An Open Letter To The Teenage Students Who Feel Trapped By Donald Trump's Presidency — I Am Here For You
Life is pretty damn hard as a teenager — that is in no way hyperbole. It truly is. And for those teenagers, once like me, who are now stuck in a microcosm of conservative America that has been emboldened by Donald Trump's win, I am here for you. A majority of America is still here for you, no matter how emphatically untrue that seems at the moment. But if you feel trapped by Trump's presidency, caught in a suburb filled with "Make America Great Again" signs and a hateful school environment, this one is for you.
I know how that feels. Having grown up in a conservative, affluent pocket of Georgia, my teenage years were met by an undercurrent of hate that went far beyond the typical "popular versus unpopular" mentality.
Friends and teachers often came under fire thanks to an administration that would have rather saved their own asses than in any way stick up for their LGBTQ students and staff. While attempting to participate in the National Day of Silence, I had a teacher tell me to "shove my rainbow flag up my ass," with absolutely zero backlash.
The administration allowed dozens of my peers to dress up as "Mexicans" and "border patrol" during our school's Homecoming Week. Each time the bell rang, I would have to dodge kids in crude sombreros, mustaches, and ponchos running from the "border patrol" throughout the hallways. Nothing was done to stop them until the school day was well over halfway through.
Kids would hang out in the parking lot before school began, country music blaring and Confederate flags waving from the bed of their pickup trucks. I can only imagine those Confederate flags have been replaced by Trump signs.
I wish I could repeat that mantra: It gets better. But with a Trump presidency looming, it seems that that would be pandering. There have already been reports of students yelling "white power!" while carrying Trump signs through the halls of a Pennsylvania high school, and a middle school in Michigan erupted in chants of "build the wall!" during lunch on Wednesday.
Despite the examples I gave about my own high school, it was still filled with good people — teachers and staff who genuinely cared about the welfare of their students. But having also seen its underbelly on multiple occasions, I fear the kids currently in attendance will be forced to witness similar acts of hatred.
In a Trump presidency, school will not always be welcoming. School will not always be safe. America's heart should break over that simple fact, but the goodwill of others will not always be enough. You will have to be proactive on your own.
You cannot wait until school is over. Not everyone gets to escape to some liberal bastion upon graduation.
For those that do get to leave the picket fences of suburbia behind, you'll likely find the intolerance that perhaps defined much of your youth will begin to melt away in college. But not everyone gets to leave the suburbs, leaves right away, or even wants to leave at all.
That's why you have to act now, as terrifying as that is. Build coalitions of your peers. Seek the counsel of teachers. Gather with friends, both in person and online.
Have your battle armor ready, always. These days are heavy, but do not allow yourself to be singled out and defeated by a hostile environment. Fight back with intelligence and light when you're ready.
And most importantly, remember this — America is with you, even if it doesn't seem like it right now. Progress doesn't always occur in a linear progression. But when all is said and done, you will come out stronger and better on the other side, having stood on the right side of history all along. You can survive Trump's presidency, and indeed still thrive in it.