On Thursday, a panel of professors held an election chat to talk about the designation of Donald Trump as president-elect of the United States. I jumped at the idea to attend, for I wanted to hear what a panel of professionals thought about a reality star entering the realm of politics.
This open-domain chat proved to be entirely successful, with professors from varying bodies of experience trying to quell the audience’s fears. Boston University professor Cutler Cleveland, for example, remained calm, sharing that regardless of the president, we, as Americans will survive.
Contrastingly, Ashley Farmer, a history professor, took a heavier approach. She recognized that minorities, especially African-Americans, live in a constant state of fear and worry. Because racial relations are tense, minorities are used to being marginalized. For many, Trump’s election is just the cherry on top of a long lost battle against disenfranchisement.
I found Farmer’s words incredibly harrowing. So many of us go about our daily lives, reading news headlines about police injustice. We nod our heads and hope for a better future, but never actively try to change the way our country thinks about otherness. We
push the pain of inequality aside, until someone like Trump becomes president. And then what? Do we act? Do we take to the streets? We become astonished that hate exists in our country. Astonished that sitting idly by, hoping for change, does not actually ignite change.
The election chat opened up an ingress into a world of “Northeast coast” privilege. I grew up believing that inclusivity was always a better practice then exclusion. And because I’m from New York, which is incredibly progressive, I knew about racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism, but somehow placed them in a corner of America’s past, things that so many people had fought to end. But these aren’t one time news stories of a black man being assaulted, or a gay woman being abused. No longer is this a “what if.” This is the truth of America’s new existence.
The election chat also demonstrated that there is a vast polarization in our country that even FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot, websites that base their livelihood on facts, were unable to predict. The pure act of predictive polling has become ineffective, which was made true when the polls were almost entirely unaware of what lurked in the American shadows.
What lurked was the state of being that Farmer so effortlessly shared: a feeling of disenfranchisement, an everyday life full of dread and worry, that African-Americans, for example, have always lived with. Further, it’s important to note that even if the polls had been correct, even if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, this dread and worry due to disenfranchisement would not have gone away. It’s always been there and the mainstream media just ignored it. In fact, if one good thing came out of this election, it’s that we will finally realize the bed of hate so many people in this country lie on. A hate so deep, that even the most politically dedicated liberals have not recognized it. Farmer’s words showcase the idea that direct human indecency has surfaced, and there is no going back.
The election chat also raised the idea that we live in a nation encapsulated by fear. Fear of otherness, of globalization and urbanization, fear of the new liberal way our country was heading toward, that is now at stake. This has already been shown through example, as the Trump administration has swiftly appointed Steven Bannon, known white supremacist of Breitbart News, as chief strategist.
Bannon leads the way as a direct example of the fear so many white Americans continue to cling onto. He also is a direct example of what we must all fight against. At the end of the day, Trump is president. It’s a shocking fact, but nonetheless, a fact. However, we cannot give into fear. We cannot allow the disenfranchisement of minorities to continue.
Human indecency won, but there’s one worthy fact that came out of this election: it’s time for all of us to speak up. We need to show that this isn’t a fight between Republicans and Democrats. This is a fight for basic human rights. The curtain has been pulled, and we all need to stare xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, transphobia and racism in the face.
We, the United States of America in 2016, will not fall back into the consolation of night, the idea that “it’s not affecting me, so who cares?” Let us rid ourselves of our privileged apathy, and as Virginia Sapiro, a BU political science professor, stated in her closing remarks, “let’s keep on participating in politics, keep on getting together with people that are like minded and not like minded, and we will figure out what to do next to move forward.”