My first reaction on reading this note was to feel an overwhelming sense of humility and panic that this young woman would see me as any kind of resource in this moment of crisis. What can I, a middle-aged white woman, say to her? I share her privilege of skin color and birthright citizenship; I speak an educated East Coast vernacular and live in a cocoon of books and dreams. But of course, as you mothers and fathers and teachers know, being the grown up in the room means you have to step up and figure out how to help that young person in need.
Anyway, this is what I wrote back to her. If I should say more, please offer me some advice, and I will pass along your thoughts to her.
I think starting with books is a good idea. Learn all you can about the history of slavery in this country, the history of the civil rights movement, and so on. For instance, so many of these Confederate statues that Trump loves were put up in the 1950s as a backlash response to civil rights activities. So they aren't old Civil War-era pieces; they're direct in-your-face confrontations to freedom-seekers, and that's not history that most of us know. When you get to college, make a point of joining Black Lives Matter discussions; show by your presence that you're an ally. Volunteer with new-immigrant support groups. . . . The biggest thing is that you care, that you know our nation is in a dreadful spot, that you recognize how vital it is that we, as white people, do everything we can to stand up for the people who have not shared our easy privilege of skin color. I love you . . . because you are crying about this and because you are so brave.