How Do We Soothe Our Panicked Children When They Know We’ve Elected A Bully For President

By Fredrick McKissack, Jr.

On Wednesday morning, I started reading Facebook posts and messages from friends whose children woke up panicked.

A friend’s daughter is distraught that her best buddy, a Latina, is going to be sent back to Mexico. Her Latino friend’s family have been American citizens for a several generations.

The child of another friend had to be calmed down because, like my son, he’s biracial and he thinks it’s going to be open season on he and his family.

Can we be at all surprised by the terror our children woke up in on Wednesday morning when for the better part of the year they heard one candidate denigrate immigrants, people of color and women and bully his way to the top of his party’s ticket with mean and dismissive comments to anyone who disagrees with him?

We raise our children to be good people, to not be bullies and stop those who are bullying others, to understand that bullying is wrong and bullies don’t win. What do we tell our children now that half the people who came out to vote elected a bully to the highest office in the land?

Before the election, a student called my son “white Democratic trash” during recess at the parochial school he attends, which is as racially and economically diverse a school as any you could find in Indiana, let alone the country. Mark calmly told the kid that we are free to support whom we want, disagree without anger, and that he was not white, but biracial. Mark stood his ground. The bully walked away.

While some children have trembled this election, others felt emboldened.

On Wednesday, video surfaced of Michigan middle-school students yelling, “Build the Wall!”

When we treat politics like a scrimmage match of winners and losers and you support your team, and your team only, at any cost, it’s inevitable that children absorb the fanaticism and regurgitate it out in a terrifying chant.

New York Daily News writer Shaun King says he’s been inundated with messages from people whose children have been targeted and harassed with threats and even physical assaults.

The children have been watching. They mimic our words and actions.

It doesn’t matter how the campaign spins it now: Trump the Showman is now Trump the Pragmatic Statesman. For the alt-right who supported him, Tuesday’s result is a mandate to return toward our apartheid past.

Some might say my concern — and those of other parents like me — is nothing but exaggerated fear-mongering. But is it fear-mongering when a xenophobe like David Duke, neo-Nazis and the Klan openly support a candidate and see their opportunity to return to our racist past and policies.

“If The Donald gets the nomination, he will almost certainly beat Hillary, as White men such as you and I go out and vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi operator of the Daily Stormer website.

A relatively tame response from what he wrote in April.

“Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected — and he’s happy about it,” Anglin wrote. “This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting (Trump).”

The first black McKissack was bound to this continent as a child in 1790, yet my family is still the “other.” Despite our education and accomplishments, we’re nothing more than savages to these people. My wife is a “traitor.” My son, my nephews, my niece are to them but unwelcome squatters.

My anger is justified, and my fear is an unfathomable reality for someone who grew up being told that there was something called the post-Civil Rights era.

For those of us who mourn this moment with our children, we wonder what to tell them. The answer is in the stories of our youth — stories that bind us together in times of distress. Stories about sharing and caring affirming that respect, even when we disagree, can lead to compassion and compromise.

If we are to survive the coming years, my plea is that we remember the lessons of our youth: Listen, not threaten, find value in each other rather than fault. We can only sustain our nation through thoughtful and conscious decision-making. Our leaders must tamp down the rhetoric, or we surely will move closer to a conflict that will burn this fraying union. Such a battle will destroy our children, our future selves.

Fredrick McKissack, Jr. is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.