Trans Rights Are Human Rights

A group of people sit and stand in a circle. One person holds a Pride flag. The background is the wall of an historic building with two arches. This artistic photo is tinted yellow.
“Dia de Trans,” celebrated in the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia. Picture by Juan Pajaro Velasquez

“Rarely has an issue that so few people encounter — and one that public opinion analysts have only recently begun to study in depth—become a political and cultural flash point so quickly,” said Jeremy W. Peters in a brilliant New York Times news analysis. The piece points out that while a minuscule part of the population feels “threatened” by the “unfair competition” of trans girls in school and college sports, nearly all students feel unsafe in school — and with good reason. Another piece, this by Megan Rapinoe in the Washington Post, talks about social conservatives chasing a problem that does not exist.

In the White House, thankfully, reason and human decency recently prevailed, when the Senate confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine as the first Assistant Secretary for Health. She pledged to “promote policies that advance the health and well-being of all Americans,” including transgender people like herself. But her confirmation 52 to 48 should not have been so close. The article quotes Dr. Levine as saying, “Sadly, some of the challenges you face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you.”

“Any attempt to discriminate against trans kids or trans people is actually against the law and against nondiscrimination laws already on the books,” said Reggie Greer, senior White House advisor on LGBT issues to the White House.

Mississippi recently became the second state to ban transgender women in sports, and lawmakers have introduced similar bills in 25 other states. And the Arkansas governor earlier this month allowed medical workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people.

“Transgender and non-binary people face significant cultural, legal and economic challenges, but continue to bravely share their stories, boldly claim their seats at the table and tirelessly push equality forward,” said Human Rights Commission President Alphonso David. “The transgender and non-binary community’s pride, power and resilience should be a lesson to us all. As advocates, we must commit to learning together and building a world where every person can truly thrive.” HRC has already marked 12 violent killings of transgender people for 2021.

For those who doubt the authenticity of sexual and gender identity, the science supports the trans community. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Gender identity and sexual orientation are fundamental independent characteristics of an individual’s sexual identity. Scientific American documented that “sex is anything but binary” and urges people to “stop using phony science to justify transphobia. Sex and gender are not the same. s

Human decency and kindness also support the trans community.

 

It Was Hate

A booth at a country fair shows Confederate flags hanging from the sides.
Disunited We Stand, at a 4-H fair, no less. I carefully snapped this picture in an affluent town in northwestern New Jersey, U.S.A., 2006.

About last week’s riots at the U.S. Capitol. This seems like old news. And it seemed like recent news. It’s neither. Statements such as “This isn’t who we are” are part of the “lies we tell ourselves about race.” Trump’s racism was known for many years, made even more public with his birther lie about Obama. And among the mobs at the Capitol that day, hate was on full display, and it must continue to be called out.

We have seen all the pictures of the damage to the U.S. Capitol, “the altar of our democracy, the sacred gathering spot of those who served, strove and died building this nation.” However, if were about criminal vandalism alone, it would be enough. If it were about the attack on our capital and Capitol, it would be enough. If it were about the attack on the sacredness of our democracy, it would be enough. It was something more sinister: hate.

Do not envy evil men;
Do not desire to be with tem;
For their hearts talk violence;
And their lips speak mischief.
Proverbs 24,1-2, translation by the Jewish Publication Society

The city is renewed upon its ancient ruins.
The scavengers are scattered,
the devourers have fled.”
Lecha Dodi, sung during the Jewish Friday night service, as translated by Marcia Prager, Jewish Renewal

Or a more recent telling by David Brooks: “But there are dark specters running through our nation — beasts with shaggy manes and feral teeth. They have the stench of Know-Nothingism, the hot blood of the lynchers, and they ride the winds of nihilistic fury.”

