Bells began to ring out from the speakers at my favorite bagel shop last Wednesday, and they have not stopped since. Holiday songs and decorations popped up overnight, albeit somewhat early even for our commercialized society, but it was easy to surmise the underlying motivation. Election Night in America effectively extinguished nearly everyone’s spark, and these establishments were determined to spread cheer in any way they could.
Many walked about aimlessly, draped in misery, cloaked in sadness. It was as if we’d all woken from the same nightmare and we couldn’t shake the feeling. Yet, despite the somber vibe throughout the day—here in the northeast, rain mixed with tears—there still seemed to be the occasional glimmer of hope. In each sweet smile and friendly greeting, melancholy mixed with kindness. Everyone realized that we’re all members of the walking wounded, that we are all in this together—that we are stronger together. We transformed our sorrow into strength by being nicer to one another. We spoke through our actions when we couldn’t find the words.
But, elsewhere throughout the once “United” States, division and disgust crept to the fore, with Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric fueling racist outbursts across the country. From ethnic slurs to offensive graffiti, this Huffington Post article displays only the beginning of the homegrown harassment taking root. (The story of one young Muslim teacher whose student told her to “tie [her headscarf] around your neck and hang yourself with it off your neck instead of your head” remains one of the most disturbing thus far.) For each kind gesture, there have been dozens more that highlight the bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia that have raged like wildfire within the last year.
Now, more than ever, we must draw attention to these atrocious acts. While we must do our best to bring positivity to those who are scared, we must drive out the negativity by shining light on the darkness. If we normalize such behaviors—if we allow hate speech and violence to slip under the radar—people will begin to think nothing’s wrong, when in reality, Trump’s win has essentially paved the path for bullying and animosity to blossom and flourish under his watch. We need to expose and publicize said acts in an effort to demonstrate how his position (and his Cabinet) impacts everyone, including children.
Much of the hate that’s emerged comes from kids who believe it’s suitable to emulate both their parents’ and Trump’s behaviors. Bigotry of this caliber isn’t born—it’s bred. It isn’t inherited. It’s learned. These children are chanting BUILD THAT WALL at Latinos in their school lunchroom and proclaiming WHITE POWER as they march through the halls. Many now believe that bullying leads to respect and that their Caucasian skin equates to superiority. We must condemn such acts at every turn for these developments aren’t normal. We must hold lawmakers accountable, we must hold the media accountable, and we must unquestionably hold our future president accountable, above all else.
After all, just days post-election, while most were still mourning Hillary Clinton’s crushing defeat, I saw a young Latina girl shopping with her family. She was entirely unfazed by the world around her. Instead, her only worry was whether or not her mother would cave to her begging. The desired item in question? A “Girls Rule” sweatshirt. You see? Never let anyone tell you all hope is lost.
We have officially grieved long enough. Now we must act. For many who are still trying to make sense of this new reality, those actions may amount to nothing more than Facebook posts and retweets. Others may wear safety pins on their sweaters to show their support for marginalized groups. Thousands have already taken to the streets to protest Trump’s victory. Regardless of your choice, keep it up. Your effort will not go to waste. No one truly knows which steps are the correct steps to take next, but we can agree on one factor—we must not go quietly into the night.
Stay positive. Stay focused. Stay loud.