"No, nope. I'm not letting you go yet."
I could feel the weight of her arms around my back; the curls of her hair pressed against my cheek. Her chest heaving with each inhale.
"Just a little bit longer," she whispered as she squeezed tighter.
My breathing followed her rhythm.
"Okay, now we're good." I felt her arms fall away.
This all happened as I was heading to the elevator at a conference today.
"Thank you," I said softly, feeling my eyes well up for the hundredth time today. "I didn't even realize I needed that until you made me stay in that moment."
Just twelve hours ago, the United States election results were announced. And, it's been about 12 hours of living in my own head. Shortly after the morning news, I got into a taxi, onto a plane, on a tram, on another plane, in another taxi, and right into a conference session I had organized. I'm surprised I made it to my destination, though I truly couldn't quite tell you anything about my journey. Nearly all day, I've felt in a daze.
As a scholar and practitioner who looks at issues from a critical (i.e. disruptive and structural) perspective, I was not surprised by the election results. Let me rephrase that -- I was surprised by the election results, but I wasn't surprised by the election results. To understand race and to understand our country's history of race, this election outcome should not have been a surprise. Different groups of people feel disappointed. Different groups of people feel confused, especially as poll data indicated a different outcome. But, if you know about race in our country, this should not have been a surprise.
Being in the air for long periods of time today, I turned on my phone to lots of questions and notifications from social media. My inbox was filled with requests for guidance and help -- help talking to children; help processing the events themselves; and help understanding what tomorrow brings.
But, I will offer some "now what" moments here.
Learn about race. All of the polling data is conveniently showing the racial divide in voting this election. If you hadn't believed that the implications of race are real, it's time to show up. Race is real. The implications of race are real. Learn about race and learn how to talk about race. If you're White in America, I get it - you've been told you don't have to talk about race or have even felt like it's not "an issue that you need to address." Talking about race made you feel bad or guilty. Listening to others talk about race made you upset. Believing that people received advantages because of race or (mythical) racial advantages made you angry and fire off claims of "reverse racism" (note: reverse racism isn't a thing, okay?) Race is real. It's very implication is that you need to engage in this conversation.
Believe that people of color and other groups who have been minoritized in our policies and programs are feeling something different today. Now, c'mon. Folx in these groups have always experienced a "different America" than White cisgender folx. It's time you all believe that it's true. Again, quantitatively, look at how voting broke down into racial lines. That's a different America. We were never post-racial (and, if you were a post-racial-believer, please take the opportunity to educate yourself about why that, too, isn't a thing)
Build community. I'll be the first to tell you that e-mail chains make me bananas. Yet, today, I received a 36-message email chain of support and affirmation from people who were strangers to me just a few months ago. But, we shared a very special experience together over the course of three weeks. I needed to hear their voices and read their words today more than ever. That hug from earlier? That physical connection was so important. Today, those few dozen emails from people asking what they could do -- that was community.
Talk with your children. At my school, we lean heavily into identity and equity and inclusion. So, our children are comfortable talking about these issues. But, children need to hear messages of support at home and at school. Children are also much smarter than we give them credit for -- don't dismiss their fears or anxiety. Acknowledge if they need to express their feelings, let them tell you what's going on, and then reassure them of what your family believes.
Maya Angelou writes: "... people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; people will never forget how you made them feel." Our children need to feel a sense of security, of safety, and of stability, even in a time when we, as adults, are feeling none of those. But, be honest with them. Be honest with your own feelings while assuring them that you, as their parent or caring adult, are committed to their safety, security and stability. There was a lot of promises during this campaign season that our children have heard and talked about -- assure them that, if these are talked about now as the President, you will address these issues in your home.
Awaken your activist identity. Many of the messages I've received today have shared a similar theme: "I now know that I can't sit back and let others do the work; I have to do the work, too." Show up in spaces that are doing activist work. As you've heard from me before, there are many ways to engage in activism. For some, I've watched you move from "liking" posts on Facebook to actually "sharing" or even writing your own. Some have mentioned that they started getting involved in their Parents' Advisory Council and been an advocate for inclusion. Some have gone to a rally or to an organizing meeting. Some have joined a church where messages of social justice are the foundation of the faith practice. Some have worn pins or engaged in public conversations about political and justice issues. Ask questions. Read books. Learn how to talk to your children about these issues. If you are a teacher, include books about race and justice in your curriculum (please, please, please). If you aren't a teacher, buy books to give to others.
I simply cannot accept, at this point, folxs saying, "I don't know what to do."
I can't tell you what to do next. There are at least a dozen of my posts and hundreds more than can give you everything from a Top 5 to a 50-page document of things to do.
SO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? I recommend you make a plan. Write down the three things you are going to do --- three concrete things -- and then share that with someone else. Or, share it with everyone else. Ask for help. Ask for help with those specific action items. Maybe it's "I'm going to read three books on critical race." And, you might find someone else say, "Yes, can I join you? Can we read the same book and then chat on Google Hangout or Skype or in person?"
Make it happen.
You have the information. What you decide to do with it is up to you. The question remains: Is the time now or will you wait a little longer?
Peace and pushing on,