A student at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS), speaking on behalf of several students, recently wrote to the Head of School that they felt victimized because of their support for President-elect Donald Trump. I believe these students were using the wrong word to describe their feelings. They were upset because their support of Trump wasn’t affirmed by the administration and faculty of the school. There is a big difference between affirmation and victimization, and, it is dangerous to conflate the two. There is a vulnerability to those who are victimized. They are targeted and harmed either intentionally or unintentionally because of their appearances, the beliefs they hold, or their status in society. On the other hand, coping with being invalidated is at most unpleasant and a life lesson that most people must learn. It’s a lesson I hope to teach my daughter one day. Constant affirmation does not promote our children to grow and think outside-of-the-box. To say the students at MICDS were victimized because of their support of Trump undercuts those who really are victimized and marginalized.
However, this critique does not solve the problem that has boiled to the surface during this long election season. How do we recognize and give an adequate forum to those who think differently than we do? No matter where we fall on the political spectrum we are entitled to our opinions. In order to work through our differences, we must do a better job of listening and discussing with others respectfully. This discussion can start with explaining the difference between the lack of affirmation and victimization. We owe it to our children to start as early as we possibly can.
Jessica Igielnik, St. Louis, December 2016
Ms. Igielnik is a participant of the 2016-17 ADL Glass Leadership Institute