Our nation has diversified at a dizzying pace and the growth has been extraordinary on so many levels. Obama’s presidency, in many ways, represented phenomenal social and psychological change and growth for our nation. In my mind we were turning a corner, but in my heart I witnessed and felt the discomfort and horrible specter of Obama’s presidency for so many in our community.
Trump’s presidency has pulled back the sheets and exposed the fissures that have always existed within our society. Sadly, some of us are just noticing these cracks and holes for the first time. This continuous struggle for identity, superiority, power and its devastating impact, is the noose around the neck of our country. The question remains, will we get lost in the struggle, or are we courageous and willing to do the work to dismantle oppressive forces in our society? In this moment, what I am seeing, feeling and reading suggests that the changes in our country are experienced as “threatening” to nearly half of its people. I feel heartbroken and angry about what these voting patterns mean and symbolize. These patterns speak loud and clear about who is welcomed and who is not, and overall, what many of us believe and value.
Brené Brown from her book, Dare To Lead said, “what stands in the way becomes the way.” What is standing in the way is a long, pervasive pattern of separation (segregation) coupled with misinformation (limited education) about why we are, where we are as a nation. In our Wednesday staff meeting, many of our teachers and staff lamented about why family members and the “good people” they know would embrace a president who demonstrates such distasteful behaviors and advocates policies that stampede on people’s rights to access and freedom. For me, it goes back to social conditioning and education, or a lack thereof. How can places of education be the beacon of light to help us unpack our hubris, ignorance, and social conditioning?
I think about the important role and moral responsibility that our institutions of learning hold. It is within the walls of our learning institutions where diverse people come together in a space where personal relationships are formed and where responsive empathy is nurtured. An example of responsive empathy happened during morning carpool, I stuck my head in the car to say hi to a parent on election day. Our brief conversation revealed that her child was in conversation with another child who attends another school. The child from another school referred to Native people as “Indians.” The Fayerweather parent told me her child was quick to correct the peer, and calmly explained why you don’t call Native Americans “Indians.” In that simple exchange, was a lifelong lesson that the unknowing child will take with them, at least I can hope! Perhaps, something was learned that shifted this young person’s worldview.
Unbeknownst to the parent, that small morning carpool exchange gave me so much hope for our country, and it strengthened my belief in my calling to be a school leader in a school with a mission like Fayerweather’s. It is only through connecting hearts and minds that we have a chance to live out the ideals of this country we call America.