I know that in writing this, I am likely just ‘preaching to the choir’, but for anyone who doesn’t understand protesting the results of an election, I’d like to offer my perspective. Now, I’m not trying to speak on behalf of anyone or any community, as there are people of all backgrounds who disagree a great deal on politics and ideology, even within their own communities. There are people of all backgrounds who believe protesting is ridiculous, and that we should try and unite and welcome the new President. So, please keep in mind that this is just my observation of the election, and the reasons I find protests to be a completely reasonable, and even patriotic, reaction to the outcome of this election cycle.
By Rae Alexandra Guyse, Texas, USA
18. November 2016
From the very beginning of Donald Trump’s campaign, minorities in the US have been alienated, and at times even vilified, by his rhetoric and the identity he worked hard to form as the “champion of working class Americans”. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, only really resonates with white, older Americans. Whereas white Americans have thrived throughout decades past, there is no other time in American history where minorities were afforded more opportunities in this country. Young people haven’t lived through enough decades to be nostalgic for decades past.
Trump’s campaign focused on one demographic overwhelmingly: white working class Americans longing for days in America’s past where they could reach the “American dream” working an honest job with the ability to afford a home, education for their kids, and a family vacation. Now, it’s true that these days are long gone. Good paying jobs that do not require a degree are hard to find. The cost of living is outpacing the rise of wages, especially the federal minimum wage that still sits at just $7.50 an hour. These are legitimate issues that we should all be working to change.
But, somehow, the way to bring America back to the “glory days”, according to Trump’s campaign platform and his enthusiastic supporters, is to attack our relations with other nations along with pretty much every non-white person living in the U.S. for their contribution to the downfall of this once great nation. In summary, foreign agreements, including climate change deals, are making America weaker; Latinos are flooding our border to drain our welfare system and commit crimes as the ones showing up are rapists and drug dealers; Muslims coming into our country are inherently dangerous and must be stopped as they are putting us at risk for a terrorist attack and don’t share our values; Black people are lazy, violent, and have no respect for our police; foreign workers on work visas have stolen everyone’s job. Now, I’m sure I don’t have to introduce you to all of the hateful things that have been said. Trump’s paranoid, hateful, and damaging words have been blaring from media outlets all over the world with headline after headline showing his latest offensive comment.
Many Reasons to Protest
This is why I, like so many other Americans and spectators around the world, went into Election Day thinking there was not a chance that America would allow this man to represent all of us as a nation. Around 11 PM on November 8th, the voting results by state started to paint a different picture. Trump was ahead by 1-2% in states I knew Hillary Clinton needed to win to become president. I shut off my T.V., and laid in my bed shocked and more disappointed in this country than ever before.
I woke up the next morning to the news that Trump would be our next President. I cried on the drive to work. News articles that I browsed that morning showed that the outcome of the election had sparked protests in major cities throughout the country.
How could this man ever represent me when all he’s done is spread harmful stereotypes and completely false statistics about me because of my skin color? How could he represent any of us!? I woke up the next morning to the news that Trump would be our next President. I cried on the drive to work. News articles that I browsed that morning showed that the outcome of the election had sparked protests in major cities throughout the country. The protesters, still marching even a week later, are attempting to make it clear that Trump does not represent us, and that we will not accept him as our President. So, are these protesters just Democrats that are sore losers who need to give the other side a chance? Is the fear that people are experiencing over-exaggerated and ridiculous? Here’s my perspective.
People are not protesting because a Republican candidate won. If it was Mitt Romney, or George W. Bush, most Democratic voters would disagree with the administration on many issues, but ultimately move on with their lives. People are protesting Trump to stand up against the hateful rhetoric of the president elect that has been very effective in bringing a lot of radical, xenophobic, racist, and downright scary individuals and organizations out of the woodwork and back into mainstream political participation. They are protesting to show that hate speech can not be normalized in American politics. And, as of today, they are protesting the radical alt-right (ie white nationalist) leaders Trump has appointed to senior positions in his administration.
White America: Turning a Blind Eye to Racism
I do not even believe Trump actually believes a lot of the things that he said during his campaign. I truly just believe he’s an egomaniac. I also don’t believe all Trump voters are necessarily racist, per say. However, Trump voters have made it clear that racist remarks are not a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a leader. Further, racists in general do choose to support Trump, and turned out in higher numbers because of Trump’s careless and hateful speech.
Trump voters have made it clear that racist remarks are not a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a leader.
