I am currently teaching a graduate level Child Welfare Policy class. My students are a diverse and extremely intelligent and compassionate bunch – and in the spring they will gradate with a Masters in Social Work (MSW) or Masters in Public Policy (MPP). If we were going to run a census on my class, we would find they are Black, Latino/Latina, White, Native American, Asian, Armenian, Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, LGBTQ, Students with Disabilities and that is still an incomplete list. Did I mention they are a diverse group? And then there is me. A straight, white, Episcopal raised, question everything, lawyer teaching a policy course.
We meet twice a week and our focus is Child Welfare Policy. These are students interning and working in the community with high risk populations and children in need. In need of stability, of family, of love, of understanding. Like me, my students feel. All the feelings. It takes a special person to want to go into this type of work. It’s high stress, but not high pay. Of course it’s rewarding when things go right. It’s heartbreaking when things go wrong.
I’m not gonna lie, when I started the course, I was pretty sure it was going to be my roughest teaching experience yet. I’m not teaching my area of expertise – experience, sure, but not what I feel most confident teaching. And, I am a lawyer. Teaching soon to be counselors and social workers. Believe me, I get that dynamic after years in Children’s Court. For the first few weeks I was pretty convinced I was failing them in every possible way. I contemplated quitting. But I am not a quitter, and I knew that I was chosen to teach this class for a reason, even though I wasn’t sure what it was. Now, I’m pretty sure I was put in this class, with these students, because I needed to learn a few things too. If I am totally honest, I think they have taught me far more than I have taught them.
We met the day of the election, November 8, and there was definitely a different vibe in the room. This election cycle was a circus, and I don’t think anyone can deny that. And there was plenty of criticism to go around both sides. We all recognized that. We left class knowing that when we met again on November 10, the world would be a different place, no matter who won.
On November 10, the air was thick with feelings I still can’t quite describe. And, so, I decided to do the only thing I really know how to do when things are stressful or scary or causing anxiety or uncertain – I talk. About feelings. And where we are. What we can do. Where we go from here. I sort of went into Survivor After Suicide Loss co- facilitator support group mode. I told my students I knew a lot of them were upset. Scared. Not knowing what it all meant. So I asked them to write down what they did think, feel, wonder about the results we were facing. And we spent an hour talking about them.
Frankly, since I am teaching a policy course, I couldn’t think of a better use of our time than to discuss how policy COULD change over the next four years, for better or for worse, and how we feel about all of it.
There has been a lot of “get over it” lobbed across the aisles this week. And I guess in sharing this, what I want to make clear is this is not about not accepting a loss. It’s not about arguing the validity or non validity of the election or results. It’s about people having legitimate reactions to how this new administration could impact their lives and the lives of their children and their families.
So, if you have come this far, I ask that you continue to read knowing these are people I share space with every single week. These are real people, with real thoughts and fears and feelings about everything that is happening right now, in this country. And it’s not about red or blue. It’s about respecting each other and knowing that even when we have a difference of opinion, we can still treat each other with respect and kindness.
This isn’t posted to argue or to debate, but to simply try to put yourself in another’s shoes. To understand. I am thankful to my students for allowing me to share this here.
Thoughts on the Election – November 10, 2016
- I’m so scared for LGBTQ people – especially children
- I am most concerned with the uncertainty we face. The words that were spoken during this campaign can’t be unsaid and I worry that radical policies will come out of this administration. And, even if they don’t, we are still broken.
- I’m really worried about this Presidency traumatizing people.
- Should I bother having children? Everything is shit. Why bring in a new life?
- I am afraid for my safety as a woman of color. Also, I am afraid for all marginalized communities (LGBTQ, immigrants, Muslims, etc).
- Everyone will have different reactions to the election result – Quiet, Angry, Sad and I’m not really sure how I feel. Kind of numb. Haven’t reacted yet. I don’t know
- I feel like I truly don’t know anyone anymore. I am afraid to interact with my peers, because it hangs in the air that we may have very different core beliefs and opinions.
- I fear people may make assumptions about me and think I support Trump and hold me as an enemy because I am a white woman.
- I am anxious about having to live in constant fear to see how it all plays out each day over the next four years and beyond.
- I am lost because my church has promoted a view different than I hold.
- I am very angry because those I held as friends are indifferent and I don’t know how to not hold that against them.
- My mom voted for Trump and I really resent that.
- I am as concerned, if not more concerned that conservatives control the House, Senate and Presidency, as I am that more than 50 million people voted for someone who has said such hurtful things.
- Fearing for the mental well being of my cohort and our ability to work towards change while living in fear.
- I worry about deportation of family members
- What political power does he have as an individual to make changes?
- He has no experience – what does this mean when it comes to such BIG decisions?
- Hatred, discrimination, racism, sexism, ageism, etc. How much worse can it get?
- Where does this election result leave us as social workers?
- White privilege has proved to be paramount to misogyny
- Concern that the most vulnerable groups will be negatively affected through erosion of the social safety net.
- Having to re-evaluate the company I keep now.
- Fear of increased racism due to Donald Trump normalizing it and the openness of hate groups supporting him.
- I’m thinking about my undocumented relatives and friends. I can see/feel what they are going through, but I can’t do anything.
- I am afraid for my family and many others that can be torn apart.
- I can’t believe there is so much hate in this country. I don’t understand how people can support someone like Trump.
- I am afraid for my family and my community.
- I am afraid my family will be torn apart.
- Do we sever relationships with those who voted for Trump? Am I supposed to believe they endorse his beliefs? Am I supposed to believe they are showing their true colors/beliefs by voting for him?
- I’m scared to be in an interracial relationship for BOTH of our safety.
- I fear this country will not be stable for the upcoming years (eg, riots, safety, living in constant fear).
- Fear for undocumented immigrants who now live with a great sense of uncertainty/instability in their future.
- Fear. Disbelief. I feel like I have been sheltered by living in CA and feeling the full force of hatred, racism, sexism and more now.
- Fear of Affordable Healthcare being taken away from family and the lower socio economic status communities
- I’m scared for many things with Trump being President. As a woman, I fear that rape culture will continue and that Planned Parenthood will lose funding and women will lose their rights to reproductive health, and all the repercussions that come with that.
- Scared that we have lost all ability to see each other as people – as friends and family and colleagues who might have a difference in opinion, but that doesn’t make either of us inherently bad.
- I just don’t understand how people don’t understand why I am upset and why I am not allowed to be upset. This isn’t about “my” candidate not winning, it’s about what this all says about humanity.
- Scared for the environment – what this means for our protected lands and water and air. Even if you don’t believe in big government, it seems like having clean air and water and regulations and policies to ensure that would be welcome.
- As a mixed immigration status family, I fear for my undocumented parents, my sister and brother who have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) , aunts and uncles who are undocumented. I fear that my family will be separated by a border.