Both the Times of Israel and the Forward identified Neo Nazi groups such as Baked Alaska, the Goyper Army (with their America First flag), Proud Boys, NSC-131, the Oath Keepers, along with “anti-circumcision” creeds. Crusader crosses, a holy religious symbol misappropriated by individuals glorifying an era of white, Christian wars against Muslims and Jews, are prominent. CNN identified the Three Percenters (an antigovernment militia group, Proud Boys “OK hand symbols,” the anti-Semitic Kekistan flag (home of Pepe the Frog), Oath Keepers with their black and gold hats, a man with a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt. The Conversation noted the Mussolini-era 6MWE symbol.” an acronym common among the far right code for “6 Million Wasn’t Enough.” Reporters from WBEZ, Chicago, noted the Neo-Nazi neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. “Find the traitors; get the rope,” said another White Supremacist on the social media board Parler, a haven for bigotry. Only after two days following the riots was the violent app banned from Google and Apple.

Even more conspicuous were the bearded man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, noted by a Dr. Eva Umlauf, a 78-year-old survivor of that death camp. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Dr. Umlauf said. “It really broke a taboo. I never would have believed that was possible from Americans.” Shirts emblazoned with popular 14-word white supremacist slogan, visible on signs outside the Capitol on Wednesday, reads “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The White Genocide Manifesto.” Its 14 planks insist that Jews are not white and actually endanger white civilization. “All Western nations are ruled by a Zionist conspiracy to mix, overrun and exterminate the White race,” the manifesto’s seventh plank reads.

If none of this is enough, Confederate flags and nooses were plenty visible. (The stark contrast of the lack of action by police and security on January 6 and protests involving people of color would provide sufficient material for a whole other column.)

The Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, part of The Arc, in a statement noted “The response to the riot, which stood in stark contrast to recent responses to racial justice protests and symbols used by rioters – including the confederate flag and nooses on the Capitol lawn exemplify our nation’s racism and we urge that the rioters be held accountable for their actions to the full extent of the law.”

No, not all those in Washington were white supremacists, racists, bigots. They were following the crowds. They were, as Arnold Schwartznegger said, rapt in the the cynicism of so much public discourse, as our country sinking into an abyss. But hate spreads quickly among people. And that’s why me must never, ever stop calling out hate.

Impassioned Webinar Addressed Anti-Racism from a Black Jewish Perspective

3GNY and 3GDC are organizations that provide a platform for third-generation Holocaust survivors to keep the stories of their grandparents alive. By sharing the histories of anti-Semitism of the past, they confront all forms of bigotry present today. More about these important groups will appear in a later article in this space.

Over the summer, the groups led an anti-Racism workshop. By being aware of our own biases, we are better equipped to confront systemic racism. The organizations continue their anti-racism outreach with a new webinar. Yehuda Webster, a Black Jew originally from Guyana, on Thursday, October 15, gave an impassioned speech. According to the organizers, “As a Jew of color, Yehudah will work within a Jewish framework to lead us through an interactive, discovery-based workshop that calls upon self-care and human empathy to combat racism.” As is true among people with disabilities, those who directly experience life are best able to tell about it.

“As a Jew of Color, I Need More People in My Community to Speak Up,” says Yehudah. “Now more than ever, we need to be attentive to the dynamics of race and biases.” Yehudah used the excellent materials of Facing History and Ourselves, an advocacy organization that provides highly regarded educational materials. He opened his powerful October 15 workshop asking, “How do we lead an anti-racist life? It’s not a question of whether there is racism, but what we are going to do about it.” With that, he said, “Now more than ever, we need to be attentive to the dynamics of race and biases.” He rapped on his “mama’s mama.” He was referring to strong women who had an inter-generational impact. “They are the models of anti-racism,” he said.

Yehudah had the participants to discuss in groups of three and four examine a quotation:

I love my daughters more than my nieces,
my nieces more than my cousins,
my cousins more than my neighbors.
But that doesn’t mean that we detest our neighbors.

They pondered the following questions:

  • What is this person’s vision of community?
  • In what ways does this vision of community make sense?
  • Does this vision make you at all uncomfortable? Why or why not?  
  • Is collective liberation from all forms of oppressive suffering achievable with this model of community?

Yehudah revealed that the speaker was, in fact, Jean-Marie Le Pen, an avowed anti-Semite and racist. In the end, we must regard the person in the fourth circle in the Universe of Obligation, that “neighbor,” as an individual with feelings.

When we see a black person, it is an act of micro-aggression to cross to the other side of the street. We must do more, a lot more. We must be kind and civil. Greet the person, that “neighbor,” with a sincere smile. That, he said is the beginning of being an anti-racist.

