My nephew is Indian/German/Irish. His skin tone and dark eyes reflect his Indian heritage more than his German/Irish side. He doesn’t get a choice in being a person of color as he makes his way through the world.
A week prior to the US election, he came home from school (he’s 7 years old) and had this conversation with his mom about some things his classmates were talking about on the playground:
“Is Trump is going to make brown and black people be slaves for all the white people? I don’t want to be a slave.” Then, “Trump doesn’t like brown people. He says they can’t come to America.” Then, “Did Hillary steal diamonds from a museum, because people at school told me Hillary steals things and she’s a bad guy.” Then, “Are all the Mexican, black and brown people, like you and me mama, going to be sent out of America? I don’t want to leave dadda.”
My heart broke when my sister-in-law shared this. The rhetoric used during the election emboldened greater division and segregation. This isn’t the America I know and this isn’t the America I want.
Donald Trump won the election. He tapped into a deep seeded fear, anger, and frustration felt mostly by white people (as reflected by polling data). He used that wave to ramp up his rhetoric to go after specific groups of people to point blame and suggest segregating actions such as a building a wall, deportation, and racial profiling. I don’t like his leadership style and many of his suggested policies. I don’t like his prior treatment of women, and I don’t like his business practices. The way some of his emboldened supporters are now treating fellow Americans is scary, sad, and wrong.
I can totally understand why many of my liberal friends are saying he’s “not my president,” but he is, and will be for four years. I accept that. My values, however, don’t change based on who’s in charge, or after the final poll numbers come in. I’m committed to working harder over the next four years to ensure I’m living out my values.
Yes, some massive policy changes are bound to happen under President Trump that could have a lifetime impact that I don’t personally agree with, but what matters more than who’s in office is how each of us treats one another on a daily basis at home, on the street, online, and in our communities. I’d like to think for every emboldened Trump supporter who’s using racial slurs towards African-Americans, or ‘Build a Wall’ comment towards Latinos, or ripping off Muslim women’s hijabs, that there are 50 other moments of kindness happening that never get reported.
I refuse to be bitter and will focus on getting better. I’m turning my anger into action by committing to the four following actions:
1) Take Spanish Classes – I grew up in rural Michigan very close to many Mexican migrant workers who worked hard, loved their family, and loved America and Mexico. They also struggled in so many ways due to a language barrier. I will take Spanish classes (only have done Duolingo up until now) and volunteer to work with low income Spanish families.
2) Get Involved in Local Governance – So many decisions happen on the local level and I want to be a part of the process and make change happen locally.
3) Elevate My Big Brothers Big Sisters Support – I have a Little Brother (not so little any more), and through him, I’ve learned life in American through a different frame than my own. He’s made me more conscious, more aware, more empathetic, and more connected. BBBS is doing the great work of building bridges between communities, religions, and races.
4) Converse With My Conservative Friends – I have many friends who voted opposite me. I’m not going to shut them out. I’m committing to conversations with them to find common ground and understanding. Even if we end with an agreement to disagree, at least they know I’ll be listening.
My stomach hurt on election night and the day after. I was in shock that someone that seems so racist, xenophobia, homophobic, and sexist could capture the votes of so many of my fellow Americans, but he did. It’ll take time for me to unwind what that means, but I’m not going to do so from the sidelines. Democracy is a messy full contact sport that has all the ingredients to pull a society apart person by person and idea by idea. But I refuse to accept that type of outcome, and will push harder over the next four years to build bridges and find common ground. Human decency isn’t governed by a political party. We are stronger because of our diversity and we are better together than divided.