There is no doubt this past election has been far different than one we have ever seen. For some it was a refreshing change from the normal political rhetoric and for others it was a bit like watching a trainwreck. It has been interesting both as an educator and as a black man to watch both sides of the political spectrum churn over what should happen next. We can all agree that President-elect Trump isn’t perfect, but nor has anyone who has ever bid for the presidency. We have all said things we regret, or typed something we never intended the world to see.
Try Not to Feed into the Hysteria
It is just as important that our kids see us be vulnerable, as it is for them to see us poised in the face of something difficult. Stay excited and energized to be part of a culture that provides space for voices of dissent as well as consonance and there may be instances where our nation has been better at this than others, but how lucky are we to live in such an exciting time. We are living history before our very eyes. Fear in the human spirit often comes from our assumptions of the future coupled with the absence of trust in ourselves to be able to handle whatever circumstances come our way. Always keep in mind, hysteria encourages TV ratings not an educated electorate.
Advocacy isn’t the New Kid on the Block
As it has been for any human being who identifies with some sort of minority, it isn’t suddenly a new concept to advocate for one’s needs because the President-elect isn’t as politically correct as his predecessors. He isn’t the first imperfect person to bid and be put into a position of power and he probably won’t be the last. There always has been and will be people who will answer the call when our kinsman are in need. We must trust that our collective humanity will balance the scales and we can’t go around calling imbalance into existence with our words and actions. We have always managed to take care of ourselves in the end.
What Do We Say?
- We are Americans. We believe in democracy. We believe in the voice of the people. And that means accepting that things may or may not work out the way we imagined or wanted to but we trust that indelibly our nation’s creed will abound in this experiment we call freedom.
- We speak up. Silence is dangerous. We have an honor/responsibility to speak truth to power and support those in need.
- We respect one another not in spite of our differences but because of our differences.
- Bigotry is not up for debate. It is a stain on the history of our democracy and its our r
esponsibility to understand it and purge it from our social fabric. Don’t believe the hype! (as we say in Brooklynese). Not everyone who voted for President-elect Trump is a racist. A great deal of them are Americans who voted for the best option they could, with the information they had in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness that our Declaration of Independence calls for.
- We don’t walk away. We will preserve and practice our sovereign right to engage in our governance even when it is inconvenient or cumbersome. We don’t just choose our President but our local officials too. And when our ideals don’t align, we engage in civic discussion to promote understanding not to treat our compatriots as other.
There are people in the world who are really good at showing us how to be. There are people in the world who have a knack for showing us how not to be. And more often than not, those two things can exist in the same person and the lessons we teach our kids remain the same. We teach them to have the discernment to delineate between the two. To remember our highest ideals and from there work together and when we strive to be our best selves, honor and responsibility are one and the same.
Jimmy Juste is Inly School’s Director of the Office of Inclusion and advises the school on programmatic, personnel, and community topics on diversity and equity. Before joining Inly, Jimmy taught middle and high school students in the NYC public school system. He also taught poetry at the Waverly School of the Arts in Brooklyn, NY and performing arts at MCC Theater, CenterStage NY, Usher New Look Foundation and Hospital Audiences Inc. Jimmy has worked as a professional background singer for the likes of Amos Lee, Patti Labelle, Josh Groban, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and St. Luke’s Orchestra. A teacher of many talents, Jimmy has a degree in theater and communications from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is currently working on a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Massachusetts.