At first I was at a loss for words. “It was supposed to be a joke,” we kept saying to each other. Yesterday, this morning, thirty minutes ago, that’s all it was. I went to bed Tuesday night not knowing what world I would wake up to. I woke up Wednesday still not knowing what world I had woken up to. I went for a run because I didn’t know what else to do, and the neighborhoods I run through every day felt unfamiliar. A man on the side of the street yelled something to me, and it bothered me more than it ever had before. You could feel it on campus. The only way I could describe it was that it felt like someone had died. People didn’t know how to interact with each other: some hugged, some cried, and others looked around for guidance. It was like a death in the way that you didn’t know how to enjoy the things you normally did. Even if for a brief moment you were lucky enough to forget, you felt guilty and forced yourself to remember.
But mourning the results of this election is different from mourning a death in that our work is more than working through our pain and moving on. Our work is to hang on to our anger and hang on to our passion and use them to make positive change. The outcome of this election scares me, and I know that a lot of people have more to lose from it than I do. But this country is now at a point of change, and it is on us to fight to make this change a positive one. This election is the tipping point of too much injustice experienced by too many people, and we need to finally bring these injustices to an end. We are in a moment where educated young people are more involved and fired up than any of us have ever experienced, so let’s grab onto this moment and use it to make changes that should have been made a long time ago.
At no point before this election have I said the words “I wish I could wake up and have this all be a dream” but I know that at least once during those surreal hours between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I did. But at some point during the day Wednesday I stopped feeling that way. In the alternate universe where Hillary Clinton was elected president, we would have gone on living in a white, male dominated society that we have accepted and upheld for far too long. We would have gone on pretending that the extreme class inequality that led to utter polarization of political thought was not a big deal. And we would have gone on with a “democracy” that consistently excludes the majority of the population.
We can talk forever about the electoral process and how corrupt it is, but the reality is that Donald Trump truly got more votes than any of us expected, and we need to take this seriously. Let this remind us of two things.
First, the largely white, middle class population that put Donald Trump into office is real, and we cannot simply dismiss this half of our country as ignorant and racist. Whether or not we agree with them, we need to listen to them and try to understand. We need to stop ignoring and rejecting the lower and middle classes of this country, and instead educate. We need to educate against racism, educate against sexism, and encourage open conversation and respect.
Second, Donald Trump and his followers have brought to the surface systems of oppression that have plagued this country throughout its existence. This country prides itself on freedom and equal opportunities for all, yet we have no idea what that even looks like. Minorities and immigrants and women and all who are not heterosexual white men face disadvantages from birth, and as they try to battle these disadvantages the oppression and discrimination continues at every step along the way.
It is sad that it took electing a president who is undeniably misogynistic, racist, and so many other things to get us to finally pay attention to these problems, but it did. So let us stop turning a blind eye, let us take this as a wake up call and an opportunity. Our work now is not just to fight the negative discourses and new injustices promoted by Trump’s campaign, but to fight all the systems and institutions that have impeded upon equal opportunities and respect for all citizens for far too long.