Fair warning: This post contains some difficult language.
First and foremost, I identify as an Independent. I like to do my research and pick candidates based on who I believe will do a good job. That being said, if the past few days have taught me anything, it is that my country needs quite a bit of work. Our President-Elect is a man who ran on a platform driven by the proliferation of fear, hatred, misinformation, and bullying, and can only be considered a Republican by name, not by actual policy/traditional party beliefs. No one knows what the next four years will hold, but if the past year is any indication, it is fair to say that it is going to be a bumpy ride.
I cannot count the number of thoughts that have flown through my head- the number of fears and worries. I could not sleep because my heart was beating too quickly and too loudly, and my mind would not settle on a single comforting thought. No matter how hard I try to find logical reasoning about how presidents do not always accomplish what they promise in their platforms, I am still nervous that historical evidence is not enough… especially because historically-based polling projections did not work in terms of predicting the election.
There are so many posts on the internet that have brought me to tears- tears that I shed not because my candidate did not get elected, but because I cannot believe the amount of hatred and division that is coming from both sides. We are a nation in which we the freedom of speech is protected, so I welcome protests. In fact, I encourage them. We are a nation in which in which the freedom of speech is protected, so I welcome discussions online or in-person. In fact, I encourage it. We are a nation in which the freedom of speech is protected, so I welcome the continued conversations of the implications of Trump’s election and its possible effects on American political policy. In fact, I encourage it.
What I do not encourage, yet continue to see, are posts that try to make others feel lesser because they chose to support a differing party. What I do not encourage, yet continue to see, are attempts to invalidate the emotions of minority groups by those who could not possibly understand what it means to be a minority in this country. What I do not encourage, yet continue to see, is condemnation of those who voted for Trump by equivocating them with their fear-mongering candidate. I do not encourage the violence, hatred, and continued proliferation of negative generalizations of either Liberals or Republicans.
It goes without saying, but I am person. I am my own person with my own beliefs and I am protected by our Constitution to have them. I am my own person with my own emotions and fears, and I am protected by our Constitution to have them. I am my own person, and I am allowed to feel how I feel about this election. Emotions should be felt, need to be felt, and demand to be felt. I am my own person as much as you are yours.
And, as a black American, this is how I feel:
I am in shock, not solely because Trump was elected, but because I cannot believe that we are so far from peace and unity. Do not get me wrong, I am not naïve to the reality of the world. The fact is we do not live in a post-racial society. That was clear before Trump was elected. In the predominantly white society that I navigate on a daily basis, many people that I interact with (whether they admit it or not) are not intimidated by me, because they have met me and dubbed me the resident “Oreo” so I am safe, and more importantly, they are safe around me. But this does not mean that they have no inkling of prejudice whatsoever. That is just simply untrue. We have prejudices regardless of whether we want to or not. We have prejudices regardless of whether we even know it or not.
I know I have prejudices, and its an unlearning that I am trying to work on. When I go to places with very few other African-Americans in the population, I am constantly nervous that I will become the next victim of a hate crime. Anyone who knows me knows that I barely ever drive above the speed limit primarily due to the fact that I am terrified I could be the next victim’s face in the fight against police brutality in America. I work my ass off to avoid being called lazy or thought of as being just another nigger. For the longest time, I refused to listen to rap for the same reason. I even freak out about my daily hair style, and I am hesitant to wear it down because I am afraid of how my curls will be perceived by my friends, the people I work with, or any regular Joe on the street. Ask anyone, I always wear my hair up. If it is down, just wait an hour or so.
(And, to be clear, I have been living in predominantly white societies entire life. I have always mostly had white friends, gone to mostly white schools, worked jobs that are “white people jobs” (e.g. Lifeguarding). Hell, I didn’t realize I wasn’t white until I was 8-years-old. When I found out, I even told my mom that I wanted to be white. I still have prejudices that I am trying to confront and unlearn. We all do.)
I have always been uncomfortable as a black female living in America, and it is perfectly legitimate for me to feel like my discomfort is not in vain. Realistically and statistically speaking, I will be fine during Trump’s presidency. His plan for his first 100 days would not affect me all too much, nor will it affect my family.
But that is not what I fear.
I fear that we have placed a man in power who has done nothing but played upon the fears of the others, and made it okay to continue to spread that fear through illegitimate information- through prejudice and sweeping generalizations based on race. Trump took advantage of and manipulated people’s emotions, took their fears, blew them out of proportion, and never bothered to provide any legitimate reasoning or evidence as to why his claims could signify an inkling of truth. He was, for all intents and purposes, emotionally abusing the people of this country. At any time, he could have chosen to start conversations about unity, about the truth, and he chose not to. He let his studies and surveys, even those he knew were discredited, take a life of their own, lighting the match of the existing powder keg of fear. He ran on a platform made of fears and lies, and poured gasoline over them until everything and everyone was drowning flames. Only now that he has been elected has he even started speaking about peace and unity, and representing all Americans. Even then, the issue stems from the fact that his rhetoric won him the election in the first place. Without true information, things can easily go haywire. There are countless situations where people respond to situations without knowing the full picture, only to find out that what they thought knew was completely wrong.
I am perfectly valid in feeling afraid, because actions based on misinformation are a powerful weapon.
And these are only concerns as and African American in this country. My concerns as a woman in this country are even greater.
Despite all of the fears and concerns that I have had to confront in the past few days, I have also learned that I have nothing but hope for the future. My social media feeds have been flooded by messages of love for everyone regardless of race, gender, or preferred political candidate. I have seen messages of support for those whose lives will be most strongly affected, and I have read countless messages of strength and a passion to prove that the president does not accurately represent all of us. I have received many texts from people who can understand why I would be fearful, and want me to know that they too are afraid, because the future seems more unclear than an impromptu crash course on nuclear physics. These are messages of love and support and a willingness to make a better world.
Though am I anxious about what the next presidency will hold, I believe it is imperative to maintain any sense of calm possible- not passivity, but calm. We must take the time we need to process the election without any more violence and hatred. We cannot change the past, but we can do the best we can to keep working towards a better future. After all, love triumphs over hate.