I couldn’t sleep last night. A heavy sense of fear and foreboding is settled into my gut; today is a dark day in history.
I have been thinking a lot about how I will resist. How I can stand up. How I can fight back and make a difference. And, the honest answer is that I don’t know yet.
But I know that I will.
I will not be afraid.
I will not be silent.
I will not forget that,
I will stand up for people and communities of color.
I will stand up for immigrants.
I will stand up for the LGBT community.
I will stand up for the marginalized.
I will stand up for people who practice their faith.
I will stand up for women.
I will stand up for civil rights and human rights.
I will stand up for education, the environment and health care.
I will stand up for honesty, ethics, morality and justice.
I will stand up for freedom, and democracy.
I will stand up for facts.
I will stand up for truth.
When I grow weary, I will read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Henry David Thoreau’s “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.”
Today, the first song Carter asked to hear was “Revolution” by the Beatles. I will remember that.
Today, I wore all black in mourning, and yellow rainboots for hope. I shut off the news and took Carter to the library. Because I’m going to teach him to read. He will be informed and educated. He will know how to tell fact from fiction. And he will stand up too.
Then, we went to buy poster board and markers. Tonight, we will make signs.
Tomorrow, I march.
On Sunday, I will go to church to seek guidance and peace. I will pray, as I do everyday.
Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause – the cause of liberation. And this commitment, because it is loving, is dialogical. As an act of bravery, love cannot be sentimental; as an act of freedom, it must not serve as a pretext for manipulation. It must generate other acts of freedom; otherwise, it is not love.
In his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, educator and theorist Paolo Freire introduced the concept of critical consciousness. In simple terms, critical consciousness is the ability to be aware of historical context, to perceive oppression, and take action against it.
Andy and I are doing our best to raise a critically conscious child (in a few months, it will be children!). We are still at the beginning of this parenting journey, and we have a lot to learn. But, these are a few ideas that guide the decisions we make for our family:
Never stop learning
Critical consciousness, social awareness, or being woke is not a mental state where one arrives. It is a perpetual journey of deepening knowledge, challenging perspectives and increasing understanding. The work of learning is never finished. To raise critically conscious children, we must constantly challenge our own ways of thinking and perceiving the world. We must continue learning, reading, dialoging, listening, experiencing and examining with critical and open eyes. We must learn alongside our children.
Engage in dialogue
I don’t think it is ever too early to build an internal consciousness or a critical lens. Even if our children don’t have a complete understanding of specific issues for many years, they can learn to examine the world. We cannot filter out the world, even if we sometimes want to. So, we need to be able to talk about it. We need to spend less time sheltering children from the world and more time confronting it together in a critical and conscious manner. We need to trust, listen to and learn from our children; we can co-create meaning together.
Carter is only two, but hey, let’s talk about those Disney princesses, Halloween costumes, and biased media imagery and language. Let’s talk about history. Let’s talk about why some people are portrayed this way while others are portrayed that way. Let’s ask our kids what they think. We must talk about why things are the way they are, and how we can make a change.
Use language intentionally
The language we use matters. This is not some politically correct, liberal made up constraint on how to talk. Words have power. Saying a girl is bossy, or telling her she’s a leader makes a world of difference. Calling a boy a sissy or saying he’s compassionate leads to different sets of internalized identities. We think of rioters and protesters in very different ways. The term “alt-right” euphemizes the reality of white supremacy. Our language shapes how we see ourselves and understand others. It influences our perception, our emotions, our choices. We must be thoughtful and intentional about what we say and how we talk to our children. And we must teach our children to be intentional too.
Make conscious choices about books and media
Books and media have a powerful influence on the ways in which our children perceive the world and themselves. They can empower us, or perpetuate internalized oppression from a young age. I have written about the power and need for diverse children’s books here and here. Selecting resources that are representative of all perspectives and experiences is paramount to our children’s developing awareness. Do they see children with all races, backgrounds, religious, handicaps, family structures, socio-economic statuses in their books? What kind of gender expectations or messages do their songs and movies convey? We must be intentional and thoughtful about these influences in our children’s lives.
We must help our children be self-aware. The more they are aware of their own emotions, motivations, and impact on others, the more they can engage consciously with the world. They need to know all their emotions are okay – it’s as okay to be mad, sad, frustrated, disappointed and scared as it is to be happy and excited. The emotions are okay, the hitting and kicking are not! We can help them to recognize their feelings and express them in constructive ways.
From this foundation, we can nurture empathy. We can talk about how characters feel in stories, how we feel in different situations. We can talk about how their actions affect us and how our actions affect them (post about restorative justice and parenting coming eventually!). We can guide our children to put themselves in others’ shoes and experience the world differently. Only then will they understand our common humanity and value.
