Well, it’s official. The America as we’ve known it for the last 8 years is the past, and the future is unknown. This morning, as I drove my Ayva to school, she asked me about DT’s inauguration. Choking back tears because I didn’t want to scare her even though I am so anxious about what’s to come of us, I explained that even though things are going to be challenging, as long as every single one of us does our part to help each other, we will survive. I talked to her about the importance of all of us pitching in and supporting in ways we may not be used to.
I asked her what kind of things she thinks she can do to help others. She’s 7, and I’ll admit, not very worldly (by parenting design…she is sheltered and I have my reasons for it), so her response was “I can be kind to others.”
Sheltered though she may be, she’s old enough to know that being kind to others is not enough. It’s a given. I let her know that being kind to others isn’t really taking action. That’s something that we should all be doing anyway, as Christians, as human beings, as Americans. I explained to her the importance of ACTION. Especially now.
The same goes for us as parents. I’ve seen a lot of
“How am I going to make change? I’m going to raise my children to be good people.”
That’s not enough.
Parents, over the next 4 years, our children are going to be exposed to more hate than they’ve seen in their lifetime. I’m not being dramatic. It’s already started. Living in the era of social media where the hate can be shared much faster and on a much larger scale puts our children at a disadvantage.
People will be losing their jobs and services that they need to survive. They are going to be desperate. They are going to be looking for scapegoats. They are going to be disappointed. They are going to be looking for excuses. The easiest thing will be to place the blame on the people who don’t look like them, who aren’t in their families, who aren’t in their communities. We have to get ready for that.
We also have to be ready to help the folks who didn’t ask for this. The children who will have to spend hours in the emergency room for a cold because they don’t have healthcare coverage through state funded programs anymore. The women who might take desperate measures to remove themselves from domestic violence situations because the programs that would help them are being defunded. The students who attend public schools but can’t get into college because their schools have been so underfunded that they can’t even afford books, so of course they tanked on their college admissions exams.
We have to do something.
What’s the plan for the next 4 years, Parents?
1. Go beyond teaching our kids to be “good people”. Teach them to be advocates for themselves and for others. Give age appropriate civic and social lessons that empower them to go out and take action. Introduce them to other cultures and people who are not like them, not just through books, but in person, too. (Good resources: http://oaklandlibrary.org/category/tags/diversity Raising an Advocate) This is my weakness and the one that I’m most immediately focused on.
2. Educate yourself. Read books, blog posts, subscribe to magazines and newspapers, and talk to people who are able to give you insight into the challenges our country is facing. Watch documentaries about the history of America, especially as it relates to race, gender, and class (Good resource: 13TH on Netflix). Attend talks at local universities. Be okay with not understanding everything, but make an effort to understand something. You should be way more educated about the issues than your children are. Move past the preschool version of what’s going on.
3. Use your privilege. Contrary to popular belief, white folks aren’t the only people with privilege. Although my husband and I are solidly middle class (probably lower middle class in the Bay Area!), we both have cars, are employed, and are educated. Find out what you have to contribute and do that. For example, if you have a car, and can help senior citizens get to their doctor’s appointments, but you don’t have gas money, let someone know. Find someone who has the privilege of disposable income, tell them what you’re doing, and get those seniors to their appointments. If you have disposable income, don’t just contribute to the zoo and the local museum (do that, too), but look for organizations that are supporting underrepresented communities and demographics that may have nothing to do with your lifestyle at all, and give them a hand up. (Good places to start: Aim High, Hack the Hood, Black Girls Code, Being Black at School, Spotlight:Girls)
4. Ask people what they need. It’s great to give, but it’s easy to give only in the way that is comfortable to you. We are past that now. Folks are going to need specific support, and you will only know what that is if you ask. It’s great that you want to paint a mural on the wall of the school downtown, but maybe they’d prefer you spend that time soliciting donations for books for their defunct library, or staffing the security desk at the front door. Don’t just do for the sake of the endorphins that come from doing things that feel good. Give the people what they need.
5. DO something. Find one hour a month to action take action on something. Volunteer at your child’s school. Join a neighborhood cleanup crew. Make 10 calls to your congressperson. Write a letter. Shelve books at your library. Take your children to do something with you. If you have circumstances that prevent you from doing much (thinking of folks like my friends with special needs kids who are already stretched thin, or my friends who are working 3 jobs to pay rent), think of what you can do with minimal effort but maximum results. For example, can you write down your IEP experience and share it on Facebook so parents who are just getting started can have an idea of what to expect? If you are looking for jobs, can you let folks know when there is a job fair? We can all do something. Tell your children what you’re doing.
6. Teach your children that they should be proud of helping others, but not prideful. Sometimes the children who have the most well meaning parents can end up with a savior complex, because they aren’t taught that the people they are helping are human beings who are worthy of respect just like they are. Just because a child doesn’t have toys, it doesn’t mean that they are less than. Be aware of pride creeping into your child’s demeanor and address it. Remember this lesson for yourself.
We can get through this, Folks, but we’re all going to have to chip in. Parents, we have a lot of stake in this, so we should be taking the lead on making sure things get done.