Yehudah is a tutor with the B’nai Mitzvah Campaign. He also works with Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, a group “advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in people’s everyday lives.” According to the group’s website, “We are inspired by Jewish tradition to fight for a sustainable world with an equitable distribution of economic and cultural resources and political power,” and continues with, “We believe that Jews have a vital role to play in this movement. The future we hope for depends on Jews forging deep and lasting ties with our partners in struggle.”

Registration is free, but donations of any amount are encouraged. For those unable to attend, the webinar will hopefully be recorded for later viewing. This promises to be a most worthwhile and extremely valuable event!

Ida B. Wells Shone the Light on the Evils of Lynching

Ida B Wells lynching

Penguin Classics has compiled a comprehensive selection of articles Ida B. Wells wrote during her long career.

There’s a notable group of writers who exposed hideous truths and awoke the conscience of millions. Upton Sinclair exposed the meatpacking industry. Jacob Riis publicized how “the other half lives.” Nelly Bly laid bare the bleakness of mental institutions. And a Black journalist named Ida B. Wells showed the world the horrors of lynching in America.

 

Born a slave in 1862, Ida B. Wells gained freedom with the ending of the Civil War. However, the end of slavery was not the end of white supremacy. Some 72 years before Rosa Parks’s refusing to give up her seat sparked the civil rights movement, Wells was arrested for doing the same on a train. She started her writing career chronicling that action. However, the racism she would report in subsequent articles was of a much more sinister, lethal nature. This anthology, The Light of Truth brings these pieces together.

 

The first Chapter includes her early writings under the pseudonym Iola, which provides the context of post-Reconstruction racism. Then, in the following Chapter, Wells brings together her groundbreaking reporting on lynching. Most notable is her essay Southern Horrors, which also explains “Lynch Law in All Its Phases.” Ida B. Wells is also noteworthy for exposing the rape myth of the Black man as a sexual threat (which the lynch mobs and enabling law-enforcement officials used to justify their acts). Indeed, this racist trope is still visible in 21st-century America.

 

Chapter 3 comprises Ms. Wells’s reporting in Great Britain. During her two speaking tours, she not only made the people of that country aware of the atrocities in the U.S., she also awoke that nation’s conscience to its own history of the slave trade. Yet, there here safety was not in jeopardy.

 

Ida B Wells lynching

Ida B Wells in an 1883 photo by Mary Garrity, which was restored by Adam Cuerden.

The fourth chapter includes A Red Record, a careful compilation of the actual occurrences of lynching throughout the South, as well as in some northern states. In the preface of this, Ms. Well’s longest work, Frederick Douglass said, “Let me give you thanks for your faithful paper on the lynch abomination…. There is no word equal to it in convincing power.” He continued: “Brave woman! You have done more for your people and mine a service which can neither be weighed nor measured.” This essay is still very much relevant today. The Equal Justice Initiative, the organization Bryan Stevenson founded and described in his acclaimed book, Just Mercy, has continued this critical documentation. In fact, EJI recently reported on its recent finding of an additional 2,000 Black people murdered through lynching. Although whites were also the victims of lynch mobs, Ms. Wells assembled the hard statistics to demonstrate how Blacks were murdered in this manner in much greater numbers, using this to support her claim that lynching was an act of racism, white supremacy.

 

The fifth and final chapter is a compilation of her writing of the 20th century. Declaring lynching “the greatest outrage of the century,” these articles are calls for action. Among them are enfranchisement, written in 1910, something that would not become law for another 55 years.

 

This excellent anthology includes detailed notes for historical context and a fine essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr. In May, 2020, “For her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching,” Ida B. Wells was finally honored with the Pulitzer Prize. As to why this matters, an article in the Washington Post explains, “Wells shone a light on the incongruities between American lynching narratives and the realities of mob violence.” That day, Nikole Hannah-Jones also earned a Pulitzer, for the landmark “1619 Project” in the New York Times. In her writings assembled here, Ida B. Wells, probably more than anyone else, brought the darkness of violence of Black Americans to light.

COVID-19. There’s no Excuse for Bigotry.

