Facing our fears: Time to come together to build each other up | Reporter’s Notebook

Well, the results are in and much to many people’s surprise, Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.

Reactions to the news have ranged from happiness and excitement from his supporters, to disbelief that it actually happened from members of the Democratic Party, to anger from those who voted for Hillary Clinton.

Since last week, I have felt many emotions but I have settled on worry and fear.

And I’m not the only one: Women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims and other groups who have historically been discriminated against, disenfranchised, marginalized and generally just given a raw deal — we are all scared.

I am scared.

For us, a Trump presidency is scary because during his campaign he spouted off rhetoric that would only further oppress us. Whether it was his promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico or to ban Muslims from entering the country or his seemingly non-stop misogynistic comments about women, it’s difficult to have faith that he will unite the country as he said he plans to do after his election.

But for me, it’s not the potential policies that could be put into place that have me fearful. Worried, yes. But not scared.

What scares me is the trickle down effect. Throughout his campaign, Trump has encouraged an environment in which it is OK to target and tear others down just for being different. His being elected has not only condoned this behavior, it has made it acceptable for others to model themselves after him.

And it’s already begun.

Since last week’s election, there has been a rise in harassment and hate crimes throughout the country. Women have been harassed by men threatening to grab them by the genitals. There have been instances of racist and homophobic vandalism of public and private property. People of color have been targeted by strangers on the street yelling obscenities and racial slurs at them.

Following the election, comedian Bill Burr was a guest on “Conan.” During the interview, he and host Conan O’Brien discussed what a Trump presidency will mean for the country. Burr said with Trump as president nothing is going to change.

No.

Middle schoolers chanting “Build a wall!” in their cafeteria at lunch and kindergartners telling their brown classmates they’re going to be deported is not normal. When I see friends on social media posting for advice on how to respond to someone telling them to “go back to where they came from” and Muslim mothers telling their daughters not to wear their hijabs, or head scarves, things are not “business as usual.”

A few days after the election, I visited some friends at their apartment in Mill Creek. As I waited outside their building to be let in, an older white gentleman parked his car and made his way toward me to enter the building, as well. It wasn’t that late, probably around 6 p.m., but it was already dark. I quickly realized it was just me, an Asian American woman, and this man, alone outside at night. At this realization, I mentally braced myself to be harassed or attacked — all the while wishing my friends would hurry up and appear to let me into the building.

Was I stereotyping this man because he looked like someone who could have been a Trump supporter?

Yes.

All because I was preparing for him to do the same to me.

Fortunately, nothing happened, but it really struck me that this is the new reality for people like me in this country.

When people are on high alert and preparing themselves to be targeted simply for what they look like, who they love or how they worship, do not tell me nothing has changed. Maybe for Burr and O’Brien, two straight white men, that is the case. But for the rest of us, not so much.

Despite these not-so-new, but more prominent challenges, I am hopeful.

On Monday, I covered a story about Redmond-area high schoolers staging a walkout in protest of the election results. They were part of a larger movement as thousands of students throughout the Puget Sound area walked out of class that day.

In addition to protesting the election results, some of the students I spoke with said the demonstrations were also their way of coming together and supporting each other. With so much hate out there in the world at the moment, these young people were making an effort to show their love.

Many commenters on the Reporter’s Facebook page, in response to my article as well as commenters on other articles that covered the student protests in the region, supported the students’ efforts. But there were also those who dismissed them, stating that the youth were only looking for a reason to skip school or that they didn’t really understand the issues. It may have been true that some of the demonstrators participated just to skip class — there will always be those just looking for a reason to not go to class — but to just push aside others’ feelings of hurt or frustration without trying to understand them is how we got to where we are now.

There are those who voted for Trump, not because they were in favor of his xenophobic, homophobic or misogynistic comments, but because they have long felt ignored and pushed aside as well by the government. And those feelings are valid.

We as a society can’t keep just brushing aside each others’ feelings and frustrations just because we can’t personally relate to them. We need to take the time to listen to each other. Get to know each other. Look out for each other.

Maybe then, we’ll figure out that we’re really not that different and can come together to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.


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