It is official – Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States. Given his highly divisive campaign and approach to politics, this fact has many American minorities wringing their hands in worry. However we need to keep things in perspective. While Mr. Trump may have been a star in reality TV, that does not mean he has control over our realities. As parents, we need to proactively build our children’s worlds; and not fall to pieces in adverse times.
So let’s all just take a deep breath here…and take an honest look at just exactly what we are dealing with.
Is Donald Trump Really a Racist?
Yes, he absolutely is. And sexist too. But in many ways he is the embodiment of the attitudes of White Americans, especially wealthy ones. This does not excuse his behavior. It does however push to the forefront that racism is not dead. Donald Trump is a perfect, current example on how rich White America has laid their path to success (by stepping all over minorities).
Trump utilized America’s underlying racism to propel him into the White House. It is a great example that parents can use to show that racism is not just about running around in white sheets, calling people niggers, and hanging up signs saying “No Blacks/Jews/Spics Allowed”. It is much more about pitting one person against another on the basis of race or culture; or excluding them. This exclusion can be economic, social, or symbolic.
Oh, And Let’s Not Forget About Trump’s White Privilege
I’ve been involved in discussions regarding racism and discrimination for almost two decades. Invariably if often comes up that the reason why Black (and Latino) Americans are less deserving of respect is because they themselves are disrespectful. They point to things like rap music to highlight how uncouth and rude we are. They will talk about how we come from dysfunctional families that have no respect for the institution of marriage. Yet somehow Donald Trump gets a free pass to talk about ‘grabbing women by the pussy’ and having affairs and multiple children by multiple women. You see for him, it’s all ok because he is a rich White man. A classic scenario of White privilege at work.
We teach children of all backgrounds that with hard work and talent, you can find success. Maybe; but it also helps to have well-off parents and the resources to bail you out when you fail (many times). Perhaps a better lesson to teach our children is how important it is to live up to your potential…no matter what your background may be. You do not have to be in a privileged position to be kind to people and to be a good citizen. Conversely, you can be successful and powerful…and be neither of those things.
Now would be a good time to review basic civics with our children. To thoroughly educate them not only on the workings of the federal government, but that of states and local municipalities as well. Let them know that just because someone is the President of the United States, it does not mean that every idea or initiative they have becomes law. This country’s government has an intricate system of checks and balances. If you aren’t too comfortable explaining this yourself, there are sites online where you can both educate yourself and your children on the workings of the American government.
I would not really consider myself to be a ‘glass is half full’ type of person. But there are some things to look forward to with the new Trump administration.
- Trump’s own family is more diverse than most. His wife is an immigrant and his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Jews. It is safe to say that the White House has never before been inhabited by a family with such a non-traditional structure. This just goes to show that Americans are getting more comfortable with families that fall outside of the norm.
- More mobilization from grassroots organizations. Even I must admit, Obama’s presidency had us resting on our laurels in regards to American civil rights. We had a Black president, so surely, we had it made in the shade. Well…that was never the case. From this ugly campaign emerged a beautiful slogan: “Love Trumps Hate”. It presents a fantastic opportunity to talk to children about how beneficial it is to love people as individuals, regardless of their backgrounds — and this is something that even adults need to work on.
- Exposing the media (including social media) for what it really is. If there is anything that all parents should have learned in 2016, it should be the realization of how toxic the media can be. From fake news to Trump’s twitter fiascoes, it is pretty clear that the days of being able to rely on the media to have integrity are long gone. As parents we need to pull our children away from the information pipeline and stop letting it be a stronger influence on their worldview then we are.
We need to get back to basics. Bring the focus back to our own families and communities. While the new President may not be the best representation of the kind of American morals we embrace, we need to recognize that it is us, parents, who yield the most influence on our children. Political leaders come and go, but the lessons you teach to younger generations are lasting ones.