First off, let me just say that I’m quite hesitant to write this article. This whole week has been chaos due to the result of the presidential election. There were positive and negative responses to Donald Trump becoming the president elect. Like the non-Trump supporters, I too respond negatively to who our country has elected president. Unlike many previous elections, the Electoral College's decision struck more than disappointment -- it struck a lot more fear. Trump’s messages are mixed as he has constantly contradicts himself throughout his campaign. He has openly supported discrimination against people of different races, sexuality, religion, gender and disabilities.
Responses to his victory have hit the news once he surpassed the minimum required electoral votes to be president. Even at San Jose State, rallies have occurred on campus. The university’s notification emails have alerted students and faculty about attacks against individuals who strongly connect to hate crimes. With all this going on, it’s hard to keep an optimistic mindset -- especially when many of us spend more time fearing for our lives now. Social media still gives us little to no help in making us feel better as the advantage of having quick and easy access to news becomes a double-edged sword. Our feeds are still flooded with post-election thoughts and news about recent riots, attacks and other related articles or posts. Some of us are also wondering what to do now that the future of our lives, the lives of our loved ones, and the nation’s well-being seems beak. It seems like simply praying for a miracle is nearly impossible.
So here are five things you can do if you are wondering what to do when you know that those who are currently discriminated and fearing for their lives now that Trump will become President of the United States.
1. Donate your time and/or money to nonprofit charities.
With Trump’s questionable motives on his policies involving women, the LGBTQA+* community, immigrants, and health care, the least we can do is support the LGBTQA+ community, women's rights community, people of color empowerment movements, homeless policy movements and disability rights movements. There are many organizations dedicated to not only helping these groups but also educating others about them. Whether you volunteer by feeding the homeless, participating in events that support these groups or encouraging those who identify themselves as one or more of these groups to run for office, it’s one of the many ways you can say that you stand behind them and see them as more that what society views them. Overall, be familiar with nonprofits that endorses diversity, love, inclusiveness and support, and dedicate yourself by volunteering or sparing a few dollars to help them.
2. Educate yourselves on the issues going on.
Yes, the news is not always happy and enjoyable. With shootings, protests and politics flashing before our eyes, we often try to turn off the television as soon as possible. However, ignoring the problems before us is never going to solve it.
The internet gives us the opportunity and advantage many did not historically have. We can learn more about the issues going around the world and be aware that people who we consider to be different are still human. Now is not the time to be ignorant. As painful and emotional it will get, it’s better to know that not everything is perfect and we have the power to change it. We should understand why others are afraid and why others want change. Sure, we don’t have to agree with everything -- we are entitled to our own opinions and some issues may strike a chord harder than others. Still, we should not laugh them all off and make fun of those who take some issues more seriously than others. Show your support to anyone by understanding their reasons and accepting their choice to stand by them.
3. Be empathetic and an empowered bystander.
Some of you may argue that you don’t have any money or time to volunteer, donate or even spend time to look up on issues. Assuming that you really don’t have time or money to do any of that, it doesn’t mean you should stand and watch when people are struggling. With Trump’s presence in politics shedding light on the actual racism, sexism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, hate crimes and actions fueled by it are more frequent than ever. It can happen anywhere, as many reported to be victims of hate crimes themselves. However, if you’re witnessing someone being harassed, do not simply stand around and watch. By simply standing and watching, you are supporting the harassment -- even if you don’t mean it. I know many of us are afraid of rejection from our peers due to our choices or even our fear of being hurt ourselves, but this is not the time to worry about that.
What’s worse than the risk of being ostracized from your peers or getting a black eye will be the guilt you feel when you wished you could have stood up. By standing up to someone, it doesn’t mean that you have to openly yell at the attacker and physically fight back. There are many ways to be an empowered bystander. Take this comic created by Maeril on Islamophobia as an example of how to deal with harassment in this case.
This method could be used for any situation where someone is being harassed for any reason. There are many non-violent ways to be an empowered bystander -- all of them let you separate the victim from the attacker and create a safe space that will help the victim feel safe. Whether you choose to go between the attacker and victim like the comic or call a higher authority to help you, being an empowered bystander not only stops the harassment the victim is facing but also shows your support for him or her. Now is not the time to be afraid, especially when so many people are fearing for their lives and believe they have no one else to turn to.
4. Continue to be politically active.
Even if the election is over, it doesn't mean we can no longer vote. If you remember from your government or US history classes, our nation is built on a compromise between limiting the powers of both the federal and local government. The closer a government is to our homes, the more it can affect us. Sure, Donald Trump as the president-elect may bring waves to the rest of the country, but our state, county and city governments affect our lives much more directly. Be aware of any regulations or laws that are passed in both the US and your state's government. It's ridiculous that there are still many of us who want change and have the privilege to vote but do not take it seriously. It's important to voice not only your opinions, but also the opinions of those who cannot voice themselves.
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When it comes to freedom of expression and protest, another thing I want to point out is how we should do it. I'm all for openly criticizing or supporting opinions, but we should also be aware that there will be opposition to any opinion. We should respond to both sides of any opinion both maturely and peacefully. I encourage protest, but only peaceful ones where both sides of the issue respect one another without having to raise their fists or yell down each other's throats. Yes, we all have different opinions, but harming those who do not agree with us is never the answer to change. By acting uncivilly, we spread a message of hate instead of love. We will see no difference between one another if we continue to do that. The last thing we want to do is continue to divide ourselves simply because we have different ideas. You don't have to agree with someone to love them, and one thing that is considered a flaw does not define a person completely.
5. And above all, do not lose hope.
An unknown medieval Persian Sufi poets once wrote, "This too shall pass." Sure, our future seems bleak and our fears are taking over our lives. But remember that this term is four years. There's still a chance that something good will happen. We can only do so much as citizens, but that's the good thing. We did what we could and we should be proud of our accomplishments. We did what democracy wanted us to do, which is vote, express our opinions about our country and do what we can to change it.
I believe this presidential election made more people talk about politics than ever before. I've seen everyone from little children to the elderly talking about their opinions. It's a sign that our country is one step closer to its ideals as a democratic nation where the people rule and the people openly express their opinions about the country. Sure, democracy is not always perfect and things don't always go the way that everyone agrees with. But that's the beauty of individuality and improvement. We know the flaws of the system. Now we need to dedicate ourselves to improve it with whatever power we have.
For those of us who are disappointed in the results, don't continue to wallow in sadness. We can still change the world and our lives, but only if we move forward. Success is always full of ups and downs, so treat this defeat as a down. Because when you reach what you believe is the bottom, the only way to go is up. But you can only go up if you leave behind the doubts and despair and climb yourself up. It won't be just you fighting: we all will be fighting together.