On November 8, 2016, it seemed all eyes were on the United States as one of our most explosive and historical Presidential elections in recent memory finally drew to a close. Many held their breath as they watched the results flood their screens late into the night, each side hoping for a victory that would bring about all the changes that their candidate promised them. No matter what the final outcome would be, many knew the United States would be a much different place in the morning. When many awoke, however, they found themselves overwhelmed with fear when they saw that this brave new world would be led by none other than the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump. Tensions that had been festering beneath the surface on both sides of the aisle finally came to a head with this news, as both hate crimes and assaults skyrocketed in the name of the new President-Elect, and anti-Trump protests and riots filled the streets of cities across the nation. Social media became flooded with emotional messages from those who feared what a Trump Presidency might mean for them and soon the hashtag #NotMyPresident spread like wildfire.
In the midst of these emotional messages, many who supported Donald Trump as a candidate, and even many who did not, could not seem to understand the feeling of dread that sat with so many after this election. Many on social media called for people to calm down, to let it go, or to stop whining that the losing party simply didn’t get their way. Even President-Elect Trump didn’t seem to fully understand why so many had come out against him, tweeting that such protests were unfair after holding an open election. Many who were already fearful in such uncertain times have now become angry that so many are willing to be complicit in the oppression of others, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by not standing against controversial statements and plans openly discussed by President-Elect Trump during his campaign and failing to recognize the atrocities committed by some of his most radical followers.
Now that we’ve all had a moment to digest the news that Donald J. Trump will in fact be the 45th President of the United States, I want to reach out to those on both sides of the aisle and have an adult conversation. If there is ever to be any hope of healing this country's divide and the fear brought with it, we must discuss that the fears of so many are much larger than unsportsmanlike behavior towards the results of a political campaign, and that this is not a simple issue that will disappear with time. This conversation is not meant to be accusatory, but productive so that perhaps we can all begin similar conversations and work together to stop bigotry and hatred. This is meant to be a conversation of hope. Let us not lose our faith in humanity yet.
To Those Who Follow President-Elect Trump
So to those who do not understand why so many people are filled with fear over President-Elect Trump’s win and believe this backlash against his election is simply tantrum-like behavior, please let me explain how this is much larger than that.
Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign, he was not simply describing policies that some disagreed with or following a political ideology that separated him from his opponent in some form or fashion, such as the economic or foreign policies of Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in the 2012. From the moment he announced his intention to join the race for the White House, he found ways to target and ostracize those who are often considered most vulnerable in our society. While many of his followers focused on his abilities to build jobs and the economy, many others who began to support him clung to Trump’s vitriolic comments aimed at those within the Latinx, Muslim, and African-American communities as well as his words aimed at women, LGBT rights and immigrants to justify their own hateful actions and thoughts against these groups. When he began to speak out on his potential policies, they often continued to reflect these ideas of attacking minorities with policies of mass deportations and the nationalistic “wall”, Muslim bans or suspicion of the Muslim religion, reversals of LGBTQ protections, and “Law and Order” policies often aimed at African American communities. While it’s true that not every person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, xenophobe or sexist human being, and Donald Trump is not personally responsible for individuals who hold hatred in their hearts, his ideas became fodder for those who needed their hateful ideology to be validated by a person in power. Evidence of this has been quite clear when not even two days after his election, hate crimes spiked against minorities and women, or those perceived to be in groups once targeted by Trump’s controversial language, across the country all in the name of the President-Elect.
Some may say, “These were simple comments! They shouldn’t affect people so much.” or “He wasn’t talking about ALL Hispanics/Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, etc. Only those who are illegal and mean to do harm to our country/economy.” What many who are not affected by these comments often do not realize is, what is just a passing comment from the outside looking in is often the everyday experiences of those in the affected groups.
For example, when a UCLA study and a National Hispanic Media Coalition study both show that 1 in 3 non-Hispanic Americans believe that all Hispanics/Latinos are undocumented, criminals, or welfare recipients to some capacity, these “comments” are the daily suspicions of those who believe that people within the community are “others” and don’t belong. When Pew Research reports that over 49% of Americans believe that Muslims in this country have some form of anti-American sentiment, Trump’s comments are not just for those who actually mean to do the country harm. These are ideas and comments that people within these communities deal with quite frequently. These comments from the President-Elect are instead feeding into an established perception that in fact all people from these groups mean to do people harm or do not belong here. These perceptions are what often cause anti-minority sentiments that lead to mistrust or fear of these groups and hate crimes. So when minorities around the nation express sentiments of fear for a Trump Presidency and for those who follow him, please know that it is not simply being unable to accept a candidate that was not their own. This is fear of an incorrect perception that has now been validated by a Trump Presidency and has emboldened those who would use that perception to fuel their hatred. When one considers that one is more likely to be attacked by white supremacists than by jihadist extremists in the United States, a threat deemed immediate by many who follow Donald Trump, this fear that many hold towards the danger of a Trump Presidency becomes much more realistic and clear. If a Trump supporter feels uncomfortable with the incorrect perception that all Trump supporters are racists, homophobes, sexists and xenophobes, imagine a constant incorrect perception of something that is oftentimes easily identifiable such as race, ethnicity, gender or religion.
