I’m walking my son to school, holding his hand down the two-block path we always take from our apartment.
I have had about four hours of sleep. When I finally went to bed last night, the election results weren’t final, but they looked bad enough that the headlines weren’t a surprise in the morning.
I had to force myself to stop sobbing so I could get my son out of bed.
He is only 5, and doesn’t know much more about the presidential election than that he liked wearing my sticker and running around Little Caesars telling people he voted. (”Not really, my mom did,” he’d quickly confess.)
Last night, as the polls kept stacking up in favor of a candidate who has clearly laid out his hatred of people of color, women, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, the disabled and other marginalized groups and their intersections, I just kept picturing my son’s smiling, innocent face with that “I voted” sticker on his forehead. It wrecked me.
My son didn’t ask about the election results this morning and I haven’t said anything yet. But as we started the walk to school, we began to pass clumps of kids on their way to the middle school, and they were all talking about Donald Trump.
It’s safe to say that the “kids walking to school in Brooklyn” demographic is pissed about this election.
“F**K Donald Trump,” one girl yells, and her friends shush her and point to my young son listening nearby. “I don’t care! I’m too MAD!” she says. It’s fine.
“We should have assassinated him when we had the chance,” says a 10-ish-year-old child which is not a funny thing to say, but I do find myself tickled wondering when this “chance” was exactly.
But the kids are posturing because this is real to them and they are scared.
My son is black, and most of his classmates are brown and/or immigrants or the children of immigrants. Half of his classmates are English Language Learners, who entered pre-k speaking exclusively Spanish, Mandarin or Arabic. His school is more than one-third Hispanic, less than 3 percent white. Our PTA meetings take forever, because everything must be translated at least three times.
The children in our community will be directly impacted by the results of this election.
At the bus stop, the one where the white kids wait to leave the neighborhood to attend expensive private schools, no one is talking about Trump. That’s the problem, I suppose.
As a white woman, I have more privilege than most, but as the mother of a black son in a diverse community, I realize that I don’t have the privilege of silence today.
I tell my son that he may hear some things about the election today, that we have a new president, and that many of the people where we live did not vote for him. I tell him he can ask us any questions that he wants to, and that there is nothing he needs to worry about. I do not believe that last part. I am winging it.
When we get to school, the administrators and the other parents look shell-shocked. I think some of them, the ones who took their kids to the voting booths and let them help cast a historic vote, are regretting using this particular election as a teaching moment.
Some of us revealed too much about what was at stake, not realizing that we’d have to explain to our children this morning that the bad man, the man who says not-nice things about people who look a lot like them, is now our president.
Stopping by the office at my son’s school, I see a letter on the counter that I assume will be going out to parents tonight. It is a note about the election and our mostly brown and immigrant children’s feelings, an acknowledgment that they are likely to be afraid, a preparation for the difficult conversations about racism and immigration that we are going to be having in coming weeks. I wonder who drafted it. I wonder who couldn’t sleep last night.
Minutes later, I kiss my son goodbye, as I always do, and I pray for his safety, as I always do.
The children on the street are talking about Trump and I can’t help but think that we failed them.