A Letter to My Children, on America’s Choice of Evil Over Good

My sweet Daniel and Imani,

I didn’t stay up to hear the official result of yesterday’s election. Once it became clear that Hillary had lost Michigan and Pennsylvania, your father and I turned off the television, went to bed, and fell asleep in each other’s arms. We didn’t talk about anything; still haven’t. But we will. Because we know that there is a long and difficult fight ahead, and we know that we need to prepare ourselves, so we can prepare you for the many significant struggles that now define our future.

I am sorry.

I am sorry that the adults in your world chose to allow evil to triumph over good. Although my message to you has always been that life is not and can never be lived or seen in such simple terms, today, in America, evil has triumphed over good. I tell you this because the most important lesson I will ever teach you is to know and speak the truth. I don’t know how I could claim that everything is alright, when it quite simply isn’t, and when thinking that it is can harm you far more than it can protect you.

I am sorry that you are confused about how a man we mocked and feared as a hateful, dangerous monster can be in charge of our schools, our families, and our troops. I am sorry that all the books, games, stories, songs, lessons, writing assignments about goodness, resilience, justice, equality, and brotherhood didn’t translate into your experience of the world.

I am sorry that people who hate your beautiful brown skin, who say disgusting things about a white woman adopting a black child and marrying a black man, and who wish for everyone in our family to go back to where we came from, have been licensed to cut you with their hatefulness. I am sorry for the words and images that will be thrown at you and people who look like you. I am sorry for what will happen to some of your friends and their families. Whether they are Jamaican, Mexican, Indian, Senegalese, or Yemeni, they will feel more acutely the burden of their beauty, and some of their families will suffer.

I am sorry that while the most sacred of all lessons will continue to be reverence for human life and dignity and while you will continue to be asked to work hard, respect others, and do good, you will watch a cruel, unjust, unqualified, hateful man–who assaulted many women, insulted disabled people, mocked the family of a slain soldier, threatened to break apart hard working families, promised to eject millions of people from our homeland, and called our brothers and sisters rapists and thieves–lead our country down what is guaranteed to be a very dangerous road.

I am sorry that even though you have heard time and again that if you work hard enough and do enough good, the American promise will be yours, we have allowed the country we have loved and taught you to love to become a place where a man who knows nothing but greed, has never done any good for anyone, who has lied and stolen from working people, and whose every plan aims to hurt those who most need help, can win an election in a grotesque, deplorable manner not at all different from the triumphant victories in the many kitsch television shows that have come to define our culture and values, and which we have come to revere so much that they have manifested as our reality.

I am sorry that the president under whose leadership you have lived all or most of your lives, the heroes who blazed trails for freedom and equality, the stories of black men and women lining the bookshelves in your respective rooms are examples of individual triumph much more than they are proof of our country’s progress because, today, America’s demographic and ideological constitution is very much what it was when violence against and dehumanization of people of color were agreed upon norms, written into the laws of our land.

I am sorry that there will be days when I will despair, or be angry, or both. Although we will not break, there will be moments when we will hurt, or be tired. There might be days when we will suffer. Forgive me for the times I will be too brusk, or unable to guide you to an answer you might desperately need. Forgive me for the moments I will ask you for silence when you might have questions burning in your souls. Forgive me for the times I will act in ways that won’t exemplify the grace with which I ask you to walk through life.

Remember when Michelle Obama said that “when they go low, we go high?” She was right, and this is still true. This election is the lowest they have gone in your lifetime, but it is not the lowest they will go. And each time they go low, we will rise, sometimes shattering glass ceilings, sometimes barely staying afloat. But we will always rise.

More than ever before, it will be important for us to nurture and continue to build our beautiful village of family and friends. We will build it a thousand armies strong. Despite shocking empirical evidence pointing to the contrary, being good, just, and loving are your greatest duty to yourself, and to those around you. We will be good, together. We will do good, together. And we will triumph, not only because stories of good versus evil always have happy endings, but because our utmost duty, far beyond any patriotic call, is to the Universe, whose survival depends on the love and light with which we fill it.

We will speak up. We will write. We will study hard, and do our homework. We will join groups and movements. We will learn. We will find allies who understand that the next election needs to start being won today, now, not when the calendar signals the premiere of the next electoral reality show. We will help those we can help. We will ask for help. We will read. We will grow and rise together. Our home will be a safe haven. Our family will continue to shine its light. I don’t know what will come of all this. I can’t promise you anything but this: I will always fight for what is just.

My greatest request of you is to know these simple truths: You are America. You are America. And you are beautiful.

I love you.


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