Break the Bubble:
In our intensely segregated communities, it can be a big challenge to live outside bubbles. But, we must make the extra effort. Our kids need to have friends of all races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. Not superficial, drop-in experiences but genuine, meaningful relationships that challenge our assumptions about the world. It is impossible to be critically conscious without these relationships.
And hint, if we don’t have those kinds of relationships, they won’t either.
Step outside comfort zones:
We grow when we push ourselves outside our comfort zones. Creating an environment in which discomfort and failure are celebrated as opportunities for learning can empower children to try new things. New experiences and new people expand our perspectives and help us overcome fear. They break the barriers that divide people. As we encourage our children to take risks, we are teaching them to live beyond bubbles as they journey through the world.
Be an example:
We must walk the walk. It’s been said a million times before, but our children learn from watching what we do, not just from listening to what we say. We must treat all people with dignity and love. Read and always keep learning. Dialogue with everyone. Go to protests. Donate money. Have difficult conversations. Stand in solidarity. Bring our kids with us. They will walk where we walk.
On Tuesday, Andy and I brought Carter to his first protest. We were protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being built across sacred Native lands in North Dakota. It is one of the largest movements by a united Native coalition against dangerous human rights violations and an eminent environmental threat. Though this movement has garnered international support, we have seen little to no coverage in our the mainstream media.
In a very simplified nutshell, the DAPL is a $3.8 billion dollar fracked-oil pipeline that stretches 1,172 miles from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois. It is currently slated to cross Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where it is intended to be laid underneath the Missouri River. The Missouri River is the longest river on the continent and the primary source of drinking water for 8 million people. It sill also impact many sites sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous nations.
Proposed by a collection of powerful pipeline companies, the original pipeline route was planned to run north of Bismark – outside of Native lands, through predominantly White communities. It was rerouted through tribal nations when these white rejected the pipeline because it posed a threat to their drinking water. The Army Corps of Engineers failed its federal mandate to consult meaningfully with indigenous leaders before plans and construction on this new route began. This is a blatant act of environmental racism and a modern continuation of Native struggles against colonial violence, stolen land and broken treaties.
Water Protectors from indigenous nations around the world have united in a historic show of solidarity and action against DAPL. The National Guard, police officers from various states and hired guns from the pipeline company itself have attacked peaceful protesters with flash grenades, beanbag launchers, pepper spray, and Long Range Acoustic Devices. Videos of law enforcement beating Water Protectors have gone viral on social media.
Internet connectivity around Standing Rock has been shut down to prevent Protectors from broadcasting news and updates to the wider world. However, the United Nations has called for a halt to construction of the DAPL and has denounced the U.S. for the “inhuman and degrading treatment” of protectors. Amnesty International and the UN have sent delegations to investigate the human rights abuses at Standing Rock.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Army halted construction of the pipeline pending further review. Despite previous mandates from the Army Corps of Engineers, the pipeline companies have used heavily armed state authorities and private security to push ahead on construction. They have laid pipeline up to the edge of Lake Oahe, a portion of the Missouri River.
If you were fortunate to be taught history in a way that did not glorify colonizers and genocide, did not vilify Native peoples and attempted a stab at truth, you will know at least a tiny fraction of the injustices piled upon Native peoples over centuries. Maybe you never learned about the yellow fever blankets Columbus intentionally traded to Native people, never learned about atrocities colonizers committed, never learned about forced boarding schools or current conditions of poverty and sickness in native communities. But hopefully you gained some understanding that indigenous peoples were here first, their land was stolen and their people decimated.
If you were fortunate enough to have some inkling of this history, recognize that their struggles have not ended. And, frankly, their struggles are our struggles too. Indigenous peoples are not the stuff of ancient history. You can act and make a difference now.
Years from now, our children will learn about Standing Rock. They will learn about our obsession with oil and prioritization of profits over people and the planet. They will judge the injustice we allow on our watch. They will live in the environmental results of the choices we make today.
It is widely understood that if this pipeline is not stopped before the Presidency changes hands, it will not be stopped at all. Trump has extensive financial investments in the companies building the pipeline.
Time is ticking. Do your part today.
My heart is heavy, my thoughts in Standing Rock.
I am in incredible pain. My value, my humanity, my worth as an Indigenous man has been repudiated.
My brothers and sister silenced, my grandmothers abused, my land stolen, my grandfathers arrested.
What is happening in Standing Rock is an attempt to eliminate my identity, to eliminate my connection to the land, to eliminate all I hold sacred. It is an attempt to eliminate and disconnect me from the generations of ancestors who fought to ensure that I can stand tall without fear this day.
