By Tania Bagan
I study at a small university in Pennsylvania, where diversity of political ideology is extremely limited and where, leading up to the U.S. presidential election, professors felt free to deride and vilify Donald Trump in the classroom.
While I have heard rumors of the existence of a handful of Republicans on campus, in my everyday reality I am surrounded, practically exclusively, by passionate social justice advocates and by liberals ready to attack Trump’s every word without second thought.
On the night of November 8, the student body gathered together and watched in horror and disbelief as Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.
A week later, shock and sadness still prevail on campus. And so does anger — but not exclusively towards faceless Trump supporters in the outside world.
Feelings of tension and frustration between members of the college community have risen, particularly between white students and students of color. Despite its political homogeneity, my school finds itself newly divided, in the same way our nation is more fractured than ever.
Why aren’t Clinton supporters all grieving together and supporting each other?
Progressive politics excludes poor, exploited Americans.
To put it briefly, it’s because we’re really not all in the same boat. The lives of distraught, upper-middle class white people will barely be altered by Trump’s presidency in comparison to those of racial minorities. Individuals who are victims of racism and xenophobia do not have the emotional energy to console wealthy liberals whose illusions about love’s ability to trump hate have been shattered.
People who have been discriminated against and disenfranchised since the beginning of American history are not in a position to comfort privileged, idealistic men and women who are sheltered from the realities of white supremacy and systematic oppression. In fact, the shock and desperation of those who are untouched by prejudice and institutional violence anger those Americans who now are more terrified than ever for their safety.
Upper-class, left-wing communities preach liberalism and voice their beliefs within their own bubble of privilege and political correctness. This is a reality that lies at the core of Trump’s victory — progressive politics excludes poor, uneducated, exploited Americans who have never witnessed, first-hand, the benefits of diversity.
Leading up to the election, dialogue about multiculturalism and social justice failed to extend past spaces that perpetuate an infinite cycle of agreement. It failed to bridge the gap between the privileged minority and poverty-stricken, marginalized voters who ended up supporting Trump.
It is time to stop despairing and to start mobilizing.
Racist rhetoric can be corrected, but not by a one-sided discourse that insists on the importance of politically correct culture. It is unrealistic to expect the condescending monologue of America’s social elite to convert neglected, disenfranchised people to liberalism.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign ads themselves tended to emphasize the outrageous nature of Trump’s racist, sexist, homophobic and discriminatory statements. They resonated with a minority of educated, socially aware citizens, rather than with emotional, benighted voters.
White liberals believed that love and compassion could overpower hatred and fear in 2016. But their beliefs were stronger than their actions and were grounded in their faith in humanity rather than in facts and numbers — which are what exit polls are based on.
In the aftermath of Trump’s election, our country stands divided by our past mistakes, our disillusion and our grief. It is time to stop despairing and to start mobilizing. The first step in uniting to counteract the forces of hatred and injustice validated by Trump’s victory is to recognize that while we all stand to lose, some of us are on the brink of losing much more than others.
Tania Bagan grew up in Venice, Italy, and now attends Haverford College in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. She is in her third year, studying Comparative Literature. She spent a summer studying in Avignon and is fluent in French. She is on the editorial board for a school-led publication, The Margin.