“I don’t know this country”
It took Donald Trump winning the Presidency for me to realize just how much I have spent my entire life in a bubble. A bubble that is diverse, well-educated, mostly middle-class, mostly liberal, and not at all representative of the population of the United States. Never has this felt clearer than on Tuesday night as I watched the American people elect a man who has repeatedly and very publicly disrespected people such as myself. Female. Chinese-American. A daughter of immigrants.
I have spent much of this election worrying. Worrying that I won’t have access to affordable contraceptives and the option to terminate a pregnancy if I so need. Worrying that employers will use my gender as an excuse to pay me less than my male peers. Worrying that it will become more acceptable to voice prejudices against people who look like me, with yellow skin and black hair. These are my worries.
But every American has their own set of worries. And many Americans – hundreds of thousands of them – worried about the loss of their blue-collar jobs. They worried about the decay of “traditional family values” and infringement on their religious freedoms. They worried about their rising health care costs. They feel forgotten, emasculated, and abandoned by the Obama administration and the changing times.
And all their worries are no less valid than mine. I’ve heard my peers dismiss those who voted for Trump as being racist, sexist, xenophobic, and bigoted. And some of his supporters do explicitly fit those definitions. But they are not to blame for voting in their own perceived self-interest. Many of these voters have been told, time and time again, that their jobs are being stolen by illegal immigrants in the US, and Chinese workers abroad. These are the voters who have been told that gay marriage is to blame for the decay of family values and will lead down the slippery slope to bestiality. I believe that these voters have been taken advantage of through their worries, that they have been lied to, and that this has played no small part in Donald Trump winning the election. This misinformation is extremely tragic and extremely frustrating.
I am heartbroken that these hundreds of thousands of suffering Americans were willing to empower a man who advocates for policies at the expense of women, racial minorities, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community. No matter how loud my individual voice – how many editorials I share, how many doors I knock on, or dollars I donate – it does not change the fact that in this election, there were too many people who disregarded the worries of people like me. And we all each get one vote.
I hope that I never again experience the sickening roller coaster of emotions that I felt on Tuesday night. I’m tired of feeling fear, and anger, and bitterness. And while those emotions are unlikely to go away anytime soon, rather than wallow in them, I’d like to harness them and channel them into something more productive: determination. I still feel more lost than anything, but I know that for the next four years and for the rest of my life, in whatever small ways I can, I want to promote and spread diversity, inclusion, and open-mindedness. I want to fight for the institutions that protect people like me and the people I love. I believe that institutions like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the NSF benefit all Americans, and are worth protecting and fighting for.
It’s important to understand that your civic duty does not start and end with your vote. We need activism. Signing an online petition is good, but calling your local representative is better. Donating money to a charity is good, but volunteering your time is better. Do not fan the flames of hate by re-tweeting nasty tweets and posting alarming, incendiary clickbait. Support good investigative journalism, and share ways that you do good so that we can join you. I know that even as a minority, I am not alone. And we are always stronger together.