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My view: Parenting with privilege in the era of Trump

I owe most of my privilege to those who sacrificed so much in previous generations. What I do with that privilege matters, especially now.
I owe most of my privilege to those who sacrificed so much in previous generations. What I do with that privilege matters, especially now.
Provided by TJ Bliss

I, along with nearly half the nation, watched in shock and disbelief as the results of the presidential election rolled in Nov. 8. I have openly and publicly expressed my concern about Donald Trump winning the presidency. As the election season wore on (and wore us all out), my concern grew and festered like an abscess in my soul.

However, when I woke up the next morning to the new and still unfathomable reality that Trump had really won, I realized something that made me pause: I realized that, for me and my family, a Trump presidency doesn’t pose any immediate risks or tangible concerns. I honestly couldn’t think of a single thing that Trump might or might not do that would change how my children, my wife or I would go about our daily lives.

As Wednesday wore on and reports poured in about anti-Semitic graffiti on shop windows and Nazi flags flying over American homes, I was alarmed for sure, but I was not afraid that I would be the target of hate crimes at work or that something bad would happen to my kids at school.

But the reality in our country now is that many millions of people woke up on Wednesday morning and arrived at exactly the opposite realization that I had come to. They woke up with worry that a Trump presidency might actually pose immediate risks and tangible concerns for them or for their loved ones. They are worried — if not terrified — that something bad will happen to them because of where they come from or what they look like or who they are.

The fact that I don’t share these personal and immediate fears or that I don’t actually need to think much about the consequences of a Trump presidency if I don’t want to means something about me that I have to acknowledge and help my kids understand: We have privilege, and it’s showing now more than ever.

I’m not sure exactly what I should do in response to the election, particularly to help those who will suffer most in this brave new world. But I do feel a keen sense of responsibility to at least help my children understand the privilege they enjoy, at no fault or effort of their own. I need to help them understand that many, many people in our country do not have the luxury of feeling or believing that everything is going to be OK. I think this kind of understanding can help foster empathy in their hearts and help them reach out in compassion to those who have legitimate cause to fear.

Then again, it’s possible my kids are already ahead of me on this. As I drove my 9-year-old daughter home from her ballet class (all upper-middle class white kids, of course) in the heart of Silicon Valley the night after the election, I asked her how she felt about the election. She shrugged her shoulders and said that she was disappointed, maybe even a little irritated that Trump won. When I asked her if she was worried or scared about what might happen next, she said, “No, dad. I’m not scared for me, but I know there are lots of other people who are really scared right now. I’m worried for them.”

TJ Bliss is the husband of one wife and the father of 4.5 children. He grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He tweets about his experience as a father, among (many) other things. Follow him on Twitter @tjbliss