, “I love you.” I texted a friend, “I’m sorry.”
I drove silently and tearfully to work. I opened my car door and felt more unsafe than I ever have in my whole life. I wasn’t unsafe because of the decrepit neighborhood I work in or because of the random violence there. I was unsafe because we elected a racist, misogynist, alleged rapist into the presidency. I am unsafe because the people who elected him are racist, misogynists. Those people, standing on the wrong side of history, are everywhere.
As students walked into my classroom this morning, three girls came up to me and gave me long hugs. One student whispered, “It will be okay, Ms. M, even if my parents are deported.” Another student burst into tears. A teacher friend stood at my door, speechless. She helped me try to comfort her. I was crying. We cried together. I am crying. We should be crying.
Two periods later, a student asked if I was okay. “Not really,” I said. “I’m scared for us.” So we sat in a circle and I tried to be uplifting when I wanted to crawl into a hole and give up. I told them I loved them, that I would do everything in my power to keep us safe, to protect them. I told them that I would never stop fighting for them. I told them that their voices matter. That one day, soon, their votes will matter, too. That we will be louder and stronger and last longer, because we must. Because hatred can’t win. Because we are loving and compassionate and brave.
The election has real life consequences. As a survivor of sexual trauma, I hear America’s message. As a Jew, I hear America’s message. As a woman, I hear America’s message. My students hear America’s message, too. Young people of color who are up against it, they hear you. They hear our third party votes. They hear our apathy. I tell them that the text we are studying, Tamara Winfrey-Harris’ The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America, is more important now than ever before. That as my friend, Philip Metres, put it, “Patriarchy would rather burn down a country than let a woman run it.” I tell them we must continue forward with our class book project. That the world needs to read their vignettes. That they matter. That even when it looks like the bully wins, the bully doesn’t win. Not if we don’t let him.
If you want to give up, if you are hopeless, I hear you and I see you. I am you. But I beg you to grieve and allow your grief to ignite a fire in your heart. Have those excruciating conversations. Hold the people you love responsible for their actions. We can’t give up. We can’t. We get to keep walking, because the only way out is through and the only way through is together.