How children understand xenophobia


assThe world reacts to the spectacle of the Republican National Convention yesterday. 
 Given his promises (um, threats), many of my friends who are White and middle class feel angry and distressed about a potential Trump presidency in a “Hobbesian America that is nasty, brutish and short.”
gettyimages-484797712_custom-695b9781e4a550ac0cdd3eba481660feefd333a8-s900-c85But what kind of fear and discomfort is experienced by non-White people? Mexican Americans? Immigrants? Blacks? Muslims? The LGBTQ (painfully spelled out by Trump) community?
Consider how fear and stigma are experienced by children. My friend who is currently in the US shared this:

“Yesterday on our cab ride home, my 9 year old said to me “mommy, I am glad you are white” and I said “I am not white” and she was nearly in tears and said “you are white, don’t you see you are white? Your skin is white. You are not Latina. You are just simply white. Make sure you never tell anyone that you are Brazilian or Pakistani or Muslim. You are white, mommy. Okay?”

Two days before this, she came home and said that when Trump is in power, minorities like herself would only be allowed to live in basements. And she wondered out loud if we walked really softly, would “they” be okay to let us live in the penthouse apt we are renting out now? Or will all of us be moved to some basement if we were living in US. And then her concern moved to Amy, who is half [South American] and half European. Where will they put children like Amy?

(This conversation happened at camp, when some kid pointed out that soon people like my daughter will be living in basements and then other kids laughed!)

I am spending my summer in the most diverse city in US, and my daughters are at the receiving end of such fear mongering and outright racism from other children, which is so heart breaking. And painful still that my daughter didn’t challenge why her place should be in some basement!

Whether Trump wins or not, US is losing the very qualities that made it so special: inclusiveness being one of them. I don’t even want to know what is happening in less diverse school/camp settings with children who are Muslim, immigrant, minorities, from multi-racial families, or same gendered couples.”

On her way out of the US, she wrote:

“In the club lounge, the men I am sharing the table with exclaim that there is not one thing wrong with banning all Muslims from entering the US. That policy makes a lot of sense. It should have happened earlier. They say this right in front of my child, and moments later walks in a family with Trump t-shirts on.
I feel like this is goodbye to United States. Heavy heart.”

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