To My Trump-Flag-Flying Neighbor Who Thinks Teachers are the Enemy: You’re Being Lied to. Again.
I drive my kid to school every morning. We pass a house that has, for years, flown various political flags. The red MAGA standard gave way to TRUMP 2020 — Make Liberal’s Cry Again, then a TRUMP 2024 — Make Votes Count Again. It was more than a little surprising to see a Biden flag up the other day, until I got close enough to see the full message: F — BIDEN, and F — YOU if you voted for him.
I’ve seen this neighbor outside a few times. He’s older, white, and though it could just be my imagination, seems like he’s often just standing in the driveway looking for a fight. I sometimes imagine what sorts of conversations we would have if I ever stopped to talk. I’m not sure what I would say. I’m not sure if he would listen.
We’re on different teams, and our teams aren’t supposed to talk to each other. I can picture the faces of the people he already listens to, the angry shouty faces that tell him he’s on the good side, that he’s in danger, that every win for them proves they’re right, that every loss is proof that my side cheats.
The faces shouting themselves the reddest shade of white on TV about Critical Race Theory, about fairness in gendered sports, about all the pedophiles and groomers and extremists and indoctrinators, exist in a long line of red-faced white people shouting about any number of made-up things. Satanic cults sacrificing kids by the thousands, Black boys turning into super-predators, Jazz music and then Rock music and then Goth Music and then Rap music and then TikTok is turning young people against us.
Unifying people over an enemy is an idea older than this country, and when the enemy isn’t clear or scary enough, it’s easy enough to invent a target that people can direct all their anger towards, even when it isn’t real.
The problem with shooting at a nothing is that you’re bound to hit a something. This time, we’re hitting kids, kids who need schools and classes and adults that see them and love them.
I don’t know what my neighbor would think of me or the work I do, but I’ve got a pretty good guess. I’m one of the bad guys. My days are spent espousing my own radical agenda and brainwashing kids into hating their parents, their country, their skin color, and straight people.
Teachers aren’t trying to make white kids feel bad about themselves, aren’t trying to talk kids into being transgender, aren’t giving kids hormones, aren’t trying to sneak in some communism under the guise of social emotional learning. Schools are for all kids, all kinds of kids, and the small successes we’ve had opening up some spaces here and there aren’t hurting anyone, aren’t hurting you. But this imagined movement to take those spaces away is harming kids, real kids, in order to keep you angry and scared.
You’re ok, I could tell him, if he’d listen.
You’re ok. Your kids are ok. I can’t imagine I could convince you they lie to you because the lies make you angry and your anger is politically advantageous. But what if you gave just one day to asking who benefits by keeping you mad, by asking if that’s what this is? What if you gave just one day to listening to someone new?
I wish you would listen, but I don’t imagine you will. If I’m honest, I will struggle at listening to you. I can’t meet you halfway on attacking kids, can’t compromise on white supremacy. I can’t even call it something else that would sound nicer. Changing the books we read and the history we teach for the comfort of white kids will only reinforce the message that they are more important. That’s white supremacy, no matter what your team says.
I wish I could make you listen, so I could tell you, with all honesty, without reservation, that you are angry about things that won’t hurt you.
Trans and gender non-conforming kids can feel safe at school, and it will not hurt you. Black, Indigenous and other kids of color can be welcomed and affirmed at school, and it will not hurt you. White kids can learn about Race and Racism, can develop the tools to talk about it productively, can learn to exist in a multi-racial world, and they will be better for it. Students can learn about their emotions, about how to communicate with other people and listen to people they don’t agree with, and it will only make the world you live in a better place. I guess that’s what I’d tell you.
Oh, and I’d ask you to take that flag down, but I doubt that you’d listen.