Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride towards freedom is . . . the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” I believe this quote to be true today more than ever. White people make up 69% of all voters, and an overwhelming 58% of them elected Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. The fact that the majority of white voters were able to overlook Donald Trump’s xenophobic and sexist ideals and elect him president exposed how deeply polarized this nation has become.
“We must oversee that he does not bring the country into devastation and more segregation.”
Donald’s Trump’s campaign quickly exposed a man of questionable character. He entered the race by accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists and criminals and said he would build a wall to keep them out. He also proposed banning Muslims from entering the country. Supporters proved their loyalty to his campaign even after multiple women publicly accused him of verbally and physically harassing them. There is clearly something very wrong in a society that is willing to vote for a candidate that dehumanizes and makes humiliating remarks about women, people of color and immigrants.
To the folks that insist that we must accept Trump’s victory and move on with our lives, I say to them that if we must let him be president we also have the duty to hold him accountable for the policies he is proposing.
Accordingly, we must oversee that he does not bring the country into devastation and more segregation. Additionally, we cannot ignore the deep-seeded xenophobic ideals engrained in our society that led to his election. We cannot stand back when our brothers and sisters of color start being deported to the countries from which they fled due to poverty or some type of persecution; when our Muslim friends are called terrorists; we cannot stay back and listen to men objectify women’s bodies and proudly brag about assaulting them.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out “what ever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We must resist, organize and advocate for the rights of oppressed groups because we belong to those groups, because we have family members or friends whose lives are being affected, but most importantly we must do so for the sake of our humanity. We cannot just stand back and watch, because if we do this we are complicit in the devaluation of their lives and in their oppression. So let’s be loud and outspoken and demand that every life be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves.
To the white moderate who voted to elect Mr. Trump, I say to you: I understand your current mistrust of, and frustration with, the government. I understand your disappointment with the current state of the economy, the low wages, the lack of employment, the high medical premiums under ObamaCare, the eagerness to go back to old times when the policies of the country seemed to be stacked in your favor. But I also need you to understand my struggle, the struggle of colored and other minority groups. You must validate the fact that the lives of colored people matter by rejecting the current state of our criminal justice system, which disproportionately incarcerates Blacks and Latinos. It is unacceptable that while colored people make up only 30% of the United States population they account for 60% of those imprisoned. As such, minority groups are being disproportionately disenfranchised by voting barring laws, which prevent citizens with a prior criminal record from voting. It is unacceptable that an estimated 6.1 million citizens are forbidden to vote due to a prior conviction.
You must also validate the lives of undocumented immigrants and recognize their hard work, laboring in sectors that no citizen wants to work in. They construct and clean your homes, harvest your crops, serve you in restaurants and yet they still get seen as lesser-of, due to their lack of proper paperwork. You must credit their hard work and recognize that despite not being able to access governmental benefits, undocumented immigrants contribute around 12 billion dollars in taxes every year.
“It is time to make this country a true Democracy and make every vote count and have equal importance.”
We cannot claim to be a true Democracy when the voices of the majority of those who voted are being ignored. Thus, we must pressure the government to repeal the Electoral College. It is unacceptable that while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump will become the next president because of the electoral college. It is time to make this country a true Democracy and make every vote count and have equal importance. It is not fair that my vote is valued less in a state like New York which is known to be a democratic state while, at the same time, a single vote is more significant in swing states like Pennsylvania. Additionally, we must aim to have a more inclusive society that facilitates and encourages voting. It is appalling that around 46.6 % of eligible voters did not vote in the presidential election and that only 9% of the whole nation elected both Trump and Hillary as the two main contestants. We must reject the idea that voting is an optional civic duty.
Political disengagement should not be an option when your own future and the futures of those you know and love are at stake. Thus, we must push for compulsory voting laws or, at the very least, for laws that better facilitate voting. Election Day should be declared a national holiday, just like the 4th of July is, to encourage businesses to not require that their employees attend work that day. Additionally, we must address the state barring laws, that keep many from exercising their right to vote, in the form of stringent registration laws, voter ID laws, and by having a low number of polling places.
We must learn to see each other beyond our skin color, proper documentation, sexual orientation, gender or religious beliefs and recognize that despite our differences each life is equally valuable and deserving. As the poet Rumi once said, “beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
Lets seek to meet in a field of understanding, acceptance, compassion and loving each other, to create an inclusive country, where we can all work together towards a more just, free and equal nation.
Ana Guillcatanda is an activist for immigration reform and workers rights. She is currently a law student and Community Director with the Liberal Party of New York.