Nov 16, 2016

The Powerless


Once a week I volunteer at the English Learning Center in downtown Minneapolis. It is a community-based program housed in the basement of a church. This church has accepted it's Muslim neighbors with open arms and no strings attached. I teach English 1 to the immigrant and refugee students. Most of the students are Somali. My entire class is Somali. They are the sweetest people, always smiling, always singing, always happy, very gracious. 

The above words greeted me as I walked into school this morning. I was blown away by the kindness and love this school shows the students. Every chance they get the school tries to build them up, encourage them, tell them how appreciated they are and assure them that they are not alone. This school advocates for their students. This school is a safe place for these students.

Come to find out, this comes on the heels of one of the students getting attacked earlier this week on her way home from school. The school is in a Somali neighborhood, so most of the people walk. This attack was a hate crime and really shook up the community. Ever since the election last week, hate crimes in our city have been increasing, as they have around the country. 

We shouldn't be surprised since people are just reflecting what their president-elect does. After campaigning on a platform of fear, hate and disrespect, these immature out-bursts are to (sadly) be expected. But we won't sit down and take it. We won't watch our friends, neighbors, or even strangers be treated this way. Love stands up for those pushed down, aside, and away. I'm so thankful to volunteer at a place whose actions speak as loud as their words in a positive, affirming, gracious, life-giving way.

I could go on a huge rant about the election, but I'll refrain. Suffice it to say I was devastated. My immediate thought was for the safety of all my friends and students who I know are so afraid. My heart continues to break for the constant fear they now live under. Yet even in that, my students cheered me up. 

Last week, after the election, I asked the students if they wanted to talk about the results. Since it's a very beginning class, I'm quite limited in the language I can use. I asked them if they were happy or sad. They all looked around at each other and confirmed out loud, "We're happy." I was a quite surprised. Their entire community was just belittled and scoffed at by the president-elect just two days prior as he spread lies and fear about them in their own home city. That was not the reaction I was expecting.

After several minutes of digging I found out that they weren't necessarily happy about the results. They know exactly who Trump is, what he stands for, and how much he hates them as well as Mexicans. However, they choose to not let it affect them. They choose happiness. They choose to go on and not dwell on it. In the words of one of my students, "What choice to we have? We can't do anything about it." The only power the powerless have is to ignore him and his threats. They will not allow him or his fear or hate to control their thoughts. So. Proud. Of. Them. I choose to stand with the powerless.

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