I can scarce hold back the tears from the pain, the assault on my dignity, on my children’s future, on the very things I hold dear and sacred for the sake of the “broadest public interest.” But I persevere.
Standing Rock is more than a pipeline. It is about the very dignity of Indigenous people and it is a literal fight against our elimination.
My son is curled up next to me, snoring in his sleep, battling the 101-degree fever that started around 1 am Wednesday morning – right when the election news was rolling in. He has not allowed me to leave his side and even curled up in my lap through two movies and about 100 books. If you know him, you know this means he is really sick. Or really scared. Maybe he has internalized my pain.
In some ways, caring for him yesterday postponed my processing of the election. But, more importantly, it filled me with love.
I genuinely believe that love trumps hate. That light drives out darkness. That in times of great division and fear, we must turn to love. But what does this really mean? And what does this mean right now?
To me, it means to love as Christ did. To see others as Christ sees them. To see their humanity and to recognize our kinship as children of God. Our Father in heaven loves all of us. We must do the same, even when we disagree. Even when we are wronged. Even when we are hurt. We must embrace love.
This love must be unconditional, but it does not have to be blind. Christ loves us, so he shows us our weaknesses and asks us to repent. He tells us when we are wrong, when we make mistakes, when we sin; He asks us to be better. He gives us a way to be better. So, like Christ, we must love and we must listen. But, we must also call out hatred and injustice and bigotry and ignorance when it exists.
We love, and we fight for light.
To fight for the light means we must acknowledge that darkness exists. It is not enough to say let’s just be kind to one another. To do so without acknowledging the ugly is more harmful than good. To do so implies the privilege to ignore realities that so many of us have lived for generations. We must be honest. And we can do it with love.
It means acknowledging that yes, many of the white people in middle America feel abandoned and betrayed by government. That people have lost their trust in a government controlled by money and business and lobbying. It means recognizing that most of us feel the same way and want to see change. It also means acknowledging that every marginalized community has always been treated this way and worse. And, regardless of economic circumstance or location, white people still have more power.
It means acknowledging that though there are other factors involved in peoples’ voting decisions, consciously or not, race was absolutely an issue.
It means acknowledging that the person elected to our highest office represents big money and big business and an impunity that harms our democracy and values. That this man rallied his supporters despite a documented background in direct opposition to many of their concerns and needs. It means acknowledging that his narrative was created through rhetoric and bigotry and lies too countless to mention.
It means acknowledging that a man who ran a campaign founded on racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, white nationalism, bullying, fear and lies had the support of enough Americans to be elected to the White House.
It means acknowledging that while not everyone who voted for Trump is overtly hateful or racist – and that many voted for him reluctantly to support political agendas – some are. And they have been given permission to become more vocal and public in their hatred. It has already begun. It means acknowledging that those who voted for Trump, but who professed not to agree with his messaging were nevertheless willing to overlook, accept and support it with their ballots. It means that nearly half the voters in this country willingly chose to perpetuate racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia and discrimination. It also means they can say they weren’t supporting those things – because for them, those are just ideas, not active threats. But regardless of how they justify it, the overall results endorse bigotry.
It means acknowledging that while some people have the privilege of claiming this is just about politics, for marginalized communities – people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, disabled people, women, Muslims, immigrants – this goes much deeper. This is about humanity and survival and life.
It means recognizing that for us, the fear is real. The trauma is real. The terror is real. This is not leftist political fear-mongering or over-exaggeration. This is a genuine response to Trump’s threats and words and actions. Just listen to the children. Listen to the teachers who had to go into classrooms Wednesday morning to talk with youth filled with terror. Pay attention to the things that have already started happening, even in liberal strongholds. It is a response to a legitimization of white nationalism. To the silencing of women and the acceptance of sexual assault. To the vitriol against Muslims and immigrants. It is knowing history and fearing its repetition.
It means learning about reconstruction, Jim Crow, eugenics, the Chinese Exclusion Act, DAPL, indigenous history, Tuskegee, and farm workers’ history, just to name a few. It means learning about voter suppression, the resurgence of voter ID laws and this year’s attack on voting rights.
It is about admitting that the ugliness exists, even if the brighter part of our souls wants to believe it doesn’t. It’s about choosing to confront the ugly rather than try to interpret it in a way that makes us feel better. Some people have expressed surprise. Not all of us have lived this privilege of looking away. We invite you to see the world as it has looked from our eyes all along.