The people who voted for Trump because of their belief in his economic policies, or because he said nice things about the police, or because they think he’s a going to be a champion for the unborn fetus (since the rest of his actions are so incredibly Christian-like), but are just able to ignore his hate speech will likely never be a target of it. Maybe, because radical immigration policies or villianization of their faith or skin color will never apply to them, they don’t see why someone would be afraid just because of an election result. If you are in this category, I beg you to try and practice empathy with your fellow Americans.
Immigrants Tend to Seek refuge, Not Welfare
If you are of the mindset that undocumented immigrants show up to our border to leech off of our welfare system, please try to familiarize yourself with the conditions people are fleeing their countries over. People do not just come to a country where they are persecuted and alienated by mainstream society because of our “amazing” welfare. The violence that families, including a startling number of unaccompanied minors, arriving at our border from Latin America have experienced in the countries they have fled, often qualify them to apply for refugee status in our country. These people are not less human and any less entitled to human decency because they were not born here, and we have the resources and responsibility to help them.
Now, not all undocumented immigrants fall under this category, I understand that, but many many more undocumented immigrants than you may expect certainly do. Many immigrant families have family members in their household who fall in this category and risk deportation every single day. In fact, I learned last night that 19% of families in Harris County, Texas, (where I live) have at least one member of their household who is undocumented. Now, this is not my experience personally, nor am I an expert, but I spend a great deal of time trying to educate myself on this issue and attending events and discussions where I can listen to the stories of people who do face this reality every single day.
The US has played a significant role in what is happening in the countries migrants are coming from, so instead of just saying “well that’s not our fault”, please investigate that further.
Post 9/11 America: Rampant Xenophobia Towards Muslims in the U.S.
How would you feel if the majority of voters in your country were behind the idea of banning your faith from entering the country. If, because the majority of mass shooters in the US history have come from a Christian background (which is true), we decided that all Christians have a real risk of being violent, hateful individuals and mass shooters, and elect to ban anyone with the same Christian background from entering the country, even if only temporarily, so we can “figure out what makes Christians so violent”. Is it just me or is that not absolutely crazy? This would not happen in the US, because Christianity is something familiar to most of us. We know that just because one person or group (such as Westboro Baptist Church) perverts the teachings of the religion, it has nothing to do with the moral character of the rest of the Christians in our country. Why can’t we apply the same common sense towards those who practice Islam in America?
Attacks against Muslims have steadily increased since 9/11, and this is likely to continue now that we have successfully endorsed a campaign that vilifies an entire faith. If this was your faith, would you be afraid? If you wore a hijab, and heard about all of the post-election attacks on people who wore one too, would you want to leave your house?
They say history repeats itself, and within the last week, news has circulated regarding the plans Trump has to make all Muslims register with the US government. You do not need to be a Muslim to be outraged at this outright attack on our freedom of religion and the extraordinary xenophobia that we have now elected into office.
Another Step Backwards for Black America’s Struggle for Equality
If you were Black, even knowing that the US was founded on your oppression, and even though you have likely experienced overt racism in some way in your lifetime, would you not feel alarmed by the fact that the KKK is planning a victory march in North Carolina because of the outcome of this election, and has resumed actively recruiting for new members in the deep South? They were so excited by Trump’s victory that if you visit the KKK’s website today, his face appears on the homepage. Would you not feel less safe now that racists around you, once afraid to rear their ugly head, felt super empowered to harass and even attack your person because of the results of an election they feel supports their hateful views?
And yeah, it is disappointing to see the first Black president have to shake hands with the President elect who knowingly circulated false statistics about the African American community, pretended none of us have anything to lose, and was enthusiastically supported by white nationalist groups who absolutely hate us.
Now, as a Black woman, I’m not going to live my life in fear, nor am I afraid I’ll never succeed in life because of these lowlifes, but it does make me sick to my stomach. It makes me sick just like every time I’ve been called the N word in my life, both in Missouri, where I expected it, and when I got to the liberal state of Massachusetts at my private liberal college, where I didn’t. It doesn’t ruin my life. I don’t sit down and cry and give up. I still get up for work the next morning, because like many others, I’m more than willing to work my butt off for everything I want out of life. It just makes me disappointed that we are moving another two steps back in the fight to be seen as truly equal in this country.
As a Black woman, I refuse to unite under a party platform that is enthusiastically embraced and applauded by the Ku Klux Klan. Period. End of story.
LGBTQIA Concern Under a Trump Presidency
Can you imagine what it would be like to identify as LGBTQIA, and to have gone through the process of coming out to your family who maybe does not support you at all? People in this category, some of whom I call my best friends, are 8 times more likely to commit suicide. The struggles of the LGBTQIA community in the US are real, and the fight to be accepted has not been won.
