This morning I made my seven year old son cry. He woke up and, bleary-eyed waking, asked me if Hillary Clinton had won the election. I told him that she hadn’t, that Donald Trump had won. He buried his sweet face in the pillow, wiping away the tears. I rubbed his back, asked him if he was sad. He nodded. I asked him if he was scared. He nodded. I told him that there was nothing to be afraid of, reminded him of the conversation we’d had the day before about how our government is made up of a system of checks and balances to make sure that one person can’t ruin the whole glorious mess of a thing.
I told him that while Clinton had won the most votes, Trump had won the most states, and I was thankful for the foresight to explain the electoral college to him. I told him that meant something: that half of the country thought she should have been elected and that means that half of the country don’t believe that Trump should be and that means that we’re not alone.
I told him I’d made chocolate chip muffins. He asked if he could have two. He’s seven.
As we got him ready to go to school–no rush to be on time today, why rush to be on time today–he told me that he was scared. I asked him what of. His answer?
“X says that if Donald Trump is elected, he’s going to ship all of the black people back to Africa.”
I had to pause for a moment at that. X is the child of a former student of mine. I tucked that away for further contemplation.
I told him that was not true. He looked at me scared, and I knew what he needed to hear.
“Mommy isn’t going anywhere. Donald Trump can’t send me or any of our family members anywhere. We were born here.”
He was worried about the Mexican American mother of one of his best friends. I reassured him that she, too, would not be going anywhere. I tried to explain to him the nature of birthright citizenship, but that was a bit more than the morning could bear. We talked, too, about race, about his half-blackness, something he really can’t understand yet. He’s seven.
On the drive to school, he told me that he was going to tell X that Donald Trump may be president, but he’s not shipping anybody anywhere. I’m gonna let him hand on to that for a little while. He’s seven.
My child was born into a country with a black president. He was utterly shocked to learn that we’d never had a woman as president. He’s seven. He has so much to learn, but at least he’s learned that a black man can be president. That’s got to stand for something. And I have to raise him to be the kind of man who will continue to be shocked that a woman has never been president, that anyone, really, who isn’t white and male and heterosexual and Christian so that he will understand that what is “normal” isn’t always what’s right.