(this is short b/c you have better things to do than read this)
The election affected me deeply.
When my dad passed away my freshman year of college, I viscerally felt weak and sick and my world crumbled around me. I knew it was coming – he had been ill with cancer for awhile – but nothing could prepare me for his death and the heartbreak that would follow.
When Trump became our president elect, I felt something reminiscent of what I felt when I lost my dad. Although it wasn’t the extreme sense of overwhelming loss I had when my dad died, I can readily imagine that others’ bodies melted to the ground in a feeling of defeat and a sense of loneliness so profound that the loss of a loved one is the only thing I can think to compare it to.
I didn’t know what to do the morning after the election. I have students who look up to me (I think). The only thing I knew was I could not be silent. Because not saying anything means that those feeling that sense of loneliness continue to feel alone. I knew that if I was affected the way that I was, then others must feel it so much more deeply. Because, you see, I am privileged. And if someone with privilege can feel so deeply affected and saddened, then those who have historically been marginalized must feel something I can’t imagine.
So I said, I tried to convey, one important message: I care about and value diversity & inclusiveness. When I said this to my 8:30 am class I saw students wiping tears from their eyes – perhaps reality setting in? perhaps a sense of relief that at least someone in “authority” cared about diversity? I provided my students with the counseling services information. Many of them looked back at me with sad looks in their eyes because they knew that this was real. Because when Trump became the president elect, suddenly the world was a less certain place…. for women, for people of color, for LGBTQ community, for individuals with disabilities, for muslims, for individuals of diverse religious backgrounds… The America we live in became uncertain.
To provide an example, I am a young female. I run almost every day. But now I feel like I need to think about where and when I run. I honestly feel more afraid to go for a run alone than I did 3 months ago. Why? I am afraid that events have passed and behavior has been modeled will allow men to engage in behavior that is not appropriate. I am a psychologist/neuroscientist – I know how people learn from behavior that is modeled to them.
If this scares me, others are facing much worse fears.
Our mission statement preaches communio and an environment that fosters development. Imagine if you were in an environment where you didn’t feel safe? Could you learn? Could you develop fully? I need students to know that my classroom is safe to learn in. That I will not allow intolerance in my classroom.
I’m not perfect, and I will sometimes struggle to come up with the right words and actions. But I also know my impact is more important than my intent. This means many things, but there are two that I want to emphasize (because I have control over these). First, intent is invisible, so though I may have great intentions – until I act and have an impact – those intentions are meaningless. Second, it means I need to continue to learn about others and their experiences so that I can engage in empathy and perspective taking. Only in this way will I be able to meaningfully translate my intent into positive impact.
Things I’ve seen/heard people doing that seem important:
- Donating time (volunteer, service, joining #blacklivesmatter demonstrations)
- Donating money to organizations that support your beliefs (I appreciate John Oliver’s recommendations)
- Educating the public (if you are in a position to provide this education)
- Becoming educated & trying to learn others’ perspectives (everyone)
- #Safetypin (but only if you are willing to back it up with action)
- Showing students you are an ally – not being silent – but rather, saying you value diversity
Please share if you hear about things going on around your campus that celebrate diversity and/or make you proud.
I’m still processing everything.