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I'm Teaching My Kids They Don't Have to Seek Unity Post-Election

Photograph by Twenty20

Like many parents last week, I dreaded telling my children about Trump's victory Wednesday morning. My dread was not even close to the terror that so many other parents are feeling right now—the terror that Van Jones gave voice to on CNN on election night.

My boys are white. They have heterosexual parents. They are not poor, nor are they immigrants or the children of immigrants. Their identities did not make them the target of the Trump campaign's vitriol. But still, I felt dread: for my sons, for their friends, for all the most vulnerable in the United States.

When I told my 10-year-old about the election results that morning, he immediately began crying. As he sobbed into his pillow, I said, "Today, I don't want you to make fun of any Trump supporters. Do not belittle them. Do not call them names. Be kind. But I also want you to go out of your way to be kind to your black friends. To the friends with immigrant parents. To all the girls in your class. Make it a point to be kind."

For the Trump supporters, I asked from my son a negative kindness: Do not be cruel. Do not taunt or torment. Respect their position.

But for those who might feel most vulnerable, and truly terrified, under a Trump presidency, I asked for a positive kindness: Show them love. Be a beacon of light and love. Make an effort to demonstrate your kindness in deed.

I asked for these different types of kindness purposefully.

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It's still early days. Trump made a respectful and conciliatory acceptance speech, but it gives me little hope that he has miraculously erased his racism, sexism, Islamophobia, nativism, homophobia and ableism. He fanned the flames of bigotry all throughout his political campaign, and news of his intention to appoint Steve Bannon—a known anti-Semite, leader of the Alt-Right, misogynist and voice for white supremecy—as his chief strategist, only goes to normalize the bigotry that his win legitimized.

To vote for Trump was to condone his candidacy: the way he preyed on people's worst selves, their most hateful fears.

I've seen the evidence roll in on my social media feeds. At a Target mere miles from our house, a biracial man was accosted last week by a stranger who asked him "how it felt to be a n****r again." In front of the Ohio Statehouse, two men were overheard talking about a nearby Jewish man, referring to him with an ethnic slur and saying they "didn't know [Jews] could feel anything." There are reports from around the country of similar racist confrontations, of people spray-painting swastikas in public places, of people ripping hijabs off of the heads of Muslim women.

These aren't just early days. They're terrifying days.

Not all Trump supporters would say or do anything remotely like this, of course. But "not all" is not a battle cry of justice. It impedes justice. It shields us from our most challenging and important truths. And thus it should come as no surprise that some people feel emboldened to act with such despicable malice because of Trump's victory.

Perhaps not all Trump supporters are bigots; but all Trump supporters voted for a racist, sexist, Islamophobic, nativist, homophobic, ableist bigot.

To vote for Trump was to condone his candidacy: the way he preyed on people's worst selves, their most hateful fears. It was a vote for a person who never once apologized for calling Mexicans rapists or for boasting about grabbing women by the genitals without their consent or for inserting racist "dog whistles" in nearly all of his speeches.

These are early days. For some, they are terrifying days. They are dark days.

And that is why, after teaching my kids about compassion and unity and working together from the time they were little, I have a new message for them: You can be kind to someone while refusing to unite with them.

Maybe this time, we shouldn't all work together.

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I say this with a heavy heart. I typically despise confrontation. I have always been a champion of compromise and working together to fight for a common good. But there are limits to unity. And as much as it pains me to do so, I need to unveil this sad reality to my children. Because when someone's candidate supports hate—when their candidate legitimizes hate—you can draw a line separating you from them. You need not be mean or vengeful. You can still be kind. But you need not unite. You need not seek to work together. You need not reach out in a gesture of healing.

Instead, you unite with the most vulnerable. You align yourself with those who fear for their lives because of their President-elect and his supporters. You give no tacit approval of other people's bigotry. You remain kind. But you also remain steadfast.

These are early days. For some, they are terrifying days. They are dark days.

And dark times call for a new way of parenting light into the world.

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