Dear Donald: You’ve been on my mind a lot lately. You’re the first thing I think about when I wake up, the last thing I think about when I go to sleep, and my dreams — oh lord, Donald, you are all up in my dreams. You’ve got me feeling some kind of way.

Ours is not a healthy relationship. It leans more towards abuse than support, but be that as it may, I can’t quit you. I would hazard to say that I’ll be dreaming about you an uncomfortable amount over the next four years. So, if I can’t leave you, I may as well talk to you. In fact, I’d like to thank you.

Thank you for reminding me that “post-racial” is a bullshit phrase that signifies nothing more than a deliberate misunderstanding of what racism actually looks and feels like.

Thank you for reminding me that in a populist movement, pathos always beats logos.

Thank you for reminding me of my roots. I grew up in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania, which turned out very strongly for you. I live in California now, and it’s easy to forget how dangerous entire communities ascribing to a single story can be. Because that’s what you tapped into at a primal level, right? The story that the Rust Belt lost its sheen, not because of inevitable technological and economic changes and decades of stubborn loyalty to a lifestyle that did not return the favor, but because of Democrats, affirmative action, and those goddamn immigrants.

Thank you for forcing us to examine our demographics and realize that — holy shit — we are more segregated now than we have been since the Civil Rights Movement.

Thank you for revealing that not everyone thinks segregation is such a bad thing.

Thank you for enabling the worst in us. I don’t know if you’re following news that matters, but hate crimes saw a large spike the week you won. In towns across the country, Muslim Americans were told that they do not belong. In schools around the country, Latino students showered with deportation chants and fake deportation letters. In schools across the country, silent teachers modeled cowardice.

Thank you for teaching me that I cannot make assumptions about my fellow educators, for revealing that many of them are uncomfortable challenging the status quo in any real way and would rather silence our children’s questions than stumble towards justice with them.

Thank you for consistently modeling who we do not want to be, for allowing me easy, lazy examples when discussing racism, privilege, misogyny, corruption, bullying, othering, and good-ol-fashioned meanness.

Thank you for enabling one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking days of teaching I have ever experienced. Teachers at my school were texting one another at 1 a.m. on election night, trying to decide how to discuss this reality. We held healing circles. We read Langston Hughes. We paused first period to watch Hillary’s concession speech. We paused second period to watch President Obama’s speech. We wrote letters, because if you know us, maybe you won’t hate us. We drew self-portraits, because if you see us, maybe you won’t hate us. We dreamed our dreams, because if we love us, maybe it won’t matter that you hate us.

Thank you for reminding me how powerful community is. You almost broke me. I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night. Couldn’t see a way forward. Couldn’t find much beyond despair. I spent most of Wednesday morning crying in fits and starts. Every time I looked up, there was someone else crying, and we could hug and lift one another up. Or someone would cover me for a restroom break so I could spare my children from the worst of my sobs. By the end of the day, I was so surrounded by love and by the insurmountable optimism of 12-year-olds, and you cannot kill me anymore.

Thank you for, in your bigotry and small-mindedness, unleashing our greatness. Your fear-mongering, hatred, and small, selfish angers cannot match us. See, that’s the thing about anger, Donald, it consumes itself. In the years ahead, you are going to hurt us. You are going to make our lives more difficult. You are going to make us feel unsafe and unwanted in our own homes, in our own bodies. But your efforts to other us will also make us discover our bodies again, and even we might tremble at how beautiful we are. We aren’t going anywhere, Donald. We aren’t backing down. We aren’t cowering before you. We are standing and we are speaking, and you and everyone who supports you is going to be forced to see us. When you see us, Donald, when you know us as human beings with faces and flaws and bottomless stores of strength, you are going to realize how small you are.

Thank you for underestimating love. When we talked about what we should do next, none of my students spoke of destruction. None of them spoke of acceptance. We decided that a title will not force us to respect you, that our respect for that title means that we cannot force ourselves to respect you. So, rather than subscribe to your story of America, we are creating our own. “America will be. . .” is our project, our protest, our citizenship project. We are developing and sharing our dreams for America. We are learning about trauma and healing. We are learning from the wisdoms of our elders and the mistakes of our past. We are practitioners of restorative justice, of truth and reconciliation. We are artists and we are poets. We are designing a community day of healing and justice, where we will practice empathy and learn about our rights and stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.

Lastly, Donald, thank you for being wrong. You tapped into the fears and anger — not all of it unjustified — of a disappearing white America, and you called it greatness. You spoke of making America great again, and you thought you knew America. You do not. You don’t even know the again of which you speak. Come to East LA, Donald, and meet America. Come to Watts, come to Baltimore, come to St. Paul. Come visit us, Donald. Talk to my 7th graders who are wise beyond their years, wiser than you, and realize that you never knew us at all. Realize that our greatness will undo you.

Sincerely,

Dan Thalkar
Humanities Teacher in Los Angeles, CA

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