I ran that night to catch the elevator as the doors closed I managed to stick my foot out at the last minute to force them back open. Inside stood one lone, strong looking, white man. I stumbled some, almost backing away, then he gestured for me to step inside the elevator with him. I slightly shuddered, a gut feeling in my stomach warning me of potential danger.
I am not normally one to be easily frightened in situations when I am alone. I venture into the woods by myself all the time. In fact, I rather enjoy adventuring by myself at times, it gives me a freedom and a way to connect that I cherish. Normally, I do not fear the chance encounter with another person while out on the trail, or wandering around the city. But something had changed.
I spent my day on November 9, 2016 at work on my computer. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your point of view) my job allows me to look at facebook, occupy my time on other various social media or other sites (in between welcoming people to our location). I spent the day reading online instances of hate and fear told by my friends. Fear that had been generated by a president elected through a platform fueled by hate.
I read instances of my friends from non-European descent, concerned for their safety in the wake of an outpouring of racial slurs across the internet, spray painted around the nation, and yelled at them by strangers.
I read accounts of my friends in the LBGTQ+ community hearing an outpouring of hate and disregard for their marriages, their safety and even questioning their salvation.
I read on twitter a slew of alarming messages from white men prepared to “grab women by the pussy” because they claim if the president elect can do it, so can they.
The moment I stepped foot into that elevator, alone with that strong, white man, those messages flooded to my mind. Was this man a newly emboldened sexual predator, bolstered by the normalization and acceptance of sexual assault that our president elect casually commented on? Was this man going to hurt me, and violate my basic human rights, because I was a woman, and he was a white man and therefore, decided he was more powerful, and more worthy of life than me now?
I got off the elevator shaking and nearly running to my car, with my stainless steel water bottle in my hand ready to strike, and my lungs filled with air ready to scream for help. I had fear pulsing through me in that moment that I have never experienced before. I made it back to my car and drove back to my apartment safely the night of November 9, 2016, but I was changed.
The man on the elevator gave me no sign that he had any malicious intent that night. November 7, 2016 would have had me feeling no sense of fear being in that elevator.
America has elected Donald Trump as president.
Trump, a man who called into question the validity of a Mexican judge because of his race.
Trump, a man who chose for his running mate a man who actively works to support horrendous “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ people.
Trump, a man who unapologetically mocked a disabled man.
Trump, a man who bragged about being able to grab any woman by the pussy because he was famous.
I do not write these things to say that every person who voted for Trump believes in these statements, or advocates for them. Not every person who voted for Trump is racist, misogynistic, and cruel. But I write these things so you may start to understand. Those who voted for Trump, these comments are now legitimized, these notions normalized, these ideals brought up to the highest office of our nation.
This election did not turn people into racists, misogynists, and bigots, but it allowed them the space in public to be so without much repercussion. It allowed them to see their hateful ideals in the presidency of the United States of America. It allowed these people to feel emboldened to act upon their beliefs to harm, oppress, and violate other people.
I urge you, voters of Trump, to see these repercussions, not as a shame on you, but a call to action. I know this is not what you intended. I hope and pray hourly that Trump will prove to be a better man in office than he has demonstrated thus far. However, I call on you now to stand up to the hate that is actively being hurled at those who are not white, cisgendered men. I urge you to show the people around you, including those who do not share your background, that you care about their well being. Then, I urge you to prove that by fighting for their rights, and standing up for them in the face of hatred and violence.
And Clinton supporters, take this week to grieve, take this week to be angry. You have that right, and likely that need. But we are not allowed to stop there in the grief at what might have been.
We need to rise up; we need to stand for what we claim on social media; we need to support our fellow Americans who are actively being hurt by the aftermath of this election (and likely were before). We need to let our voices be heard, but also let our actions demonstrate what our voices never can.
I will refuse to let fear allow me to believe the worst in people I encounter anymore; I will refuse to live in that fear.
I will fight for what I believe is right.
I will fight for the rights of my fellow human beings.
I will fight for this planet we call home.
I will fight so that every person may feel welcome in this Nation of immigrants.
And I will remember that this nation has risen up from worse than this and will continue to do so, as long as we join in the struggle to rise up a stronger nation together.