I am a substitute teacher at a middle school in Maryland. I have over 330 students in a two day period. My students constantly asked me the day after the election, “what are we going to do now Mrs. Barnett? How did this happen?” Some of my students were visibly distraught. They had no idea, I was more distraught than they were as I looked at their young, brown faces.
It was hard holding my composure in front of them and I’m not going to lie, I even broke down in front of one of my eighth grade classes. One girl hugged me and assured me everything is going to be okay. The students who parents voted for Trump, easily explained to their brown faced classmates, “you have nothing to worry about, my mom said he’s going to make America Great again.”
I know those kids, realistically had nothing to worry about because they would never be profiled or seen as dangerous. They would easily be given a job because of the color of their skin. No one would view them as suspicious if they had a hoodie on. I dug deep because I did not want to lash out and yell at them that this was not my truth nor did I want to hurt these young ones.
When I finally got my composure back, I felt the need to respond in a dignified manner. I was honest. I told them I was extremely disappointed in the results. I explained that our new president-elect wants to deport people who have families here. I said that several people who voted for him do not like people who do not look like them. I told them that this is called prejudice but we should love everyone, no matter what language they speak, what religion they have and no matter what color their skin is.
I also told these babies that, they have a voice and power. That they can volunteer to help an elderly person in their neighborhood. They can be kind to a kid who is picked on or bullied. They can be good students and great children to their parents. THIS is what will make America Great again!
Another one asked me if I was moving to Canada. I affirmatively said, “NO! We don’t punk out; we fight for others and ourselves. We fight for better schools. Run for middle school government. Get good grades. Be respectful! Encourage your parents to run for the local school board and to attend their PTA meetings. That’s how you fight. This is what will make America Great again.
For months, I wondered why I was substituting again. I thought I would have moved on to do me FULL time. By the end of that school day, I finally understood why I am here at this school, during this particular school year. It’s not about me.
It’s for these babies. It’s for our future. It’s to make America Great again.