Summer Cloud Spectacle

 

“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.” In 2015, in issuing guidelines  on naming new diseases and pathogens, WHO said that names matter; inaccurate or biased names can provoke backlashes against religious and ethnic groups, with serious consequences for peoples’ lives and livelihoods.”

 

This is about the proliferation of such names for the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” and “the Wuhan virus,” loudly proclaimed by officials in the Federal government and segments of the media.

 

Among others, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) expressed the deep concern of “our leaders actually stoking the flames and encouraging people to scapegoat.” She added, “The only result that can happen from … xenophobic rhetoric is to hurt people and to scapegoat a particular ethnic group in this country.

 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and The World Health Organization (WHO) warned against using the term “Chinese virus.” In fact, the these dog-whistle terms already appearing online. This Washington Post article explains it well.

 

Chinese virus… Wuhan virus… These terms deliberately target Chinese people and other Asians who “look Chinese.” It’s racism. It’s bigotry. This is not open to question. “The coronavirus is not an excuse to be racist,” said Samantha Bee, the comedian. “Tying coronavirus to China and Chinese people isn’t just a racist dog whistle, it’s a whole racist orchestra.”

 

See or Hear Racism? Speak Up!

The Southern Poverty Law Center urges people to speak up. The organization’s Teaching Tolerance project recommends a four-step model:

  1. Interrupt the conversation. Express that you need to talk about racism before proceeding.
  2. Question the person and remark. “Why did you call it the Chinese virus” or “What made you say that?”
  3. Educate the speaker. Tell them that the name COVID-19 was chosen carefully to avoid associating the pathogen with a specific group of people.
  4. Echo when someone else speaks up. Acknowledge and amplify the message that these terms are wrong and hurtful. The Ohio State University Kirwan Institute offers online training on being an active bystander.

#IAmNotaVirus

 

It’s real. Racist attacks against people of Chinese ancestry and other southeast Asians have been reported around the world. “Not only do we need to be afraid of our health, now we also have to be afraid to be ourselves,” said one Chinese-American teenager. “Coronavirus infected my high school.” A young woman was yelled at, threatened, and spat on by. The same New York Times article cited many others, including other Asian-Americans, “who with families from Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, and other places — are facing threats, too, lumped together with Chinese-Americans by a bigotry that does not know the difference.” A Huffpost article echoes this news and urges bystanders to speak up.

 

This issue also affects political leadership around the world. Representatives from the Group of Seven nations met last Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, but they couldn’t agree on a joint statement to release to the public afterwards. Why? Because U.S. Secretary of State insisted on calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus.”

 

More than 200 civil- and human-rights organizations have sounded the alarm, among them Human Rights Watch, the Anti Defamation League (ADL), the NAACP, and the Arab American Institute.

 

“Disease and prejudice have long gone hand in hand,” said the New York Times editorial board. “We can do better in 2020.”

Two Holocaust Museums Rethink Their Missions

At a time when there are increasingly fewer Holocaust survivors and witnesses, the last year has seen a surge in anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and bigotry (such as White Nationalismon the rise. Of even greater concern, these forms of bias and hate are moving from the fringes to the mainstream. The Washington Post recently called on Congress to take action. These worrisome trends have had at least two Holocaust museums re-examine how they present their collections. The first involves a young girl, a name world famous but a history often misunderstood. The second commemorates the ghetto uprising in Korczak’s home of Warsaw.

 

The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Although attendance at this Amsterdam landmark has increased sharply over the past seven years, the curators have noticed that many of the younger and foreign visitors have a limited knowledge of the Holocaust and Anne Frank. The challenge, according to and article in the New York Times, is how to make this history relevant to today without trivializing it. The museum has expanded both its exhibition space in an building adjoining the old house and its educational outreach efforts, especially to enable these audiences to experience the what happened in the house. The museum also has traveling exhibitions, such as the new “Let Me Be Myself.” Anne Frank has long been a metaphor for hope and the belief in the inherent goodness of people even in the worst of circumstances.

 

Anne Frank Card Stamps with Korczak

 

Lohamei Hagetaot – Ghetto Fighters House Museum, Israel

In another recent New York Times article, the Ghetto Fighters House Museum, which commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and honors notable people of the city during the Holocaust, including Janusz Korczak. Yad Layeled commemorates the children. According to the article, “…instead of dealing with the Holocaust as a static historical event, and only a Jewish tragedy, the museum is advocating a more dynamic approach with a focus on the moral lessons for all of humanity.”

