SHANIE KALIKOW (GRADE 11)
“Oh my god, I think America is racist.” This may just be a quote from an SNL skit from the weekend following the election, but I think it also accurately describes how many people felt following the election. Though the election may have provoked this reaction, many of us claim that it wasn’t what made us begin to care about hate. We argue that we’ve always cared about racism and sexism and homophobia, and I agree. I think that many people have worried about it, but I’m not sure people have always realized how present it is.
Through these past eight years of Democratic Party leadership in the government, an African-American president, and a female secretary of state, many of us may have forgotten how unusual this situation was… We may have forgotten that this is not the norm. President Obama and Secretary Clinton were both anomalies; he has been the only black president and she was one of three female secretaries of state in the 240 year history of the United States.
I think that these past eight years became an era of complacency. Obviously not for everyone, there were plenty of people who remained engaged and involved, but it was also easy to not be involved without having a guilty conscience. We had a black president and a female secretary of state, gay marriage was legalized, the Affordable Care Act was passed, and other successes that enabled my friends and I to believe that the government had it under control. They were going to take care of it– ‘it’ being the massacres, terror attacks, and hate crimes which had continued to be prevalent through these past eight years despite the efforts of the administration. I should’ve payed more attention to these events.
Through this past election cycle and culminating in election night, I realized the magnitude of the horrific events that had happened in the years past. Every day of Trump’s hateful campaign, the number of hate crimes rose (up six percent from last year) and harassment increased. It became apparent to me how real the threat of an incoming government that wouldn’t attempt to combat these actions was. Election night was the final straw, and I woke up with the realization that I needed to do something. I had to stop my ‘Era of Complacency’ and make a conscious effort to stand up for what I cared about.
From the response to this election, it is clear to me that I was not the only one with this realization. I see the end of the ‘Era’ everywhere I look. As I walk down my street, I am bombarded with rainbow flags. I scroll through Facebook and see eloquently written piece after eloquently written piece inspiring me to take action. I hear about a new protest or solidarity rally every weekend. Just last week I went to one in a mosque nearby. This mosque received a horrible hate letter which stated that Trump would do to Muslims as, “Hitler did to the Jews.” In direct reaction to this many congregations met to discuss the next steps forward. These steps being how to be an active, inclusive, and supportive community to all and fight the hate crimes affecting our community.
So, though I am devastated by the results of this election, it was this drastic set of circumstances that led to the awakening and mobilization of formerly politically passive, but caring individuals. I hope that the motivation to participate in fighting to maintain the safety, rights, and well being of all citizens of the United States does not go away. That through governments that we support and governments that we do not, we will continue to remember how much of a difference our actions can make and how much stronger our collective actions are.