I woke up at 5:37 a.m. to my 14-month-old’s cries. I went to check my phone, learned the news and burst intro tears. “This is impossible,” I kept repeating. “This cannot be.” I usually take the early morning shift but my husband had stayed up, too. My baby knew something was up, staring at me wide-eyed and I told him, “Mamma is very very sad.”
We plowed on in our usual morning routine, perching him on my lap while I peeled a clementine and started breaking each slice into half pieces which he eagerly chewed.
On one of our trips back to the kitchen I paused at a big sticker of Barack Obama that a friend gave me in 2008 with the famous portrait of his face in red, white, blue and the simple words, “Yes we did.”
“Are you going to tell [our daughter] or do you want me to tell her?” my husband asked.
“I want to tell her,” I answered. And I realized that Barack Obama was where I had to start.
An hour later, I asked my daughter if I could lift her up to show her something important in the refrigerator. I lifted her up and pointed to Barack Obama’s portrait.
“You know who this is, right?” I asked.
“Yes. And these words right here on the side say ‘People Powered.’ Do you know what that means?”
“It means that when people have power and come together we can make things fair for everyone and make sure everyone has the things they need like food and a place to live, and that they are treated fairly. And do you see these words up here? They say ‘Yes We Did.’ Because Barack Obama was the first Black president and that is super important. When he was a candidate we always chanted, ‘Yes we can. Yes we can.’ And so after he was elected, we said, ‘Yes we did.’ Because Barack Obama believes in justice and making the world more fair for everyone.”
My daughter asked to be put down and I lowered her down to the kitchen floor.
“But there’s something else I need to tell you. You know how we voted yesterday? Well, Hillary Clinton didn’t win. Donald Trump did.”
Here I started involuntarily sobbing and my husband broke in from the pass through to the living room where he had my son in his arms. “Mamma is very sad but we are all going to be OK. We are all safe and going to be OK.”
“We are going to be OK,” I repeated, “but now more than ever we have to stand up and fight for justice to make sure everyone has the things they need. Because Donald Trump has said things that are against women and immigrants and Arabs and Mexicans
and we have to send a message that we don’t think that is OK.”
“Is Donald Trump going to tell people they have to go to another country and put them in jail?”
“That’s what he says he wants to do–and if he does that, we can stand up and protest or write a letter or sign a petition and send a loud message that we do not think that is OK.”
“Because Trump is garbage.” My daughter was referring to something I had taken a picture of the other day in our neighborhood: A big garbage bag with the words ‘TRUMP’ spray painted on and left on a corner.
“But you know what? I don’t want to call Trump names and say he is garbage. I don’t like what he believes in but he is a person and I am not going to call him bad names. What I want to concentrate on is sending a message about justice and fairness for everyone. And that is why we wear shirts that say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ And would have kept sending those messages even if Hillary had won.”
“What happens if we meet Donald Trump?”
“It’s unlikely that we are going to meet him in person. We might see his picture or see him on TV but we probably won’t ever meet him.”
“But what if we do?”
“Well, if we met him, I would go up to him and say, ‘Donald Trump, I don’t like it when you say things that are against women and immigrants and Arabs and Mexicans and other groups of people. You need to stop saying those things and try to make the world a more just place.”
“And we would tell him to close prisons
,” my daughter added.
“That is an excellent idea, I would love to tell him that.”
Yes, we still can. Yes we will.
Sachi Feris is a blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children, an online a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. Sachi also co-facilitates interactive workshops/webinars on how to talk about race with young children. Sachi currently teaches Spanish to Kindergarten and 1st grade at an independent school in Brooklyn. Sachi identifies as White and is a mother to a four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.
This post was originally published on BlogHer.