Given what some of our children are learning from Donald Trump, if he becomes president it may take an entire generation to recover from the hateful rhetoric he’s aimed at immigrants, Muslims and Black Lives Matter protesters. Trump’s vitriol is making it off the campaign trail and into the lingua franca of children at an alarming rate.
“Build the wall!” was the chant at a high-school basketball game in Indiana last month, directed by kids from a majority white school who held up Trump signs and yelled at the opposing players and fans, who are from a predominantly Latino school.
“Get ’em out!” is what Trump screams at every rally when he sees 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 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.”
“We’ll be banned,” Daisy Scouts predicted 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.
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The televised Trump rallies are becoming like Lord of the Flies set pieces or The 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 as if all those horrible school integration photos of screaming crowds surrounding black students in the 1960s are being re-enacted.
You think kids aren’t going to play this out on the schoolyard? Even if they’re not taking their phrases directly from Trump’s playbook, his guided free-for-all has unleashed a growing atmosphere of hate.
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’ve watched on reality TV if they elect him.
In New Orleans, Trump was frustrated that guards didn’t remove black protesters who were peacefully standing among the crowd at his rally quickly enough. “See, in the old days it wouldn’t take so long,” he said. “We’re living in a different world.”
And this new world we’re in seems frighteningly and dangerously like the old one we were finally making progress leaving behind.