Teachers across the country have reported a rise in racial tensions and overall student anxiety since the election of Donald Trump as our next president. “There’s an increase in bullying, very clearly election related,” says Maureen Costello, the director of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who reports that children are using Trump's own words as weapons. These are not isolated incidents: The organization’s post-election survey of teachers reports that more than 90 percent reported a “negative impact on school climate since the election”.
Ingrid Ricks, founder of Write It Out Loud, an organization that leverages narrative writing and the new world of publishing to give teens and adults a voice, believes that one way to defuse teen anxieties, and possibly tension in the classroom, is through the power of the pen. Dear Mr. President (edited by Ricks and a team of volunteers and published by Write It Out Loud) is a moving collection of letters, poems, and essays from students nationwide to President Trump and the new administration.
“So many teens around the country have experienced trauma and fear as a result of the recent presidential election,” says Ricks. “Yet they weren’t able to have their voices heard at the ballot box because of their age. This anthology is our way of remedying that.”
All profits from the book go to Rock the Vote, an organization that fosters youth involvement in politics.
Here’s an eloquent letter from Larah in Kentucky that one can only hope finds it’s way to President Trump as he prepares to take his seat in the Oval Office:
Dear Mr. Trump,
As easy as it would be to hate you for the hate you’ve spread; I have chosen to move forward in love. Here are some things you should know:
I am a broke, 14-year old orphan, who relies on the government for every one of my basic needs.
I live with my grandmother, who is on disability, and my grandfather, who is recently retired.
We get by. I am blessed to have always had enough, but without the help of government, my life would be a different story.
I receive social security every month, and I am currently in distress because Matt Bevin has cut the program from which I received health insurance.
No teenager -- no human, should end up in tears because they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford basic health care. I don’t want anyone to have to go through that because honestly, it’s terrifying and unfair.
The experience of losing my parents and having to seek government assistance financially has opened my eyes to how important programs like Welfare, Social Security, and Obama Care are. Please protect these programs. Remember people like me, who could very well end up in extreme poverty without them.
Mr. Trump, I am also a woman. A proud, bisexual feminist, who has spent my entire life fighting to be heard. Fighting for my body to be my own; not a victim to testosterone.
Screaming over catcalls, and micro-aggressions, only to be told that I am not worthy of the breath within my lungs. Hiding myself, and pushing hands away, and still being blamed for the men who think it’s alright to “grab us by the pussy.”
You, thus far, have only ever added to my problems, with your careless misogyny, homophobia, and disregard of minorities.
I hope you have learned that it’s not okay to touch a woman without consent; to touch anyone without consent, and it’s certainly not okay to promote such behavior. I hope you know that LGBTQ+ youth are already four times more likely to kill themselves than straight people. Taking our rights away would certainly not help the matter.
I hope you understand that this is a country built by immigrants, who wanted nothing more than a better, freer life.
You should know that my Hispanic, Muslim, immigrant friends, are much better Americans than you will ever be. They uphold love, and unity, and freedom in a way that I doubt you could even comprehend, and sending them away from this country would only leave more room for darkness to grow.
People seem to think that you condone hate, and I pray that’s not true. I have received more homophobic remarks since you’ve been elected than all the days before that combined. I have been told more than ever, that as a woman, my job is simply to please men; to “stay in the kitchen where I belong,” and “make them a sandwich.”
It’s almost as if, because the president-elect has said some disgusting things, it makes it okay for the rest of the country to do the same.
Stop being silent about this. Speak up, and stop turning your head away from hate crimes committed in your name.
Mr. Trump, if nothing else, I ask this: that you would keep your hate and intolerance to yourself. It is hard enough to live in this world, as a woman, or a person of color, or a member of the LGBTQ+ Community. It is already hard enough to accept and love oneself. Please don’t make these things impossible.
Remember that now, when you speak, all the world is listening. Every action, every word matters. Make these next four years count, and for the love of progress; don’t take any steps backward.
Don’t you think for a second that we, the diverse America, won’t put up a fight. We will not let you take away our rights. We will not let you stifle our voices. We will be loud, and proud, and make ourselves heard. You can not drown out the sound of freedom.
Dear Mr. President: Teen Voices from Across the Country is available on Amazon for free (e-book) until Sunday, January 22. You may also purchase the paperback on Amazon and all online stores.All proceeds from book sales will go to ROCK THE VOTE, an organization that foster youth involvement in politics.