As little girls, we’re taught to play nice, be good, be polite, mind your manners, and speak when spoken to. Are little boys taught the same things? Or are little boys taught to toughen up, don’t cry, ‘take it like a man’? Goodness. All kinds of negative gender stereotyping, right?
My husband and I teach our girls many of these things. But we also teach them to speak up for what’s right and to help others. We’re not teaching them to be good little girls — we’re trying to teach them to be kind people.
That’s hard to do sometimes, especially considering the state of our world and our country. In the days since the election, there have been protests in many cities across the country. Some are upset that their candidate didn’t win. I’ll admit to being upset. And also sad, disappointed, and heartbroken, especially given that she won the majority vote by such a large amount. But from what I can gather, the collective outrage so many now feel has little to do with who lost and everything to do with who and what won.
Kindness didn’t win this week.
For the record, you can believe whatever you want about whether or not the other candidate is kind. That’s your opinion and you’re certainly entitled to it. But let me just say (in a nod to an Everybody Loves Raymond episode), that Hillary Clinton could set fire to an orphanage on Christmas Eve and still be a better person than him, in my book.
Whatever you may think, the candidate who won has proven with his words and his actions that he is, in fact, not kind. Bannon for Chief Strategist, anyone?
In fact, his most ardent supporters seem to view the results of the election as a sort of mandate – a free pass, if you will – to disrespect, disregard, and dehumanize those that are already considered on the margins of society.
Just this week alone we’ve seen:
Swastikas in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
White children chanting “build that wall!” to Hispanic students at schools in Michigan and Orlando.
A rash of hate crimes against Muslims and black Americans at the University of Pennsylvania and in Syracuse.
And a child in Minnesota, born in South Korea and adopted by their forever family, wondering if they’ll be sent back where they came from. (No link here. This one’s a personal and heartbreaking truth for a friend of mine.)
This isn’t the America I want to live in. Nor is it the country I want for my children.
We must do better.
Yesterday was World Kindness Day. And yes, I’m a little late with this post. Everyone is spreading memes and messages about how we need to come together and work together and not root for the next president to fail. I get that. And I agree! But while I am certainly not rooting for his failure, it is with enormous skepticism that I look forward to the next four years. (God forbid, eight.)
Yes, like it or not, he is everyone’s president-elect.
But his words and actions during this campaign season are reaping what they have sown in towns and cities across the country. As a result, I can’t help but feel a personal responsibility to call out racist, misogynistic, or hateful behavior when I see it or when I experience it. For instance, when there’s a noose hanging on a tree in my neighborhood – Halloween, be damned. (Interesting footnote to that story: Turns out, I was reported to the people who run our little community blog and my comments were flagged for being “inappropriate.” I sort of wear that as a badge of honor.)
I’m just not always sure I have the courage to do it. Why? Because I was taught to be the good girl. Don’t ruffle feathers. PLAY NICE.
I’ve always been interested in politics, but I’ve never really gotten involved with politics. Volunteering. Canvasing. Making phone calls. Lobbying. I respect those that do, but I regret never having made time to do this before. Hillary’s campaign was the first in which I actively made campaign calls in key states across the country and donated to a campaign. It wasn’t much, but I like to think it did some good.
I also became involved in Twitter campaigns, “secret” Facebook groups, and blogging for a cause. Again, small potatoes compared to what others do, but I appreciated the people I got to know and how very much I learned about policies, ideology, voting issues, and the candidates themselves.
I think the safety-pin thing trending all over the place is a good start, but this kind of symbolic gesture without any real action behind it seems a little glib. And a wee bit condescending. A safety-pin alone isn’t going to do much to help people who are scared of what a Trump presidency may mean for them. To paraphrase my online friend, blogger, and artist extraordinaire, A’driane Nieves, black and brown people (or anyone on the margins of society) don’t want or need to be saved by white people – we just need you to dismantle the oppressive system you created.
No saviors needed. Just warriors side by side.
One final thought – the Saturday Night Live sketch this weekend about white people finally realizing this country is racist, when black and brown folks have been telling us this all along was brilliant. As I was posting my feelings of heartbreak and disappointment all over social media in the hours and days after the election, a dear friend of mine commented on one of my posts and actually offered me words of encouragement and comfort. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. My friend is a beautiful black woman. We’ve known her and her husband for more than 20 years. As I was ranting about how disgusted I was that we just elected a racist to the highest office in the land, she comforted me.
She. Comforted. Me.
I was surprised by the election. She wasn’t. In fact, she said she was sad and disappointed – but not surprised. Why? Because this has always been her reality.
We can do better than this, America. Here are some practical things – some action items – that we can all do to make our voices heard whether it’s about the Bannon appointment or any other questionable policy. We can reach out to our Senators and implore them to hold this president-elect accountable. TIP: I read that phone calls work better than traditional letters or email when it comes to reaching out to members of Congress!
And so I’m rolling up my sleeves. In my little corner of the world, whether it ruffles feathers or pisses people off. I’m not concerned with being good. I’m focused on being kind. Fiercely kind. Because I sincerely believe standing up for what’s right, really listening when people say they’re hurting and frightened, and standing up for and beside others both literally and figuratively is the kindest thing we can do.
Standing up for what’s right isn’t always pretty but it can always be kind.