Over the past 24 hours I received hundreds and hundreds of accounts of men, women, and children who were targeted, harassed, and assaulted by emboldened Donald Trump supporters.
Latinos were told to go back to Mexico
Black folk were told to go back to Africa
Muslim women had their hijab ripped off
LGBT folk were told Trump was coming for them
Many of these were children in their schools
Bigoted Trump inspired graffiti was written everywhere -on windows and doors of homes, on mosques, on store windows, on cars.
People were punched, kicked, shoved, and had drinks thrown in their faces.
I posted many of these accounts on my Twitter and Facebook pages, but this morning I want to read you a letter from a Chicago school teacher that I received. Yesterday he posted a message for his students on his bulletin board.
It said this:
Dear undocumented students. In this classroom there are no walls.
Dear black students in this classroom, your life matters.
Dear Mexican students, you are not rapists or drug dealers
Dear female students, men cannot grab you
Dear Muslim students, you are not terrorists.
I shared the photo of this on my Facebook page and it went viral. Today he sent me this letter.
Good morning Sir.
I am the Chicago teacher who sent you the picture of my bulletin board. I am grateful that you shared it.
I would like to share with you what I plan on saying to my students today. Love and solidarity from Chicago.
78 years ago was Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass”, where groups lead by Adolph Hitler destroyed Jewish communities. My ten year old grandmother in Prague was terrified. She had heard him speak and witnessed the Hitler Youth march through the streets. While she escaped three days before he invaded her country, many of her relatives did not. Six were killed at Auschwitz, one in Dachau.
I talk to my grandmother a lot. She is someone I turn to for guidance and inspiration, but even she has become discouraged. She told me that she sees “creeping fascism” in Trump’s supporters. Yesterday in Philadelphia, several shop windows were vandalized with swastikas and the words “Sieg Heil 2016”. It is an eerie reminder of our not so distant past.
In the nearly nine years that I have worked with youth, I have never been more at a loss for words. There are no words that can do justice to the valid feelings of terror that many of us are feeling. I don’t know what to say to you to make sense of all of this because nothing can. You might say, “But you’re white, you don’t understand.” And to that I would say that you are absolutely correct.
You may remember two years ago when Eric Garner, the black man who muttered, “I can’t breathe” as he was choked, was killed. On December 3 2014, a jury decided not to indict the officer who put him in that fatal chokehold. I was full of rage, anger, and sadness. I wondered what I would tell my students the next day. How do you hold onto hope when things feel hopeless? How do you continue to fight for justice when it does not exist?
The answer is this- there is no other option. We cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot afford to be silent. We cannot afford to be bystanders when groups that we are not a part of are targeted. During Kristallnacht, many non-Jewish German citizens did nothing. They enabled the violence. We cannot afford to do the same, especially for our African American communities, because it is clear that in the United States in 2016, black lives DON’T matter.
We must stand like we have never stood before for all of our brothers and sisters- black, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, and all the communities that Trump and his supports have explicitly and implicitly targeted. Silence is not an option.
For many years during our graduations, our eighth grade students sang “You raise me up.” I am reminded of those words today because it is now all of our duties to raise each other up more than ever before.
For when you fight for justice and equality, when you speak for those who have been targeted, when you reject white supremacy, when you fight for your education and learning of your peers, when you no longer close your eyes at the injustices of the world- when you do these things Scholars, it will be you- who will raise all of us up- to be more than we could ever be.