The 2016 election is the end of the world as we know it. Donald Trump is now the president elect of the United States of America. This is a sentence I never thought I would write.
As the past twelve days have unraveled and my brain is finally coming out of processing mode, I’ve had a few ideas and thoughts that are helping me to understand, and ultimately be more hopeful about, the reality we face for potentially the next four years.
Here’s a couple things I think the current situation in the U.S. is…
- This is a blessing. Sometimes things get worse before they get better. When true change happens, it’s messy.
- This is like a spotlight. On all the dirty, ugly, nasty, bad things that we have ignored and pushed under the rug for decades in our country.
- This is our tipping point. There’s no more pretending. No more ignoring. No more accepting kinda sorta equality. It’s time for us to take accountability.
We are being invited to stand up for equality. The reason this election and it’s results were so upsetting to me personally is not because of politics. It’s not because the political party I aligned myself with lost.
It’s impactful because of all the hurt and prejudice it brought to the surface. All the people without jobs or education that rallied together, but the hate that came along with it is bone-chilling. And the most terrifying part is that it’s been there all along, but I did not notice it because it’s not on my Facebook News Feed.
The scariest thing about all of this is how divided we are. It’s because we have created labels, and we are using those labels to divide ourselves. As human beings, our innate nature is to seek connection. When we divide ourselves, it causes isolation, rejection, anger, fear, and ultimately, violence.
I now believe this election is the best thing that could have happened for our country. It has thrown light all over the shadows we’ve ignored, like people without jobs who are desperate for change and the prejudice and racism that is now clearly evident for all the world to see.
I was taught not to judge people by where they come from, the color of their skin, their religion, or their job. I was taught to treat people as I would like to be treated. I was taught that pretty is as pretty does. I was taught that how you treat the waiter is just as important as how you treat the Mayor.
But my hands are not clean in this whole mess. I’ve lived my life as if skin color doesn’t exist because it’s easy for me to do that. I’m white and have been on the receiving end of privilege my whole life.
And, in the past, I’ve taken a passive role about racism when it comes to the people around me, mainly the other white people, because I was afraid to stand up. Letting a small side comment slide here or there, because you don’t want to make the person who said it feel awkward is not okay. It’s the little, seemingly “innocent” comments that create a culture where hate and division are tolerated.
My biggest takeaway from the past two weeks is that life will no longer continue as we knew it before. And that is actually the best thing that could happen! Because for every person fueled by hate and prejudice who is given a seat of power in our government, I believe there will be millions of people who are ready to stand up and say: NOT ON OUR WATCH!!
The truth is the majority of people in this country do not want to be divided. There are people who have lost their jobs and see their way of life slipping away. They don’t really want a wall or a fence, but they do want what they think others have.
The true challenge is to be radically inclusive – to be kind and respectful to everyone, even the people who are spewing hate. Even the people who are judging others, because ironically, they are the ones who need it the most.
There is a small percentage of people who truly do not accept others and who prefer to divide and protect. They are living a life based on fear and they don’t know any better because no one has taught them any better. It’s simply ignorance. And now ignorance has a platform. But that’s okay, because this is ignorance’s last hurrah before it transmutes itself into consciousness. And, luckily, we live in a time when we are more connected than ever and information can spread at lightning speed. People can be educated outside of the institutions of schools.
Our country is built on independence – on the belief in the undeniable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We etched these words into Lady Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I believe we’ll continue to grow, we’ll continue to help others, and we’ll continue to be a place of refuge for those looking for a better life.
I bought a car this week and as I sat there chatting with the sales guy, I learned that he really was a chef. But his schedule of working on nights and weekends was putting a strain on his marriage. So he took this job selling cars. We chatted some more and were joking around. He seemed like a really nice guy.
At one point, we were chatting about my loan application and he made a comment along the lines of “Or you could lie like all the Mexicans do.” The bluntness of his words totally shocked me and I was silent. I looked away and just was silent. It was awkward.
When I was about to receive my keys, his manager asked about my experience and if I had any feedback. I told him my salesman was a super nice guy, he did a great job helping me, but he made a comment that I thought was totally inappropriate. I told him what he said. The manager apologized and said he was definitely going to talk with him.
In the past, I probably would have let this slide. I wouldn’t have said anything and I would have gone on my merry way. On my way home, I listened to an interview on NPR with a White Supremacist. At the end of the interview, the White Supremacist chastised the NPR interviewer, saying he clearly was living in ignorance and had no idea about reality. And that’s exactly what I was thinking about him.
That’s the scary part. People who are racists werent born that way. It’s conditioning that’s happened over decades and been handed down through a culture that’s oppressive towards people of color.
This may sound insane, but I’m truly hopeful for the next few years to come. Things are going to change, and it will be for the better—even if it’s painful during the process.
Every month I send out an email with things that are inspiring me, causes I care about, and what I’m working on. It’s really just a round-up of inspiring things. If you’d like to receive emails from me, you can sign up here.