Ghetto Fighters House 50

Revisited: What Do We Tell the Children – and Immigrants (as Well as Refugees)

Playful boy in the expansive courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, Syria

Photo by James Gordon, Los Angeles, California, USA: “Playful boy in the expansive courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, Syria” Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. This mosque, the fourth holiest place in Islam, is now in ruins.

It’s time to revisit two themes: “What do we tell the children?” and “What do we teach the children?”  In other words, v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, “Love your neighbor (or stranger) as yourself.”
vahavta-lreacha-kamocha
On Saturday, January 27, Trump issued his now-famous executive order banning residents of seven designated predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. Noteworthy is the fact that the order contains the phrase “foreign terrorist” but not “refugees.” Among these foreign terrorists detained was a four-month-old infant in need of open-heart surgery, and a one-year-old with cancer. In fact, world wide, children, already among the most vulnerable, are suffering in disproportionate numbers.
What do we mean by “extreme vetting”? A Homeland Security official explains that refugees have been been vetted thoroughly all along.

Teaching and Supporting the Children

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers a comprehensive guide for educators and school support staff in dealing with the many complex issues of immigrants and refugees. Says the report,
“Schools should be safe havens that embrace all students and families, regardless of citizenship and national origin, and that includes unaccompanied and refugee children. The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe ruled that undocumented children have a constitutional right to receive a free public K–12 education, which provides the means to becoming a “self-reliant and self-sufficient participant in society,” the court wrote, and instills the “fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political system.” However, today’s increased enforcement measures by the Department of Homeland Security and campaign promises made by the incoming administration threaten that right for thousands of undocumented youth and the 4.1 million U.S.-born children who live in mixed-status households with at least one parent or family member who is undocumented.”
The report offers facts about undocumented students, immigration raids, what school communities can do, and taking action beyond the classroom.
A companion piece, “What Do I Say to Students about Immigration Orders?” offers clear, honest tips for helping undocumented students and children of undocumented parents. This thoughtful essay offers ten additional steps of constructive action teachers and other adult role models can take.

Out Beyond the School

 On Wednesday, February 1, Trump cut a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull short, refusing to honor America’s earlier pledge to take in 1,200 refugees. These are the refugees who had been relocated to the Papua New Guinea island of Nauru. The refugees consist mainly of families, many children among them. Witnesses – both the children themselves and the human rights group Amnesty International – describe the conditions there as inhumane.
Meanwhile, Samantha Bee had to put aside her humor in her scathing segment that night. Then, again, so was Trevor Noah, using the same c-bomb.

Forces of Good(ness) in the Twitterverse

 Bana Alabed, thankfully safe, had a poignant question for the president, seeking his empathy. Bana is the brave little Syrian girl who has been using Twitter to alert the world of the plight of these children, now political pawns subject to the political whims of egomaniac adults.
bana-02
The video can be found here. Please follow her! Bana’s mother, Fatemah, has also set up a Twitter account. Mother and daughter preach love, peace, and understanding. These are the message we need so much more of.

After the Super Bowl

Here’s the full, uncut version of the famous advertisement by 84 Lumber. It’s beautiful!

 

The Day After: “What Do We Tell the Children”?

alstede049

 

A very strange party (if one can call it that) went into the wee hours of the morning after Election Day 2016. Many adults have been behaving very badly. And, soon, the children will be up, getting ready for another day of school in the middle of the week. Oh no!  What do we tell the children? And embarrassment should be the least of our emotional worries.

 

As this blog covers issues pertaining to the welfare of children, the extraordinarily hurtful dialogue (if one can call it that) and public commentary has been a notable concern for the actual harm it has been doing on children.  This concern was discussed in a Southern Poverty Law Center report, “The Trump Effect,” and addressed in a May 30 post here and revisited in an editorial by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

 

To be clear, this is not a comment on politics or an ideology. Those topics are off topic here and, anyway, have been discussed elsewhere. The purveying of fear and hate by public and private figures, and its effect on children are not Republican or Democratic, conservative or liberal.

