Tuesday was a historic election day. It was an endcap to a long and contentious presidential campaign. As former political science students, we have confidence our entrenched bureaucratic systems, which are infuriating when trying to push through change, will also insulate many of the policy wins we’ve pushed for over the years. The small incremental gains have gotten us far and we will continue to push our government to do right by us, especially people of color. The president is one person in a powerful position, but still one person whose power comes from the people. We need to remember the president isn’t a king, he is a democratically elected president accountable to all of us.
Our colleague Selena Velasco, reminded us of this when she said: “Wherever we go, we bring the resiliency of our ancestors through our stories with us.” We have our elders’ and civil rights leaders as our guide, and we carry their strength within us. Our elder’s stories and strength are now woven into the fabric of America, a country they built; America wasn’t just made by white men, it is inclusive of our communities of color.
Today, we take a stand and say no, to a one-dimensional demagogue. No, we will not give Mr. Trump a chance, we will hold him accountable to leading a nation that is inclusive of people of color. Here are some thoughts about our new ear of a Trump presidency.
We will not give him a chance. This is exactly how sexism and racism work. We give the unqualified white male the “opportunity to learn” and “prove himself” on the job – even the Presidency. But people of color and women, must be overqualified to even compete for the job. And, one misstep or mistake disqualifies us. Imagine if Secretary Clinton or President Obama said or did one of the things that Mr. Trump did on the campaign trail. When do we stop giving people “a chance” or “the benefit of the doubt?” We need to hold white men to the same high standards expected of people of color and judge them by their experience, skills, and actions.
No experimenting with lives on the line. If you’re open to giving a Trump presidency a chance, it means you are insulated by a bubble of privilege. It means his “learning on the job” will probably have little immediate impact on your life. But it has already started to have a greater impact (more direct and more explicit racism) on the lives of Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, Immigrants and Refugees, undocumented, and LGBTQ folks. We’re not ok with Mr. Trump experimenting on our lives, and neither should you.
He didn’t earn this opportunity it was granted to him via white privilege and white supremacy. Stop saying Mr. Trump earned this opportunity to lead. He did not earn it. He has no public service experience, he is a racist, sexist, ableist, and has spouted hate against immigrants, refugees, and women. He did not earn the presidency. It was given to him by the privilege of being wealthy, exposed on TV, and by the underlying racist tendencies of our nation. White supremacy doesn’t just show up as cross burning and KKK membership, it shows up as allowing a white man a pass when he says outrageous things in a job interview.
Stop talking about the rural–urban divide without putting it into the context of race. This election was about a rural urban divide, but it is also about a racial divide between rural and urban settings. This is about segregation, slavery, and historical redlining. If we look at where people live historical context matters. Rural and affluent areas of the country voted for Mr. Trump. White allies where were you in getting uncomfortable with your white peers in explaining this election was just as much about race as it was about gender, economics, and policy?
This racist shit has been happening forever. Racism is all around us, it’s in our systems, in our practices, in our language. Since the start of the presidential campaign many have felt more free and been more brazen in spouting racialized hatred, it has ramped up since Tuesday’s victory. As communities of color we’ve lived with this overt and covert racism for generations. In modern context, look at what is happening in Standing Rock with the oil pipeline. As many Native Americans have pointed out, it doesn’t matter who’s been president, Natives have continually had their sovereignty questioned and lived through cultural genocide.
White people, we’re tired of making you comfortable. When our lives and ways of life are in danger, we do not have time to make sure you’re comfortable with the conversation. We need to act, start with calling out racism, take a stand. Mr. Trump didn’t get elected by just one segment of America, he won fair and square, there are no hanging chads or recounts. To our white allies, we need you to be bold, brave, and face your friends and colleagues of color and say “I pledge to do my own work around race. I pledge to call out racism and hate, and I will do it even if it makes me uncomfortable.”
We need to take care of each other. Before you think this is all doom and negativity, there is always love. Many of you have sent emails, had hallway conversations, or commented on Facebook posts checking in with each other. Many of our educators and social service workers have responded to children and clients saying “we care for you and we will fight for you.” This love is a bold action against the winter of anxiety many face. Love comes in standing up and taking a stand. Take a bold stand by inviting people to have a hard conversation about race — doing that takes more risk, love, and sometimes even rage. Change happens when we have relationships and can invite people to think differently.
Now we rise up and honor the legacies of elders. On this Veteran’s day we also honor our veterans who defended our right to live in a country as beautiful and as flawed as we are. One president cannot and will not tear us apart. We respect the democratic process of the election and the office of the president. We must continue the work already started and say we have limitless capacity to hope and push for change.
Posted by Heidi Schillinger and Erin Okuno