Wednesday, July 8, 2020
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Montgomery Co. students walk out over Trump

Several hundred Maryland high school students walked out of class and into commuter traffic Monday to protest the election of Donald Trump as president, the Washington Post reports.

The march started with students from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and gained momentum and participants from other Montgomery County high schools as the morning march edged on. Students at Woodrow Wilson High School in the District of Columbia made plans to walk out of class in protest on Tuesday.

“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” the Post quoted some of the demonstrators as calling out.

Some said the march was done to express solidarity with students and adults, such as immigrants and Muslims, who felt alienated by Mr Trump’s campaign.

Blair High School has a fairly diverse student body—26% black, 32% Hispanic, 15% Asian—and students expressed the importance of standing up for minorities. Officials at the school knew a walk-out was coming, as students gave word of the protest over social media as early as the day after the election. Students who don’t bring in a note from their parents and participated in the walk-out will be charged with an unexcused absence, the report said.

“These are important conversations that need to take place,” Los Angeles school Superintendent Michelle King said in a statement, after addressing protests occurring in that city, as they are occurring in dozens of places across America. “However, it is critical that students not allow their sentiments to derail their education or for their actions to place them in danger.”

High school students are largely aware, perhaps more keenly than adults, that hatred can’t be normalized. Resistance to any message that hatred and exclusion represent who we are as a country will be strong among young people, regardless of their political beliefs.

I once again call for a more thoughtful approach. The US won’t switch to totalitarian rule just because someone you oppose won an election, and for his part, Mr Trump could be the best tool the US could put forward to end bigotry, hatred, racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and a host of other ills. Remember, only Nixon could go to China.

It’s a fact of human nature that it could take a white man to lead America away from racism. Whether Mr Trump is that man remains to be seen, but for the moment, his election is inspiring racist actions and words everywhere. From Illinois:

And in Maryland: The Baltimore Sun reports that at Fallston High School, racial slurs were scribbled on a flyer and the image of the flyer went around on social media. Ordinarily the writing on a flyer by a hateful or mentally ill student wouldn’t make the news, but this is not an ordinary year.

This the kind of hatred students are protesting when they walk out of class in the middle of a school day. Whatever would cause several thousand high school students to do something that extreme in dozens of places since the election is newsworthy. And if the hatred doesn’t stop when Mr Trump actually takes office, it’ll be a rough four years indeed.

One commenter, claiming to be a student involved in the protests, said students were “afraid to be harmed by Trump supporters.”

We have Muslim women, going by their day to day life, being harassed and having their hijabs pulled off. And we have Trump supporters in MoCo who have vandalized churches by tearing apart the pride flag and BLM sign. Trump is a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic man, who will not unite this country because his supporters will continue to terrorize people unless they look and act like them. His supporters would rather see the world with only straight white men and women how it’s “supposed to be.”

Much of what this student writes is a prediction and some of it is based on sensationalist reports on fake news websites and other hate-filled propaganda. But his or her fears are real.

And any move to shut down student voices violates their First Amendment rights. Schools know better than to do that.

Skipping school, however, isn’t a good way to express yourself on an important subject like this, but if that’s what it takes, students’ voices need to be heard, lest we normalize behaviors like the appointment of Stephen Bannon, who makes “right wing extremism” look angelic, as a strategist for Mr Trump’s transition team.

The Trump campaign, which saw racist and sexist remarks becoming normal, just because they played well to the crowd, shows Mr Trump to be either insane or pragmatic. What he does in office will depend on where he puts himself on that scale. But the student’s attack on people who support the president-elect is filled with an equivalent amount of hatred against people who are citizens of the United States, just like him or her.

I would urge politically motivated students to study history. Masha Gessen is a historian who has written a lot about how fascists rise to power. She writes that an important step in their rise is to destabilize the courts, and Mr Trump will have a few chances at that, given the failure of Congress to act on an Obama nomination from earlier this year.

After becoming a good student of history, protest those actions of the president that will lead to the propagation of racism or bigotry in this country. Don’t skip school to protest what a presidential candidate said on the campaign trail to convince people to vote for him. We don’t even know at this point which of those things he’ll be able to enact. When he moves to enact something you don’t like, that’s the time for protest, and it should be directed at the president, not at the good Americans who support him in his new role.

We’re better than this, I believe. And even if we view opponents as non-intellectuals, we must, whatever we do, stay true to ourselves as good students of this great democracy.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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