About a week ago, the American population elected Donald Trump as their 45th President.
Let that sink in.
I’d like to believe that we have now come to the last stage of grief: Acceptance.
You are probably thinking “why would some girl in Dakar, Senegal worry about the presidential elections of the United States?” I will tell you why: Because when someone like Donald Trump wins an election in one of the biggest economic power-houses in the world, it affects all of us.
Over the past several days, I have been following the aftermath of this year’s elections and it has been ugly. With all the protests and the rapid rise of expressed racism, those of us sitting thousands of miles away, feel like America might be on its way to a new civil war. That is how bad it looks.
Now fortunately, being someone who is aware of how the media can twist stories, I am sure that the airports are not flooded with people leaving the country and I am sure that next to none of my African-American comrades are packing their bags and heading to the motherland. Although, if they decide to do so, we will welcome them with open arms.
Being the dark-skinned African Muslim woman that I am, it should be no surprise that I did not support Donald Trump. So through all of this, the only question that I have had is: How did this happen? How did an openly racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, underqualified 70 year old man get elected to run one of the most powerful countries in the world? How bad do you have to be to lose to a man like Donald Trump?
Well, I have some ideas.
It has nothing to do with the candidate and everything to do with what that candidate represents. What has happened in America for the past two decades is that the country has been stuck in the same political system. Each President has tried to tweak some of the legislature as much as they can, and to the best of their ability, but the core foundation is still the same. Ask any normal Trump supporter why they voted for Trump (emphasis on NORMAL) and they will most likely tell you that they wanted change. This is why, as much as it pains me to say it, Hilary Clinton may not have been the right candidate for the Democratic Party this year. Don’t get me wrong, I am with her. The problem is, Hilary is the system. She was in the White House as first lady, she’s been in the Senate, and she has been the Secretary of State. She has basically served her entire life in American politics. You can go to any major corporation or foundation and you will most likely find her footprints there. This is exactly what made voters run away. How can someone who basically lives for the system be expected to change it? People were afraid that putting her into office would basically mean four more years of nothing (or worse).
This is how Trump won. A successful billionaire from a non-political background who speaks his mind and wants to “make America great again.” Believe it or not, not all Trump supporters are racist, sexist, or a “basket of deplorables.” A lot of them are just people who are sick and tired of the system. They are people who fear globalization and immigration, and who disagree with liberals when it comes to topics such as abortion or same-sex marriage. But they have had to be silent and that is the problem. America, “land of the free”, has become “land of the agree-with-me-or-you-will-be-ostracized.” People who fear black people, who feel like Latinos have taken their jobs, who only view Muslims as terrorists; they don’t have a voice in America. Then, in comes trump! He came in and said out loud what people were already thinking in their heads. He gave them a voice. He fed the fire. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with these people. However, we shouldn’t think of their thoughts and fears as less valid because their feelings are real for them.
Trump supporters couldn’t have an open discussion or debate without feeling like they were putting their lives and reputations on the line. It is not fair to say that, just because someone disagrees with you or has a different view point that doesn’t happen to be “liberal,” that they are uneducated or uncivilized. There are people who have Masters Degrees and yet still hold prejudices against “the other.” There are people who live and/or serve in black communities and yet are still racist. There are people who have lost their employment because of jobs being outsourced to other countries. The problem is that no one has taken the time to talk to them and understand why they are having these feelings and explain to them why their negative energy and hate is being put in the wrong place.
When I was younger, I was taught that if someone doesn’t agree with you, you have a discussion about it and try to understand and find some common ground. That is what was lacking in this election. The Left didn’t try to understand the worries of the Right, and the Right, having been fueled by Trump, no longer was willing to listen to what liberals had to say. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very closed-minded and nasty people who support Trumps policies. Being an open-minded and tolerant person myself, I don’t accept things like racism and xenophobia. However, it doesn’t stop me from trying to understand people who hold these beliefs and try to recognize where their feelings and their fears come from. Politicians underestimated the power of open communication and common understanding in this election.
If these kinds of open discussions had taken place more freely and without negative repercussions, maybe Trump supporters would have learned that Islam is against abortion as well. Or that the immigrants that they fear are actually making their lives more comfortable without them even realizing it. Or even that liberals want change as much as they do. Because they were shut out, they waited until they got into that voting booth and they let their voices be heard.
So now what? The damage is already done, right? Yes, Trump will be your next President but he will not run your daily life. Sometimes, God puts us in a tough place to wake us up and make us better. So don’t wait for the country to crash and burn. Be the change that you want to see in America. Do volunteer work, get involved in your local neighborhood and local politics, do something! Don’t just sit and wait for others to do it and then complain if things don’t go your way. Look at the elections? No one, including the media, thought that Donald Trump was going to win. Everyone was so sure that Hilary was going to win that literally millions of people didn’t vote. So don’t be afraid to debate and protest peacefully. Take yourself out of your “bubble” of likeminded people and test yourself by meeting and discussing with people who think differently from you. Be open to different viewpoints but, most importantly, respect one another as human beings.
Beat Trump at his own game and make America great again.
**picture from zdnet.fr