So I tried to stay awake to watch the election on Tuesday…but I was sick so I fell asleep at around 9 pm. When I woke up at 1 am, the first thing I saw was “Clinton Concedes Election to Trump” flashing on the screen. I genuinely thought I had entered the twilight zone. I checked my phone to see if I was dreaming. 15 messages from 8 different people telling me they couldn’t believe it. And, because of my impromptu nap in the middle of the night, I got to lie awake all night wondering where we’ll be in the next 4 years until my alarm went off at 8 am.
The next day, there were already changes visible in my peers. I was on the phone whilst waiting for my class to start, and knowing that I am currently in one of the reddest states in the Union, tried not to say anything too inflammatory. I went with a simple: “I’m not happy with these election results.” Two rows in front of me, a boy turns around and says: “Well then you can just go back to Africa.” I was so stunned and embarrassed and angry that I physically couldn’t even form a response. He turned around laughing and high-fived his friend.
Then I attended a protest that was incredibly well organized in the South Oval, and after a beautiful and empowering speech by JD Baker (one of our SGA presidential candidates), we marched to the Bizzel Statue at the top of the oval. After consoling and being consoled by total strangers and friends, I headed to class with a friend. But not before hearing someone say “what do these niggers think they’re doing?” And another girl say “Omg why are they out here?”
We were out there because America tried to show us that they prefer hatred and division to love and acceptance, and we were out there because we disagree. We believe in standing together, that we’re better together, stronger together. Supporting a friend or a neighbor or a stranger even when they don’t look like you is what America is really about.
And the thing that bothers me the most about this whole thing is not even Trump himself (although he is a big part of it). It’s how people are already thinking that because we have a “leader” disrespecting minorities and disenfranchised groups that its okay for them to be blatantly hateful. Because it’s indicative of a deeper issue. I’ve never been so naive as to think racism doesn’t exist. I’ve watched covert acts of hatred and bigotry happen to me, to my family, to my friends who are Muslim or Hispanic or gay–I’ve seen it on TV and online and in life. Things like that are not good, not constructive, but unfortunately, are normal.
But overt racism, where someone just openly says “The N word” or chants “Build the Wall!”…things like that are supposed to be actions of the past. They are supposed to be things we learn about in history books and say “Thank god that’s over.” But now I am realizing that these things were not over, but that they were just hidden behind an illusion of progress and now that that image is shattered. Now that I see what America really looked like this whole time, I’m not so much afraid as I am tired. I feel selfish saying that, but it just makes me so tired, and world-weary, and hopeless. How many times have my ancestors surmounted an obstacle and handed the torch to the next generation, believing that their sacrifices have improved the world for their children? How many times will I, and my children, and my children’s children do the same, only to realize that we’ve been running in place this whole time? How many branches will be on my family tree before we achieve an actual post-racial America?
But I can’t get tired. I can’t get weary. I won’t let hopelessness overtake me. It’s worth it to carry that torch, for the next four years, for the next forty years, for the next four hundred years if that’s what it takes. It’s worth it, even when hope becomes a heavy burden. It’s worth it because of love. Not just love for my country, or my people, or my peers. But love for the people of the future, who will enjoy the fruits of my labors. My ancestors were brutalized. They were beaten, and raped, and killed, and lynched. I’m made of the same iron that helped them endure all of that, then for now I’ll endure the name-calling and the anger and those who say “you are so petty for caring this much” because one day…I won’t have to.