These are hard times to be a parent. We’re a nation divided, fighting over everything from health care policy to the legitimacy of public protests to what counts as fake news. Maybe you voted for the new president, or maybe, like me, you were with her. Perhaps you voted third party this time or you didn’t vote at all. No matter what choice you made, I know you feel the tension in the air. I know you’re worried about your kids in this time of strife. I myself feel utterly petrified.
My husband and I have three children: a daughter, 15, adopted from India a decade ago; and a son, 14, and daughter, 13, adopted from Ethiopia as toddlers. We went from zero to three kids in 13 months, and those adorable little people ran everywhere — they never walked! I lost 10 pounds chasing after them. In the beginning, the five of us didn’t share a common language, but we laughed a lot, cried a little and eventually things fell into place. We became a family, that “multicultural” family you knew from school or soccer, the nice family you always saw at the corner pizza place on Friday night or at the Sunday farmers market. My family finally belonged, to each other and to our community. Or so we thought. After the election, everything feels different.
Close to home
My children are Black and Brown; our new president is endorsed by the KKK. My children are immigrants; our new president supports mass deportations. As I started writing this, just a couple of weeks post-election there were already more than 700 new hate crimes reported across the country, including one right in my Seattle neighborhood. Sometime in the dark hours of November 14, a criminal firebombed my neighbor’s car, setting the vehicle ablaze with a Molotov cocktail, a half-mile from my house. Do I need to explain that my neighbor is Black like my son, Black like my daughter? Do I need to assure you that this violence is not a hoax, or do you believe me?
I’m trying my best to write these words with passion, not anger. I’m trying to stay calm, even though I want to scream. I’ve heard some of you calling for kindness and respect and unity. I’ve listened to you explain why you had to vote your conscience, and heard some beg the rest of us to give your guy a chance. I’ve heard many of you rejecting the claims that a vote for him was a vote for racism because that’s not what you believe and that’s not who you are.
I get it. I know it hurts. But here’s what I’ve come to understand as the white adoptive mother of three children of color: Racism is America’s toxic mold, growing in all the dark, dank corners. That mold is growing in your house, just as it’s growing in mine, even when we can’t see it, even — perhaps especially — when we had a Black president. The election and all it entailed poked the dark corners and stirred everything up. Now we’ve got toxic mold spores floating freely in the air, sickening us all. If we’re going to collectively recover, I believe that every one of us has to own up to our part because we made this mess together.
If you voted for Donald Drumpf, I’m inviting you to ask yourself why. Why did you look the other way when you saw racism? Why did you brush off the sexism? Why wasn’t it a dealbreaker for you when he mocked a disabled person? I’m not trying to make you to feel shame or guilt, but I am encouraging you to look inside, really look, and ask yourself the hard, shameful questions. Take an honest inventory. All of us must do this if we hope to find a way forward. If, after fierce soul-searching, you decide that the new president is still your guy, it doesn’t even matter. You still have work to do alongside the rest of us. I think we all agree that the present toxic conditions are untenable, especially for our kids.
Here is the bottom line: As long as my children are at risk, your children are not safe. As long as Muslim and Jewish children live in fear, as long as transgender children are threatened, as long as disabled children are mocked, your children are in danger, because eventually the bullies will come for your kids too, or they will become the bullies themselves. Either scenario spells tragedy. So no matter who you voted for, no matter who you are, I’m begging you raise your voice. Shout it from the rooftops: "Discrimination, violence and persecution don’t belong here! Not in my neighborhood, not in my town, not in my country, not in my name!" Only by protecting my children will you protect your own.