“What is much scarier than Trump is the thought that there are parents who filled their 7-and 8-year old children’s heads with such vitriolic opinions that they were sobbing, angry, shaken, and crying themselves to sleep over the results of a presidential election. 7 and 8 year olds!?!? OMG! Really!”
“I haven’t talked to my kids about the election. They’re too young to learn about white tribalism.”
“Why are you scared to tell your children about the results of an election? Aren’t you teaching your them to form their own opinions and think for themselves? My kids don’t even know who I voted for.”
These are just a few of the comments I read and heard from fellow parents and their friends in the wake of last week’s election. And this is how I responded, again and again.
I do not agree.
My children are five and three. I do not shield them from stark truths about how poorly humans often treat one another. It is a reflection of my distinct privilege as a person with white skin and an upper-middle class life that this is even a choice for me. So many families more vulnerable than mine—families of color, immigrant families, LGBT families, poor families, families of religious minorities—do not have the luxury of shielding their children from these truths. Their children will learn them no matter what, and better that they learn them from parents and families who love them and can guide them on their hard journey. There is no such thing as “too young” for their kids. And if there is no such thing as “too young” for their kids, then there can be no such thing as “too young” for mine. If they don’t have a choice to shield their children, I don’t have a choice to shield mine, either. My responsibility as a parent, as a citizen of the world, and as an advocate for those families is to teach my children about the hard truths that many other families face and to teach them that we are obligated, always, to do whatever we can to make the journey easier for any person who is more vulnerable than we are.
I began teaching my children long before November 8 about why Donald Trump should not be our president. I reject the notion that doing so means I am not teaching them to think for themselves. If I left them to draw their own conclusions from their peers or from the rampant messages of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and religious bigotry that bombard us from all sides, they could easily determine that all people with brown skin are bad, that two men who love each other are wrong, that Muslims are terrorists, and that women are inferior to men. Just as it is my responsibility to teach them that our family values above all else kindness, compassion, and caring for others, so also is it my responsibility to teach them that our family will always stand up against racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and religious bigotry, and we will never support any leader who espouses any of those things.
We’re vegetarian, and someday my children will get to decide for themselves whether they want to eat meat. But they don’t get to decide for themselves whether hatred is okay.
So yes, it was difficult for me to tell my children that Donald Trump had won the election, because his ascendance to the American presidency flies in the face of everything that we are trying to teach them about kindness and the importance of standing up for others in the face of bullying and hatred. Not only do I believe that it’s okay to talk with even the youngest of children about the hardest things, I believe it’s a requirement for all parents of privileged white kids.
And now that we have a elected a president who won largely by openly courting the favor of racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, and religious bigots, a president who has hired a known white supremacist and anti-Semite as his chief strategic advisor, I’m required to teach my kids what it actually means to stand up against those things. So they will spend the next four years learning about how to call and write their lawmakers to ask them for change, going to protests, giving their time and part of their allowance to organizations that serve marginalized populations, and most importantly, regularly practicing what they will do if they see someone being bullied. We will also continue the learning we’ve been doing for some time now about white privilege, the history of white supremacy in America, and what things we can do to help dismantle a racist system that is destroying all of our souls.
I will raise children who will make sure that no one like Donald Trump will ever seize the reins of this country again. That’s not only okay. It’s mandatory.