The 3:30 a.m. wake up call

jamonAustin (left) and his cousin Jamon

This time, it wasn’t a tweet in the middle of the night about a former Miss Universe. Instead, it was a 3:30 a.m. Facebook post from my daughter Carmen:  “Austin just woke up. He’s crying. I’m crying. Eek this is tough to explain.” Austin is my 10-year-old grandson. Like many of us, he was feeling the aftershocks of our new reality: President-elect Donald Trump.

Austin is a fifth grader in Cobb County, a mostly conservative Atlanta suburb. His school is predominantly white, but thankfully, he hasn’t experienced the sting of overt discrimination.  I pray he never will. His post-election tears, and the tears and fears of other young people are real. His concerns are for some of his Hispanic classmates. He’d heard Trump promise to deport people who are here illegally. Already, in schools across the country, Hispanic and Muslim children have been the target of bullying because of Trump’s campaign rhetoric.  After Trump’s win, Austin worried that his classmates who supported the president-elect would tease those students who wanted Hillary Clinton to win.

We were driving home from skating on Election Day when he told me that some of his classmates wanted Trump to win because he is a millionaire.   That doesn’t mean he’s a good person, I offered.  “My friends say Hillary Clinton had an affair.” No Austin, it was her husband who had the affair.  “Well why did she stay married to him? ”  Whew, this wasn’t a conversation I was prepared to have. But as parents and grandparents, we must always be ready to listen, explain and sometimes correct errors of fact.

The political and religious views of children are shaped largely by their parents. Austin’s classmates were parroting what they’d heard in their homes. Politics are often discussed in our home so Austin is very aware of how nasty this election cycle had become. He said early on that he didn’t like Trump because he was a bully.

This week, as I’ve listened to parents and teachers talk about the election’s effect on our children, I can’t help but feel sad. Our leaders are often role models for our children. Say what you will about President Obama’s policies, he has been an outstanding example for our children. He loves and respects his wife and daughters and has shown an unwavering commitment to education and mentoring.

Now comes President-elect Trump, who built his campaign on a lie about President Obama’s citizenship and has continued to sow seeds of racism and sexism. He has ridiculed women and disabled people, threatened to ban Muslims and created a culture of fear and anger.

My friend Charis, a teacher in suburban Washington, D.C. posted this on her Facebook page Wednesday.

Today was a hard day to be a teacher. In my literary magazine class I asked students to journal their feelings about America, the Election, and the president-elect. While there were definite varying opinions, so many of their responses hurt me to the core. This one came from the sweetest little girl, who also happens to be a Muslim and who proudly wears her hijab. Her last sentence moved me the most. #kindnessmatters

“I am really scared,” the student wrote. “America should have a better and kinder leader.”

As we endeavor to put this election behind us, let’s remember our children and listen to their fears and concerns for our country’s future. They are wiser than we know. And they soak in everything they see and hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama as lame duck president speaks truth about race in America

obama fam

Watching and listening to President Obama now vs. when he first announced his run for the presidency, several things are apparent. He has a lot more gray hair, he has many enemies in Congress and he no longer dances around “the race talk.”

Seven years into his presidency, with little to lose, some of his idealism has faded. He wouldn’t be human if politics hadn’t made him weary. The bruising battles with members of Congress, some of whom show him nothing but disdain, are never-ending.

Despite all that, he is taking a lead role on the issue of race, as he did with health care reform and other issues. The problem is, you can’t legislate decency.

As he did in Ferguson with the death of Michael Brown and in Florida when Trayvon Martin was killed, Obama has taken these acts personally. When Martin died, he said if he’d had a son, he would have looked liked Trayvon. He knows what it’s like to raise two beautiful daughters he and his wife are intent on protecting from hurt, harm and danger. He can relate to the parents’ pain because he is a husband and father. Say what you will about Obama, it is clear he cares deeply about his family and all American families.

To show how serious he is about young black men dying in incidents with police and authority figures, he brought in former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate claims that Ferguson, Mo. officers were disproportionately ticketing and arresting black people. The results of that investigation showed a widespread pattern of abuse of residents in the suburban St. Louis town and emails from city officials that read like they had been written in the 1950s.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Justice Department will open an investigation into the practices of police officers in Baltimore. That is a good move. The officers charged are black and white, so it will be interesting to see what happens as their cases proceed.

We may have a black president, but I’m still not convinced we are living in post-racial America. If only that were true.