So if one can understand that many who are marching and posting onto their social media platforms are not being sore losers but holding genuine fear that has been supported by evidence of the President-Elect’s own rhetoric and policies during the campaign, not to mention racial backlash that has come to light after his election, we can begin to come together to stop the hatred and begin a dialogue that can ease tensions. To the Trump supporters who are not racists, xenophobes, or misogynists, please recognize that although you and others you know may not be this way, certain people are and are now using your candidate’s name as a reason for their hatred. Instead of becoming defensive and shutting down conversations because you feel it does not apply to you, recognize that perhaps certain statements and policies have sparked tensions, as well as emboldened others to act out against people. Speak out when you see racism, xenophobia and sexism, and refuse to be a bystander for intolerance towards the communities that have been targeted. Demand more from the President-Elect as well. Although you may stand by his economic and foreign policies, demand that he now be a President of the people.
To President-Elect Trump
President-Elect Donald Trump, although you may view the protests of your election to President as unfair, please try to understand the role you have played in building these fears in others. While you are not responsible for the individual actions of others, you must take responsibility for the disrespectful words you have used that may have validated hateful actions and beliefs in others. You must now understand that words have power, especially when you become the most influential person in the world. If you truly wish to be the President of all people, it’s time to speak out against the hatred that has been caused in your name. If you are truly a “law and order” President, tell those who have been inciting fear and hatred that this will not be tolerated, and that this country will not normalize bigotry. Disavow homophobes, racists and sexists, not reluctantly but fervently, because if you remain silent on these issues you care nothing about the minority groups you claim to care for. While you cannot change the past, you can begin to change what kind of President you wish to become by apologizing for the way you acted during the campaign, and if it is not truly who you are now is the time to show it. Allow your policies to fall more center and begin to take criticism with grace. Show people that they have nothing to fear and who you were on the campaign trail was for show. Even if all this has been done, however, please also remember that many of us in the communities you chose to single out will not readily, or ever, trust your judgement. Most will never forgive what you have done. You must be ready to accept this as well, all while still working towards mending your relationship and rebuilding bridges with those in our communities. It will not be easy, and time may not heal all wounds, but if you are to be President for the next four years, you must at least try to truly be a President of ALL the people in this country we share.
And To Those Who Are AfraidFinally, to those who are afraid, to those who have been attacked or targeted, and to those who fear there are dark days ahead, please do not fall to despair. Remember that we must keep moving forward. We must continue to fight for an inclusive and diverse world where all are accepted for exactly who they are. When you feel overwhelmed or that it’s all too much, act small. These tiny, daily acts of kindness can change the world too. Continue to volunteer and work for organizations that promise human rights to everyone. Refuse to become apathetic, but instead be an active part of the political system. Write to your Senators and Congresspeople when you feel that your rights, or the rights of others, have been violated and don't be afraid to protest when you wish to be heard. When we do protest, we must remember not resort to violence. Not only is hurting others the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve and morally wrong, it gives those who would mean to discredit us a reason not to listen. Do not fear speaking out, however. Stand up when you see bigotry and pain. Do not back down out of fear, but lean in with love. We can still change this world, we just have to remain a part of it. Most importantly, no matter how afraid or angry we are, we must never lose hope. Do not let this pain make you hate, because we must never become what we fight against. That small piece of humanity that remains in the hearts and souls of those who still believe in the America that was promised to ALL of us is what we must cling tightly to, even if it seems there are only uncertain times ahead. In the end, when there are millions of people who don't understand or do not wish to, when there are those who would turn against us or ignore our cries, there are still people who will stand by us and will not turn away from us. There are those who will never give up and will keep fighting the good fight. When they go low, we go high by remaining steadfast in our love for each other. We have got to have hope, because in the end love will always trump hate. Let no man put asunder.