Today marks the beginning of a new era for me. Until yesterday, I felt lucky to have never experienced blatant, overt racism firsthand. However, watching CNN’s coverage of the election results early Wednesday morning, as I saw state after state endorse an agenda built on bigotry and fear mongering, I felt the deep pang of true injustice hit me for the first time in my 21 years.
Today, I can no longer say I feel entirely safe or welcomed in this country, the nation where I was born and raised, as a person of color and the daughter of an immigrant. Today, I do not feel my family is entirely safe or my rights as a woman or U.S. citizen are entirely protected.
Today, it is extremely difficult for me to feel hope for my future or for my children, as I look around at people I once thought of as friends and allies, and wonder if they see me the same way. Today I realized generations to come will remember the moment Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States, and it will be unmistakably cataloged as a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. One that can hopefully avoid becoming catastrophic.
As many people have stated before me, this election went beyond Democrat and Republican. The names on the ballot, while perhaps not ideal for the majority of voters, (liberal or conservative), represented a choice between progression and inclusion, and a hatred of the “other.” Whether that “other” was people of a different race, religion, nation of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, financial background or physical or mental capability, the divide between these marginalized groups and the people Trump promised to advocate for was clear. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why this election was a completely different animal from those in the past.
As I scrolled through my social media feeds Wednesday afternoon, I saw a mix of reactions to Trump’s victory, many from people in my age group: millenials. While some of my peers were as disillusioned and distraught as me, some were excited a “political outsider” had been elected to the most powerful political office on Earth.
Some touted the importance of unity, while some posted about seeing the most “hate” coming from Clinton supporters aimed at Trump supporters. I’m not writing this piece today to shame or slander Trump voters. The principles he stands for may alienate many people (myself included), but this is America and the right for individuals to vote for whoever they choose is a crucial pillar of our democracy. It’s very difficult to see issues from others’ points of view when you yourself feel ignored, and I get that.
Instead of condemning people who did not vote for Hillary Clinton, I’d like to shed some light on why so many citizens, of all different walks of life, feel so terrified by a Trump-Pence presidency and the ideals these men have promoted in the past. In essence, it comes down to our fear regarding others’ cavalier attitudes regarding these candidates’ often horrifying statements.
Trump is a man who, along with a laundry list of other indiscretions, once said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” at an Iowa campaign rally back in January.
While that assertion would seem absurd in any other election, it is this apathy that Trump speaks of among his supporters, this flagrant disregard for the impact of hateful rhetoric on all of society, which deeply disturbs the other half of us.
I come from a middle class family, I can understand why so many Trump voters feel left behind by the politics of the past, but I can’t understand how anyone can think hatred and fear mongering is the path to security.
I also cannot understand how any of my peers can nonchalantly joke about this outcome, an outcome that could have a severe impact on our children’s futures, the future of our planet, and ultimately, the course of history.
Trump’s candidacy was not a joke, and hasn’t been for a long time. The potential for our country to be thrust 50 years into the past definitely isn’t funny to those the regression could affect.
So today, I’m advocating something else. Something that may seem idealistic, or like just another rallying cry coming from an “oversensitive millennial,” but I’m going to say it anyway: let’s try our hardest to empathize with one another.
Trump will be our next president, that’s true. Many of us are rightfully grieving a future that felt so close just three days ago. It’s really hard for me to feel a shred of optimism right now, but I have no other choice but to try. I have to hope that Trump’s advisors and other politicans will work with him to preserve the interests of all Americans, that we will all come out of this relatively unscathed. I quite literally have nothing else to lose.
The presidential nominee might have a history of being hateful, but we as a people do not need to continue to follow suit. We must work to understand each other’s heartaches so that we can understand how we got here, pick our heads up and go on.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”