I remember last year around this time when the primaries were taking place. I was at a friend’s house hanging out. Four of us were sitting at the table-me, my boyfriend, my friend and his boyfriend. It was a typical liberal gathering where we mostly discussed how ludicrous it was that Trump was a GOP candidate, not only for his lack of experience, but also because of his inflammatory racist, xenophobic, homophobic hate-filled speeches.
As we were discussing how unlikely it was that Trump would even become the nominee because Republicans had to be smarter than that (and note that they were…their votes were just spread too thin across too many different candidates) my friend said something that really stuck with me…”what if there are just more people in this country that hate us than we think,” he said. And that scared me to my core, because that was a very real possibility.
On Tuesday night, at about 10 pm, I started crying. I cried spontaneously every half hour or so until I went to sleep, and I cried again before going into work the next morning. I wasn’t crying because my candidate wasn’t winning and I wasn’t crying because Trump was winning, I was crying because hate was winning.
This historic election has signaled the start of a new way of living for all of us. For some these past few days have been a time of celebration and victory, for others it’s been a time to reflect on what being an American means, and where they fit in to that definition, or if they do at all.
So for anyone that doesn’t understand all of the democratic and liberal fear, the protests, the “whining”…this is what is at the core of our dissent, this newfound knowledge that more people than we thought believe that we are not deserving of their American Dream and that we, in fact, are corrupting it; this newfound knowledge that we are not perceived by many of our fellow citizens as Americans.
And let me be clear, I am not trying to make blanket generalizations about the people that voted for Trump, or those that simply voted against Hillary, or those that didn’t vote at all because they didn’t like either candidate. I don’t know all of you, so I can only speak to one common element that I believe you all have in common: privilege.
And no, privilege does not mean that your life has been easy, or that you’ve never struggled. It doesn’t mean you’ve been dealt a winning hand in life.
Privilege means that seeing a swastika or a confederate flag doesn’t make your heart pound and your palms sweat.
Privilege means that you don’t feel the need to know exactly where and when the NC KKK is planning their victory parade you can make sure you get home early and lock your doors.
Privilege means that you don’t have to fear being separated from your children and being sent back to a war-torn area where you very well may lose your life.
Privilege means that your religion is the dominant one, so you don’t struggle to find your place in a society that has deemed your beliefs inherently dangerous.
Privilege means that you’ve never had to hide your sexual orientation for fear of being emotionally or physically harmed.
Privilege means you aren’t mocked for things outside of your control like having a disability, or the color of your skin, or who you love.
Privilege means that “make America great again” doesn’t come across as a threat to you.
Privilege means that you have no qualms with a leader that supports discrimination and bigotry, because you are so privileged that these things will never affect you.
And while you have the right to both ignore and deny your privilege, you can’t be surprised that those without without it are hurt, upset and angry, especially now that we are faced with a leader who doesn’t represent us, but also speaks against us.
So while many liberals and democrats are saying their fearful and even terrified of a Trump presidency, it’s not really that. We know he’s not going to actually build a giant wall along the southern border. We know he’s not actually going to ban all Muslims from entering the country, nor is he going to deport all of those that are already here. We know that-like most presidents-he’s not going to do a lot of the things he has promised to do.
What we really fear is the resurgence of white supremacy and the nationwide acceptance of it. We fear the assertion that American now means “white, Christian, heteronormative.” And we fear the tolerance of hate that is the bow tied around the Trump package.