Think we’re in for a disastrous four years if Donald Trump is elected president?
You’re being optimistic. Given what some of our children are learning from him, it may take an entire generation to recover from the hateful rhetoric he has aimed at immigrants, Muslims and Blacks Lives Matter protesters.
Trump’s vitriol is making it off the campaign trail and into the lingua franca of children at an alarming rate. Just watch coverage from Trump rallies to hear the next phrases kids will be slinging at school.
“Build the wall!” That was the chant at a high school basketball game in Indiana last week, directed by kids from a majority-white school who held up Trump signs and yelled at the opposing players and fans, who were from a predominantly Latino school.
“Get ’em out!” is what Trump screams at rallies when he sees Black Lives Matter and other protesters, even silent ones. This is not far off from what some third-graders allegedly said to two brown-skinned classmates in their Northern Virginia classroom. The mother of one of the children, Evelyn Momplaisir, posted an account on Facebook:
“I just got a call from my son’s teacher giving me a heads up that two of his classmates decided to point out the ‘immigrants’ in the class who would be sent ‘home’ when Trump becomes president. They singled him out and were pointing and laughing at him as one who would have to leave because of the color of his skin. In third grade . . . in Fairfax County . . . in 2016!”
Fairfax County school officials confirmed the account. “The teacher has spoken with the students, and communicated with parents of the class, regarding appropriate classroom decorum,” said John Torre, a spokesman for the school system. “FCPS works to create an environment that is conducive to learning and where everyone is treated with respect.”
The hashtag #EvelynMomplaisir was all over social media, even though she removed the post from her Facebook page. I couldn’t reach her to talk about the incident, but she described it on Facebook as the “Trump Effect.”
Others have echoed her fears.
“We’ll be banned,” predicted Daisy Scouts when they talked to me before the Virginia primary about their futures. Not “I want to be a rocket scientist” or “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to be a teacher.” They are afraid they will all be rounded up and deported. They are all Muslim.
The televised Trump rallies are becoming like “Lord of the Flies” set pieces. Nightly, televised “Hunger Games.” With each new video, we have a new group of angry white people pointing, yelling and chanting at brown-skinned people being escorted out of a crowd, with the booming Trump refrain of “Get ’em out.”
It’s like all of those horrible school-integration photos of screaming crowds surrounding black students in the 1960s are being reenacted.
We see decorated war veterans shoving and screaming at young, black college students. We see peaceful protesters being pushed and pinballed through the yelling masses.
You think kids aren’t going to play this out in the schoolyard?
Even if they’re not taking their phrases directly from Trump’s playbook, his orchestrated free-for-all has unleashed a growing atmosphere of hate.
I don’t know whether Trump was the inspiration for the kids on an all-white Annapolis-area hockey team who singled out the black players on my son’s team, calling them the N-word and harassing them throughout the game. But they heard those words somewhere. They learned that cruelty somewhere. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to blame their behavior on the nation’s growing tolerance of open displays of bigotry.
(Our kids beat them, by the way. And the player who said the worst things and the coach who did nothing about it were disciplined by the hockey association.)
And I don’t know that the kids at the University of Southern California who threw eggs and hurled racial epithets at a student from Hong Kong over the weekend were acting directly on Trump’s orders. But there’s an anything-goes recklessness in the air that is certainly emboldening them.
After all, coded racism has now been rebranded as “telling it like it is,” thanks to Trump and the people who think he will be the strong, decisive character they have watched on reality TV if they elect him.
He won’t renounce white supremacists who support him, he won’t acknowledge that the Ku Klux Klan is a hate group and, in an eerie display of flashback scenes, he recently asked his followers at a rally to raise their right hands, Nuremberg-style, and pledge their loyalty and votes to him.
In New Orleans last week, Trump was frustrated that guards didn’t remove the black protesters who were peacefully standing among the crowd at his rally quickly enough.
“It’s taking a long time, I can’t believe it,” he said. “See, in the old days, it wouldn’t take so long. We’re living in a different world.”
We were living in a different world.
We were in a world where it was moral, not political, to be inclusive.
We were in a world where genitalia were not discussed during presidential debates.
We were in a world where children could look up to their leaders and emulate them, and it would make others proud.
We were in a world where everyone agreed to “never forget.”
And somehow, we forgot. And this new world we’re in seems frighteningly and dangerously like the old one we were finally making progress leaving behind.
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