It’s no secret that the recent election results have had an incredibly strong impact on many U.S. Americans. As seen in the silence that filled our own NYU Shanghai hallways, the looks of fear and exhaustion written on people’s faces, this wasn’t an election split on nuances in policy. This was an election built and fueled by hate and fear.
In reaction to the election, U.S. citizens who had been hoping for a Clinton victory have lost faith; and with that, their discretion. My Facebook feed and even the conversations I’ve heard around the building are filled with people who no longer have any interest in keeping their voices quiet in order to appease those who supported Trump. They are directly calling out those who voted for Trump, for what they see as supporting racism and bigotry. They are calling out people who voted third party, arguing that they put their own pride and morality in front of the safety and well being of others. They have decided that Trump is #notmyPresident, and thousands took to the streets of New York and protested at the base of Trump tower to make sure he heard them loud and clear.
Some have accused these people of taking part in what they claim to be against. A common reaction essentially runs along the lines of, “How could you accuse Trump supporters of being so hateful, when you’re clearly being so hateful towards them now?” This is then followed by words like “love” and “unity”. The idea is that those who opposed Trump have no right to be so mean to those who supported him, because then they are just stooping down to their level. That trump supporter hate = hate of Trump supporters.
I am here to tell you that if you think that you are wrong. And I would like to explain to you why.
So first, let’s talk about hate.
Hate, as I’m sure we all understand on a basic level, is an extreme dislike of something; whether it be a person, ideology, group of people, thing, etc. For example, Trump has made a number of statements about different marginalized groups in the United States. He has encouraged images of Muslims as terrorists, Latinxs as rapists, Black people as thugs, Asian people as uneducated; he has encouraged mocking of the disabled and of sexual assault. This is hateful speech, based on race, religion, ethnicity, and gender.
On the other hand, we have those who did not support Trump, who are now calling Trump voters racist, ignorant, bigoted, and careless. These accusations are based on a decision that Trump voters consciously made a vote that they cast in an election. Here lies our crucial difference.
Marginalized groups cannot suddenly make themselves any less marginalized. A black person cannot choose to no longer be black, a Latinx cannot choose to no longer be Latinx, and a woman cannot choose to no longer be a woman. A disabled person cannot choose to suddenly not be disabled and a Muslim does not just choose one day to abandon their religion, especially when their religion in of itself presents no danger to those around them, but is rather the narrative that has been created by outsiders. However, a Trump voter could have chosen to not elect Trump. A Trump voter could have seen these groups, and the danger they would be in, and have decided to be a better person and stand up against discrimination.
Trump voters made the conscious decision that their policy ideas and desire to “make a statement” was more important than the safety and well-being of their fellow U.S. Americans. They made the conscious decision to choose hate, to choose a man who incites hate and to follow in his footsteps, because they were fed up with the “system”. Being angry with someone for an active decision they made, yes to a degree, is hateful. But don’t dare try to compare that with the hate incited against people of color and other marginalized groups – a hate that now will only be exacerbated in the United States for at least another four years and will threaten their safety in their day to day lives even beyond this presidency, a hate that they cannot suddenly opt out of by filling in a different bubble on a ballot.
If you think those angry with Trump’s election are being hateful, reevaluate your privilege. Think about where you stand in the world and in the perspective of others, that you can think of Trump as something we should all just accept. Think about why it is that your immediate safety is not threatened and so you can try to equate the fear of a Muslim in the U.S. right now to the fear of a Trump voter.
Because I guarantee you that one has a lot more to fear in the next four years than the other. And that’s what hate really is.
We are in a time of mourning. People are in fear for their livelihoods, the livelihoods of their loved ones, and they are terrified of what may come. Stop trying to silence them. Because if you do not understand why they are angry, or would like to equate their anger to the hate speech created by Trump this election season, you are not trying hard enough to understand. And that is a big problem.