In the wake of the election, I’ve heard the stories of countless people who are terrified of what the next four years will bring for them as minority members of our American community. I’ve heard from countless conservatives that these fears are nothing more than liberal media bias encouraging unfounded accusations against Donald Trump. I’ve heard my fellow conservatives tell our liberal peers to “stop crying.”
Such exhortations are not only unproductive, but harmful.
It matters less whether you think these fears are rational or not. Personally, I think they’re at least somewhat valid, given the nearly 7 percent increase in hate crimes in 2015 (primary season) from 2014, including a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, according to the FBI’s website. You have friends, classmates, maybe even family members, who are scared. There are people that I love and care about who have been forced to relive past traumas as a result of the election that they may not have otherwise had to face. There are people I love and care about who aren’t sure how they’re going to get home for Thanksgiving because they don’t want to step foot in an airport. There are people I love and care about who don’t feel safe walking across campus alone. Regardless of whether Trump’s campaign had anything to do with the uptick in hate crimes, regardless of whether his victory on Nov. 8 had anything to do with an increase in reports of bullying of Hispanic, black and Muslim students, don’t get so lost in celebrating political victory that you forget to be a decent person.
When describing why Trump won, a friend of mine told me, “Not much else matters when you can’t put food on the table.” People across this country who are facing economic hardship made the judgment that Trump’s policies have a better shot at improving their station in life than Clinton’s would have. I hope they’re right, and I’m inclined to agree. People made the call that their economic well-being is more important than the indefensible comments Trump has made about women, Muslims and other groups. Say what you will about him not being “politically correct” or there being media bias, but I don’t see there being any argument against the fact that he’s made comments and expressed policies which we, as a nation (and as a party), should not stand for. Just because you don’t see these aspects of his character (which I hope you oppose) as being deal-breakers with regards to voting for him, others do not feel the same way.
Put yourself in their shoes. Their life experiences have led them to come to extremely different conclusions about the threats they face in the coming months and years. Just because someone has had different life experiences than you, doesn’t mean their experiences aren’t valid. If you have friends experiencing any degree of fear, see if they’re willing to share their stories and reasoning with you. I hope you’ll both come out of the conversation more compassionate and informed. Personally, I’ve found great value in listening to my fellow Trinity students.
While I know the notion of “privilege” is contentious on our side of the aisle, my station in life (as a middle-class, white, straight, Christian male) initially made it difficult to understand why people were scared. I will admit, when I first heard the reactions some people were having, my reaction was similar to much of what I’ve heard. “Why are you crying? It’s only an election.” “Since when is enforcing immigration law racist?” Now my perspective is much different. My policy positions remain the same on the importance of secure national borders, the need to reform our tax code, the flaws of the Affordable Care Act, but I articulate my beliefs differently and am constantly on the watch for what could inadvertently harm minority communities.
I’m not telling you that you must accept the validity of everything our friends on the left are saying. I think there’s more validity than a lot of people want to admit, but how much is up for you to determine. What I am telling you is that to discount these fears without trying to understand their origin is intellectually dishonest and uncompassionate. If some of our fellow Americans feel unsafe, or that they aren’t welcome in our wonderful country, we’re all worse off. Human decency is nonpartisan.
I want to convey my sincerest gratitude to Student Involvement for facilitating the Nov. 9 discussion of the election, as well as to Dr. Singh in the religion department. They have been invaluable to me (and I’m sure many others) in growing my understanding of the results of the election.
Luke Ayers is a sophomore economics major. Follow him on Twitter @LukeAyersATX