Trump’s chosen Vice President, Mike Pence, is so against homosexuality that he supports the use of harmful “conversion therapy”, in order to turn a gay individual “straight”, despite the startling evidence that the more likely outcome of this therapy is depression or suicide. Pence also has a record of slashing public health funding for HIV/AIDS treatment because of his views on homosexuality. LGBTQIA folks have gone through fight after fight just to exist and love who they want in this country in peace. You should be listening to their stories. You should not ignore the worries this community has when our new administration does not even see their identities and sexualities as legitimate or acceptable.
Don’t Dismiss Our Concerns
If none of the experiences of the folks in any of these communities above matter to you, I truly hope you don’t self-identify as “Pro-Life”. You are pro birth. Once we are here, and we are different, and we are struggling, our lives clearly do not matter to you. Also, please don’t continue to chant “All Lives Matter” or whatever. It’s just insulting.
There are so many more people writing on the grief caused by this election. I know I have not even touched on what Trump’s win means for women, as he has proven to be a misogynist throughout his entire life in the public spotlight. I didn’t even touch on the experiences of those with disabilities, who Trump infamously mocked in front of a crowd of thousands of supporters. These experiences are being shared elsewhere, and I encourage you to seek them out.
White America has a history of ignoring the plights and concerns of their marginalized neighbors. This election has not been any different.
But I also understand why some people are too tired to sit and explain this to white America. White America has a history of ignoring the plights and concerns of their marginalized neighbors. This election has not been any different. But because minorities react to the real pain of this election and the policies Trump has set forth, it’s apparently funny to some people to joke about how we are “triggered”. It’s funny to dismiss our concerns, and tell us our fears are unfounded. It’s funny to yell at us to “get a job” when we take our concerns to the streets in protest.
Misunderstanding “White Privilege”
I have seen throughout various platforms a number of white folks who say they feel villianized for being white and straight. They don’t like being called racist, sexist, and anti-immigrant, so they ignore what we have to say. I am still truly struggling to understand how some white folks feel like the victim in this country, and want to blame minorities for racial division. One reason I can see why you feel this way is the whole misunderstanding of the idea of “white privilege”. Maybe you’re assuming that that phrase means that because your skin is white, you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, have a lot of money and security, and never have to work hard for anything. I agree, if that was the definition, that would be totally bizarre. There are definitely poor, disenfranchised, and struggling white people. I’m related to some. White people face individual hardships. Life isn’t easy just because you are white.
But this isn’t what “white privilege” means to the people who use this term. It simply means that because you are white, you will not experience certain things that a person of color likely would. Let’s start with not experiencing literal fear, uncertainty, or extreme sadness because of the people empowered by Trump’s hateful language and some of the policies he based his campaign on.
Have you ever been accused of stealing or assumed not to be able to afford something in a store you walk into? Do you think twice about asking for help from the police? Are you disproportionately likely to be pulled over? Does your race use drugs at the same rates (sometimes less) as the white population in the US, but you are much more likely to be arrested and jailed because of it (in some counties up to 10x more likely). No? This may indicate that your skin color affords you some levels of privilege in this country.
Empathy is a Keyword
If you haven’t given any thought to why people are protesting, other than that they are “cry babies”, you are going to have to meet us halfway if this county has even the tiniest shot at reunifying across party lines. Let’s stop telling people how to grieve, and stop telling already marginalized groups of people not to experience fear, anger, and sadness when our President elect has spewed harmful things towards their communities from the very beginning of his campaign.
For those of you who say that you feel alienated and vilified for being white and straight, you need to try and understand why Trump’s campaign was labeled as racist, xenophobic, anti-gay, and anti immigrant. I’m trying to get over rolling my eyes when a white straight man says they are being persecuted (not there yet), because I think we all need to do more listening.
But please, listen to the marginalized communities around you. We have been screaming our pain from the mountaintops since this country was founded. It is time to realize that when we experience fear, it is legitimate.
Anyway, if you’re still reading WOW. But, thank you. Let’s have a conversation. Because I think we all want to make America great, but we can’t do that by trying to run two completely different countries.
Rae Alexandra Guyse is a Paralegal working for an immigration law firm and a new volunteer for the Houston Center for Justice and Peace. Prior to relocating to Houston, she served as member of board of directors for the Boston Women’s Fund in Boston, MA. She is currently waiting to hear back from law schools to return to school in 2017, and hope to dedicate her career to public service.