I am afraid. I am terrified. I think about internment camps and concentration camps. About medical bills and an environment destroyed. I fear a loss of rights that took years to achieve. I fear a nation pushed backwards fifty years into a hole that will take generations to escape.
I fear. I tremble. I’m angry. But, I won’t wallow here. I will harness my emotions into power.
For now, please don’t tell me it will all be okay. One must have a lot of privilege to say it will be okay. Most people saying this are White. Maybe it will be okay for you. And, to be honest, I’m glad about that. At least it will be okay for some.
But, it will not be okay for everyone. No Child Left Behind was not okay for the generation of students forced to practice taking multiple choice tests at the expense of genuine learning. It was not okay for students who never got art or music or physical education in schools. It will continue to have lasting effects on individual lives, schools and society for generations to come. The economic collapse of 2008 was not okay for people who lost homes, lost savings, lost jobs, lost everything. Maybe you were able to choose a neighborhood or pay for a school that provided a progressive education and more opportunities. Maybe you had enough of a buffer to survive and even benefit from others’ economic tragedy. But not everyone had that choice.
It will not be okay for the families who are torn apart. It will not be okay for the refugees who are turned away. It will not be okay for young people who will be ripped from schools and jobs because they were brought to our country as children. It will not be okay for people threatened by or hurt by violence. This is literally a matter of life and death for some. It will not be okay if millions of people lose their health insurance. It will not be okay if our economy collapses. Maybe you will be able to weather that storm – but remember the privileges that helped you get where you are. Not everyone has those.
It will not be okay for anyone if our planet and our environment are destroyed. No one has the privilege of avoiding those effects.
This is how I feel today. Maybe many of these things are fears that will never find fruition. I hope so. I hope the man who campaigned is a different leader than the person he presented as a businessman and campaign figure. As Hillary reminded us, we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. But, I am more than a little skeptical.
Don’t tell me things will be okay. Don’t ask me to keep you comfortable. Listen and tell me, we will get through this. Because we will get through this implies difficulty; it implies perseverance and hard work and action. Things won’t be okay unless we plan and prepare for the changes that may come, until we acknowledge the real and lasting effects they will have. Until we work through things together.
Still, I have hope. There are still so many reasons to hope.
I have hope in my husband, who has the courage to share his opinions publicly despite hurtful responses from beloved extended family members. I have hope in former students who voted for the first time, got out the vote in Philly, studied to be informed decision makers and protested in the streets. I have hope in Pantsuit Nation, whose stories and posts have been inspiring and moving. I have hope in the people who reached out to me today, in the hugs and communities that are being galvanized toward action. I have hope in the group of Mormons I talked with last night at a book-signing event – faithful men and women who are devastated, empowered and willing to act.
I have hope and tremendous pride in a California who voted forward as the nation turned backward. I have hope that we will again be the rebel state leading the country back into the future.
I have hope because Hillary won the popular vote. I have hope knowing the majority of voting citizens did not choose the ideologies and rhetoric of division strewn by Trump.
I have hope that yesterday’s election will catalyze action among those who have been complacent. I have hope that people will be motivated to share opinions they have previously held close for fear of judgment or offense. I have hope people will realize these fears are what prevent us from generating dialogue toward change.
I have hope because, as Theodore Parker once wrote, history shows that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is painful and slow, but it always does in the end.
I have hope that the emotions of the moment will turn into committed actions over time.
As for me, I will keep writing. I will sign petitions. I will go to protests and donate money. I will fight DAPL and stay informed about issues. I will vote in every election and write to elected officials. I will make my home a refuge for those that need one. When my home fills up, I will make room elsewhere. I will teach my children.
I will practice civil disobedience. As Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Two years ago, we bought a pumpkin at a grocery store and called it a day; Carter was a two-month old preemie burrito, and we were just happy we remembered Halloween. Last year, I was determined to make up for the lapse. I took Carter to a pumpkin patch at the beginning of October and we carved some bomb pumpkins.
They all rotted two weeks before Halloween.
So, I dutifully went back to buy more pumpkins, intending to carve again. Those sat untouched by our front door until June. (I know, I’m amazed they didn’t rot away too!)
This year, Carter and his best bud, Massi, went to not one, but two different pumpkin patches: Webb Ranch in Portola Valley and Pastorino Farms in Half Moon Bay.
Carter and Massi at Webb Ranch.
What? Youre pants don’t just spontaneously fall off too?
All the feels.
Andy, Carter and I had the best morning carving pumpkins and eating chocolate chip pancakes. At Carter’s request, we ate at “Boogie’s table” which made the food taste even better!
So excited to carve his pumpkin.
He had to stand up because apparently he wasn’t already front and center enough.