2016 was the year where I could vote for the very first time. To finally be 18 and have the chance to perform a civic duty for my country is a rite of passage of becoming an adult and also a chance to contribute to the formation of our country for the future. Being surrounded by peers who were as eager to vote as I was, it was excited to be able to vote in an election for the first time.
This past election has been categorized though as one of the most interesting, controversial, and shocking, solely because of our election’s cadidates: two polar opposites. A well-known American politician who has been striving to work her way up to the presidential ballot since 2008 and a well-known multi-millionaire American businessman and reality TV star, who has been referred to as a racist, misogynist, bigot and bully. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the Democratic and Republican nominees for the 2016 election. To many people in the coming days before the election, they were hopefully and optimistic that Clinton would secure the electoral votes and win the presidency, as news coverage and predictions pointed to her as the sure winner.
On the election day, people weren’t worried as what was to come, and neither was I. Everyone assumed Hillary would win. But as the night unfolded, before my eyes, to the people surrounding me, and to the thousands who were certain Hillary would win, the scale tipped more and more to Trump as more states than anticipated voted for the Republican nominee. With confusion, frustration, and anger surrounding me from my peers, I saw Donald Trump became the President elect of the United States of America.
To witness something happening and come into reality, something that was once thought of as a fluke, joke, and silly idea to think about, was what surprised me the most. No one thought this would be possible or think this would be a possibility to occur until it did. I was in total frustration and shock, not knowing what this meant for our country the next morning. Protests and riots took the streets of college campuses and cities across the nation that night. Men and women were in tears. As CNN political commentator Van Jones said on the night of the election, “You have people putting children to bed tonight and they are afraid of breakfast. They're afraid of 'How do I explain this to my children?’ I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight asking if I should leave the country. Families of immigrants who are terrified tonight".
The protests are still occurring today, and people are still angry and frustrated. One day after the election, there were reports coming all over the nation of Trump supporters saying racist remarks and instituting violence and harm towards minority groups including Muslims, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. They wanted the “chinks” and “terrorists” to leave the country, robbing them on the streets, ripping off their hijabs, and let them see what will happen to them now that Donald Trump was in office. These acts of racism and violence are still occurring right now as I type this and as you read this. As Van Jones said, this election was a form of “white lash” in America, now evolving all around us from people in support of Trump and racism, and as an American of Filipino and Mexican ethnicity, seeing such atrocities happening now in our day in age made me fearful. As I am becoming an adult now in this country, to see our nation go back to ways of racism and hurt I thought we had grown up from is devastating.
Though I have felt those feelings, I am now pointed to another way of thinking optimistically about what is next: to be stronger than before. Yes, this election has caused a great frenzy and disturbance in our communities and the world. Nations look at us as in pity and sorrow, not believing we could elect someone with such a background, temper, and lack of knowledge about foreign policy. We ourselves look at us in pity and sorrow, not believing we did what we thought we would have never let happen. We are in a time of great devastation and woe as millions see the election of Donald Trump as a step backward in progress for our country and our world, but what better time to move forward in progress as communities and as one nation than now when we are at great odds?
What we need to do now is look at what we have done, as bad and as painful as it may be, and learn from it. We cannot let fear and distress slow us down, but wake us up and get us moving towards action. Join the organizations and groups who are supporting the rights, beliefs, laws, and policies you see as important. Go out, volunteer and support people who are pushing still for advocacy. Talk with others in your families, peer groups, classes, work, and communities about issues you see persistent in society and changes you want others to recognize, encourage, and push to make happen. Read about the discourses of the communities, policies, and rights you want to aid and know more about to advocate for them. And most importantly, be present in what is occurring around your community and in our country, and do what you can to be a citizen and utilize the rights you are given to be present, aware, and active.
Though not everyone can do everything as I have mentioned, as I wish I could and hope to do in some way, doing something is always better than doing nothing at all as the saying goes. We are a nation that has defied odds since the first settlers came to shore. We are a nation that has had some of the most triumphant progress in civil rights, immigration, and equality for minorities, women, and LGBTQ communities, as well as some of the direst setbacks in those pushes for progress. From all of the challenges and blockades we have faced and will continue to face within our country and beyond our country’s borders, we have been resilient and continue to be so in times of hardship to come out as victorious.
And right now, I encourage each and every one of us to be resilient, to be active citizens in our country and communities to still push for progress, and to not look forward to our country’s future with pessimism and doubt, but with some optimism and hope that we can still change our country to be better than it was and currently is.