Donald Trump is not this country’s problem.
I know he has said a lot of seriously shitty things.
I know he has given some people the impression that hate, racism, and bigotry are okay. And acceptable.
The pictures of the swastikas and the videos of kids chanting Build a Wall! bringing their classmates to tears that have been circulating around social media since he has been elected president are for sure disturbing and unsettling.
But Donald Trump did not make those people racist.
The people who are committing these acts were not upstanding, tolerant human beings on November 8th who magically transformed into racist bigots overnight.
They were always there. They always felt that way. They always spoke that way.
Just maybe not so much in public.
Or not so loudly.
No. Donald Trump is not the problem.
But he is indicative of it.
The last five days have made it abundantly clear that racism is still a big issue in this country.
On November 7th, I don’t think many of us would have acknowledged this.
For many of us, it’s been easy to ignore it. Or to say, That may happen in other places, but it doesn’t happen where I live.
It happens everywhere.
My kids learned the n-word on the bus last year.
I am positive I have never uttered that word. Neither has my husband.
They didn’t learn it from television, and they didn’t learn it from the radio.
They learned it from a kid on the bus.
Where he learned it, I’m not sure.
But I’d wager money he learned it from an adult in his family.
I live in a middle to upper-middle class town in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
We are Northerners. We are tolerant. We are open minded. We are educated.
We certainly do not use the n-word in my town!
Or so I thought.
It has become apparent now that I was wrong.
I don’t think there is any town in the country that is completely devoid of racism.
Just because we haven’t been directly affected by it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
My family is about as white as they come. My husband and I have created seven blond, fair-skinned, green and blue-eyed human beings.
We are Hitler’s wet dream.
And we live in a predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class town.
My kids are sheltered. They live in a bubble.
Most of their friends are as white as they are.
They don’t have many friends whose skin is a different color than theirs.
They don’t even really have much interaction with people whose skin is a different color than theirs.
As much as I’d like to think that I’ve raised them to be good human beings who are colorblind when it comes to peoples’ skin color, I have no idea if I’ve actually done that.
The real test would be if they found themselves in a situation where their classmates were chanting Build a Wall! in the cafeteria at school.
How would they react?
Would they do something about it?
Would they do nothing?
Would they join in?
I’d like to think they’d do something. That they’d stand up.
But I’m not convinced they would.
And that right there is a big part of the problem.
So many of us are unaware of how other people are being treated in this country, and as long as we aren’t seeing it, we are okay with it.
You can say that’s not true, but how many of us were wearing safety pins in support of minorities on November 7th?
Hate and racism was still there then. It wasn’t as in your face as we’ve seen in the last couple days, but it was there.
People of different colors all over the country who have been experiencing bigotry and hate have been telling us about it for years.
But we haven’t really listened.
We’ve kept our heads buried in the sand.
Maybe not all of us. But most of us.
I’ve read stories and seen videos, but I’ll be honest, other than saying to myself That’s terrible, I haven’t done a single thing about it.
I’ve been complacent.
Just like the majority of us have.
We as a nation have not really taken racism and prejudice seriously.
Not until November 9th, anyway.
And so while I don’t agree with most of President-elect Trump’s beliefs, and while I am disturbed by the majority of the words that come out of his mouth, part of me feels like he has, inadvertently, brought a very big problem in this country into the spotlight.
And now we will all take it seriously.
Even those of us who haven’t been directly affected by racism.
Especially those of us who haven’t been directly affected by racism.
So for those of you who are still trying to come to grips with the outcome of the election, maybe this is the silver lining.
Maybe something good will come out of this presidency after all.
It is time for all of us to take the issue of racism in this country seriously.
It is time to do something about it.
You can say it needs to start from the top.
But Donald Trump can’t stop it.
He can not condone it. But he can’t stop it.
We can stop it.
But we first have to start in our own homes with ourselves.
The name calling has to stop.
I’ve done it. I think we’ve all done it in one way or another.
It may be an innocent thing we do. It may be something done out of frustration.
When one of our kids was younger and being difficult, we’d tell him to Stop being such a pickle.
He didn’t like this.
And one day he broke down in tears and told us it really hurt his feelings when we referred to him that way.
We weren’t really meaning to be hurtful.
I mean, we were only saying Pickle.
Pickle is harmless, right?
I mean, we weren’t calling him a baby or an idiot or a jerk or an asshole or a pussy or a faggot or a retard or um… the n-word.
But when it comes down to it, whatever noun we choose, name calling is name calling.
And even if we are resorting to that out of frustration and not trying to be hurtful, that is exactly the end result.
The bottom line is we are name calling because we are frustrated with our inability to effectively communicate with the other person, or we are so lacking in self-esteem that we feel the need to knock the person on the receiving end down in an effort to build ourselves up.
And for me, that is the biggest issue this nation faces.
We are presently incapable of communicating effectively.
Facebook has made it abundantly clear that Trump supporters and Clinton supporters are incapable of communicating in a respectful way with each other.
Families are literally imploding because of their inability to effectively communicate.
That won’t change until we take a good hard look at ourselves.
Once we do that, we are then in a position to really teach our children how to respectuflly communicate.
There is one more piece to this communication puzzle, though.
Our children are not born prejudiced and racist.
That is something they learn predominantly from their parents.
And I think it’s naive and unrealistic to believe that parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are openly racist are going to change.
We could try. We might succeed in a very small percentage of that group.
But I do believe there is a reason the saying You can’t teach an old dog new tricks exists.
And I believe the biggest hope for the kids of those ignorant adults comes in two places.
First, it comes from those of us who get it, adults and children, standing up to them.
And then, it comes from the other place where they spend as many waking hours as they do at home.
It comes from school.
Our schools have got to address this issue.
This cannot be a once-a-month, 30-minute class the guidance counselor teaches using hand puppets.
Just like phys ed and art and music, communication needs to be a part of the regular curriculum.
Our kids need to learn how to communicate effectively and respectfully.
The need to learn how to stand up to racism and intolerance.
They need lots and lots of practice, and they need many opportunities for role playing.
Yes, reading and writing and math and science are important.
According to corestandards.org, “The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”
We need to change the fucking standards.
Or at least add in a couple more.
Because if there were ever a Common Core this country needed right now, it is a Common Core of communication.
We are failing our kids in that department.
And we are failing our country in that department.
We have a lot of work to do.
Fortunately, in this department, it doesn’t really matter who the president is.
The work doesn’t begin in the White House.
It begins in your house and in your community.
You can complain all you want.
But if you aren’t ready to begin there, then like it or not, you are also a part of the problem.