Guest post by Vivett Dukes
November 9th, 2016. I walk into school. I feel like I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
Black boys with resigned body language are walking into class saying, “I told you Trump would win!”
“I’m so mad. WWIII IS GOING TO START!
“Trump won—we’re going to die!” says a little black girl with a look of terror on her face that I’ve never seen before.
It is a sad state of affairs when children who are raised being taught that they are our future write “I don’t think my role as an American is important because I am just a kid” in response to the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States.
“My students have expressed very legitimate concerns,” I say to myself. “How do I continue to teach them that their education and qualifications will garner them the elevation in life that they work hard for and seek when the more experienced candidate, in terms of years working in government, did not prevail?”
My thoughts got interrupted by a conversation with some of my Muslim female students as they were rationalizing whether or not to continue wearing their hijabs out of fear of being targeted. In the course of their conversation, my friend in Jersey City sends me a frantic message that her boyfriend (he’s black) just got stopped and frisked on his way to work—just because.
My internal dialogue continues: “I have to do something. We have to unite and grow from this. They need to let all of this out in a safe way. Do something, Vivett. You’re their teacher. Do something.”
I invited them to do what I do when I need to get things out of me—write.
- What issues were important to you during this election?
- What would you like to see from Trump’s presidency?
- What is your role as an American?
I brought their responses home with me and began to read them. Let me tell you, the insight of my 7th grade students is incredible. I’m so proud of, concerned about, and inspired by them.
Here’s some of what they had to say:
An issue that I think was important is about how many people voted for Trump and how many people did not vote.” - K.U.
“Issues that were important to me during this election was Donald Trump having charges filed against him for sexual harassment. My role as an American is to get my education. Through Trump’s presidency I would like to see him lower taxes for the middle class” - S.F.
“During this election some issues important to me were African-American rights and immigration policies. This is because I am an African-American and my mother is an immigrant. My role as an American is to understand that is happening so I can learn when my time to help the country as an adult comes. Also, my role is to have an opinion and let others hear it.” - K.L.
“I would like to see if Trump really builds the Great Wall so that Mexicans can’t come but I think he can’t build the wall because it cost too much money to be built. My role as an American is to...I really don’t know about that.” - R.U.
“My role as an American is a student. I am going to become a[n] engineer when I grow up. So when I grow up, I have a part in my State. The more people that work it helps out the economy in many different ways....if people get deported, who will take their place? Many immigrants do low-paying jobs that help out the economy and the environment...” G.M.
”...my parents are immigrants and they are not citizens yet...sometimes people make fun of me...I’m scared one day I might have to go through war...Trump said he’s going to ban Muslims and deport immigrants and my parents are one...my role an an American is a student...I was born in America and my parents want me to have a good education so I could have s good job...I can protect my family and feed them.” B.T.
“As an American, my role is to not fall for any of Donald or any other president’s tricks to make America worse than it is now.” - D.J.
I don’t know about you, but I’m with my students. Ignorance is dangerous. Education is the premier way for us to address our concerns about the state of our country. We owe it to the children of America. We owe it to ourselves.
At her core, Vivett Dukes is a seasoned, passionate teacher-leader, social activist, public speaker, and humanitarian who is dedicated to taking her voice outside of the classroom in an effort to elevate authentic conversations and grassroots changes in educational equity. Follow her on Twitter @vivettdukes.
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.