 

Teaching Tolerance, via the Southern Poverty Law Center, has always offered civics curricula for teaching the election and the importance of voting. This year, for the reason just mentioned, is not at all like the other ones.  How do teachers tell students about something that will have a profound effect on them, yet something in which they had no say?  In other words, what do teachers do on “The Day After”?

 

First, “keep politics out and values in.” That starts with the teacher. How do current events make me feel? How am I coping with them? Keeping a journal and talking with others are good ways to process feelings. After that, it is time to think about how to make “core values and democratic ideals” a part of the classroom culture. Suggestions from Teaching Tolerance include:

  • Defend equal voice. Every student gets to speak and deserves to be heard.
  • Teach democracy. This is a classroom of, by and for the students.
  • Make my classroom cafe. We will establish norms that create a safe environment for all students.
  • Ensure fairness. I will speak up when I hear or see bias, exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

 

The organization urges teachers to “Publicly commit to these values in your classroom and encourage students and colleagues to commit to them, too.”  Offered are contracts for civility in the classroom and civility in the school.  In addition, further resources are available for teaching the facts about current events, civics, and history.  Above all, “let the students speak.”  

 

It should be noted that the parent organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported an unprecedented surge in hate incidents over the first two days of the election, with anti-Black and anti-immigrant in the lead, followed by anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ.

 

Rethinking Schools, part of the Zinn Education Project, also offers resources that can be used in constructing lesson plans. It should be noted that this organization also fosters an activist teachers view; that type of involvement is up to the individual teacher.

 

PBS talked to teachers and other education professionals around the country to ascertain their reactions and, more important, how the election has affected their students.

Finally, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, presented in her Child Watch column her views on “bringing America together for our children’s sake.”   

A future column will be devoted to children and young people with disabilities.

 

 

Some other thoughts:

A father, Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, pens a letter of fear and hope to his daughter.

Says Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, what Abraham and Sarah can best teach us is that parenthood is a means of imparting goodness and justice, one of our greatest blessings.

We need to strengthen communities, say the Huffington Post and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Children around the understand the power of love, singing the Beatles’ famous classic, as well as the one day in December 2009, when children were joined with adults in 156 countries.

Tearing Up Our Social Fabric and Hurting Children: A Brief Addendum

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has written an alarming piece of how Trump’s rhetoric is tearing our social fabric and affecting children in schools.  Fortunately, many students—of all backgrounds—have taken the moral courage of standing up to this bigotry, which is more than one could say about some of our elected officials in the GOP.

This piece is an addendum to the earlier report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which appeared on this blog. As Korczak pointed out, “Children are not the people of tomorrow, but are people of today.”

14kristof-master768

The Election: Children Now… and Beyond 2016

Day after day, day and night, pundits (some of the actually in the know) emit a steady stream of commentary, analysis, and a heaping dose of allegations and insinuations, one candidate in particular garnering disproportionate attention.  With all we have seen and heard about the 2016 election, has anyone asked how this very unfunny circus show is affecting children?  Well, at least one group has, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which recently released a survey, The Trump Effect: The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation’s schools, also available online.

SPLC Trump Effect

The report is the result of a week-long survey, in which nearly 2,000 people submitted more than 5,000 comments.  SPLC admits that, with its non-random sample, the survey cannot be entirely scientific; the responders all have signed up to receive newsletters and e-mail updates.

Though students have been “…increasingly political (which is good), …the extreme rhetoric being modeled is not helping their ability to utilize reason and evidence, rather than replying in kind.”  Furthermore, many students “…see the candidates as jokes and are offended and dismayed for the future.”   Even more disturbing are the deeper and long-term consequence, namely that more than two-thirds of teachers reported that many of their Muslim and immigrant students have expressed stark fear about what will happen to them and their families.  Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the schools of more than one-third the respondents, in many cases involving students being at the receiving end of bullying, with all that involves, from crying in class to sleepless nights to sharp declines in feelings of self-worth and even suicidal thoughts.

There is no doubt that the current toxic political environment is having a deleterious effect on our children.  Somehow, beyond this valuable report, this topic has not made headlines, somehow deemed less of concern, less worthy than juvenile comments about genitalia, which are anything but child’s play.