To foster a culture of productive dialogue among diverse voices on this campus, we must respect all opinions and be careful not to perpetuate the hate that has unfortunately penetrated this campus and the country at large this past week. However, while those who support President-elect Donald Trump on this campus should not be shamed or name-called into silence, they must also step back and consider the implications of the rhetoric they use and the actions they take to articulate this support.
On election night, footage taken at Smokey Joe’s shows a group of patrons chanting “Build the wall” as Trump’s victory became increasingly certain. Though this phrase does reference a concrete policy proposal at the center of Trump’s immigration reform plan, supporters must realize the racist, xenophobic undertone of this campaign motto and the genuine sense of fear that this policy proposal evokes for many people regarding their own safety or the safety of their loved ones.
As a relatively small subsection of this campus, Trump supporters should not feel subdued into silence, but it is simply wrong to dismiss the very real fact that much of Trump’s rhetoric and platform make minority groups in American society feel threatened. We do not call on Trump supporters to stop sharing their opinions, but we urge that support for Trump be voiced in respectful discussions through words and actions that do not make this campus feel less safe for anyone.
The racist hate crimes that have been committed across America since Trump was elected president are inexcusable. While we cannot accept them, we must also be cautious of the “not my president!” rhetoric which has pervaded discussion throughout the country. When Trump stated that he would not commit to accepting Hillary Clinton’s potential victory, many were shocked and appalled at his blatant rejection of our country’s democratic principles.
It’s inconsistent and hypocritical for Trump’s critics to refuse to accept his election in the same way Trump claimed he would refuse the results if Clinton had won. The American people cannot reasonably demand immediate impeachment before the president-elect has even created any policy. Whether or not you agree with Trump’s platform, you have to accept that he has been elected president and give him a chance to lead. Last Tuesday, CNN reported that President Obama, who actively campaigned with Clinton against Trump, stated, “I think it is important for us to let him make his decisions. The American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see.” If our current president can accept Trump’s election, we must as well.
At the same time, we can and should continue to uphold the values that many believe Trump’s presidency may jeopardize. In under two weeks, Trump has made presidential decisions that merit a concern. In line with his past statements calling climate change a “hoax,” Trump has filled the position of Environmental Protection Agency administrator with Myron Ebell, a prominent climate-change skeptic. For chief strategist, Trump has appointed Stephen Bannon, a right-wing media executive and executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, who has been wildly critiqued for his work in that publication. Notable headlines from Breitbart include “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.”
These appointments have substantiated many people’s concerns that dangerous rhetoric and policy actions will materialize into blatant discrimination and harmful global consequences over the next four years. If you believe that your president will not fight for what you believe in, you should use these next four years to fight to actively work towards them yourself.
We commend protests against Trump’s decisions and actions, but call on protesters to channel their energy into specific goals and tangible change, rather than vague demands of impeachment or social media activism. For example, support Muslim Americans by volunteering for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or donate to organizations like Friends of the Earth to support grassroots environmental efforts. Protesting is important, but frequent volunteer work is just as, if not more, valuable and necessary.
As Americans, we must find a balance between accepting Trump as president-elect and rejecting the racism, sexism and other negative consequences that have resulted from his appointment. Rather than dwelling on what we cannot change, let’s focus on what we can do to create the kind of country we want to live in.