In the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, millions across the country were wondering, What next? How did we get here? In today’s New Voices, Granzella, a third grade teacher in the Bay Area, reflects on those days following Trump’s election; her own Catholic upbringing; and the importance of diverse communities, especially for young children.
I needed to be a part of conversations I never had as a child, discussions and experiences that I think would have made me better, more aware of the breadth of human experience. My childhood was a happy one, but I wasn’t extended and challenged in ways I wish I had been. With each year, I’m more convinced that stretching beyond ourselves is essential.
On the morning after the 2016 Presidential election, my third-grade students huddled around me. Most of them were Latino, and nearly all of them children of color. Before even taking off their jackets, they informed me, big-eyed, that Donald Trump had won. I winced at the contradiction; they were savvy enough to understand the implications of a national election, but innocent enough to imagine that I wouldn’t know the news if not for them.
Within minutes, I’d ushered them toward the rainbow rug, and all twenty-seven of us were sitting in a circle on the floor. They took turns speaking, tossing a plushy stuffed hippo across the circle to the person who waggled fingers, wanting to speak next.
“I think a lot of Americans voted for Donald Trump because they don’t like Mexican people,” said Gabriela in her Spanish-accented English. She lobbed the hippo to Antonio.
“I know why he wants the wall. He probably doesn’t like Mexicans,” said Antonio.
I sighed. They were even more anxious than I’d feared they would be.
The hippo flew back and forth around the circle, until finally it reached Carlos.
“I know why Donald Trump won. Because all the white people don’t like Mexicans.”
There was an audible gasp from the circle of eight-year-olds, as they whipped their heads around to face me. Raised eyebrows and gaping mouths asked the unspoken: had Carlos gone too far with “all the white people”? This group was one of the chattiest I’d taught in years. Now they stared at me, silent. Waiting.