“Daddy, do we have to leave the country?”
-3rd grade Muslim student (Chicago, IL)
When the world seems to stop, people tend to turn to social studies teachers. I remember being in a classroom after 9/11 and my students looking forward to coming to our history class in order to make sense of the unfolding events. Who is Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and why do they hate us? What should our nation’s response be? In our nation’s social studies classrooms, students found refuge and a safe-haven to discuss these events, our individual and national responses, and coping mechanisms and insights to better understand what was happening. I remember teachers and administrators also seeking out the support and counsel of social studies teachers. Administrators and teachers also felt the need to discuss this significant current event with someone who understood our nation’s politics, history, and economics. In fact, many administrators invited (as they still do) social studies teachers to organize school-wide assemblies and programming on civic responsibility and pride following the events of 9/11.
After a significant current event, divisive election, massive protest, or devastating man-made and/or natural disaster, the social studies classroom has served as, and will serve as, a form of “group therapy” and as information hubs for students, teachers, and administrators grappling with the events as they unfold. Social studies teachers become the “go to” front-line responders in schools as people try to understand, reflect upon, and make meaning of current events and issues.
Knowing a social studies teacher’s unique positionality in times of national civic struggle, it makes me wonder how social studies teachers are responding to the aftermath of the hotly contested 2016 election resulting in a President-Elect Donald Trump? The rhetoric and divisiveness surrounding this election was nothing short of intense, in particular the views and comments expressed by President-Elect Trump. While Mr. Trumps words may have been “political smoke” to win conservative votes, the truth is many people in the U.S. and around the world are fearful and scared. On November 9th (the day after the election), millions of Americans and their families woke-up and wondered what their place in this new America would be. Undocumented Mexican workers and their families are scared about the possibility of imminent deportation, Muslim Americans fear increased governmental surveillance and bigotry, African Americans are less convinced that Black Lives Matter, women continue to worry about their status and are fearful of heightened crude and abusive male attitudes and acts, and LGBT Americans and their families fear their rightfully awarded marriages and recognized family units will be dissolved. Below I report three examples shared with me the day after Election Day that will tug at most heart-strings and showcase examples of the real fear that exists in America following this election:
- 3am (shortly after election results are posted): A gay friend announced on Facebook that he and his partner of a year will be getting married in the next few weeks; fearful that a President Trump will support Supreme Court Justices committed to dismantling and dissolving the recognized marriages of LGBT Americans. They are fearful the LGBT historic progress and protections made under President Obama will be undone.
- 6am: A 3rd grade, native born Muslim student woke-up in Chicago and asks his dad who won the election. After his dad informs the youngster that Donald Trump won the election, the 3rd grader asks if the family is going to be deported out of the U.S. and lose his friends.
- 3pm: A white female University student serving as an adult mentor to a black 6th grader in the Akron Public Schools informs me (her professor) that her 6th grader is crying and will not talk to her. The 6th grader had asked her mentor who she voted for yesterday, and the mentor reported Donald Trump. The black student felt she could no longer trust her mentor anymore, as a white adult. For more stories of youth fear after the 2016 election click here.