From the Daily: It's time to engage

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 11:31pm

Yesterday, many students woke up and didn’t know what to do. Over the past eight years, most millennials have lived and breathed an Obama administration, an administration that captured many of their goals and inspired tremendous hope for the future. And for many students who grew up under this administration, this upset of an election feels apocalyptic, as if the world has been turned upside down. Many of us have dedicated our summers, our part-time jobs and our extracurricular pursuits to fighting for social justice issues that President-elect Donald Trump does not support. To people of color, to Muslims, to immigrants, to those whose livelihoods, families and physical bodies are threatened by Trump’s calls to action: We recognize your pain. It is legitimate. What this election has shown us is that the people of this country have a lot of work to do to bridge the gaps between one another. But those individuals who are most extremely marginalized by our president-elect should not have to do all the work themselves. Allies must stand in solidarity and work just as hard, if not twice as hard, for the rights of all who would like to call this country home.

About 90 percent of students at the University of Michigan voted for a candidate other than Trump, and many are struggling to cope with how to live in a world where our government doesn’t represent their fundamental values. Many students feel torn in half between the way they identify as liberals on campus and the way their parents, friends at home and community they grew up in identify. One way to deal with this kind of situation is to avoid talking about politics, because it’s too divisive. But that’s exactly the mentality that got us into this mess of a presidential election. The more constructive thing to do is to engage in conversation with family and with peers whose views stand in opposition to one’s own.

The fact that nearly half of our country’s voters supported Trump serves as evidence that we must also recognize and give that population of students — whether they voted for Trump out of support for his stances or in mere opposition to Clinton — space to vocalize their ideas. We must listen to them and understand where they are coming from. Their concerns, though expressed in political stances many of us do not believe in, have merit. The country must create a space on campus for their concerns to be vocalized and discussed in a productive way. By shutting these beliefs down as uninformed, uneducated or illegitimate, we are only slowing down progress we can make as a country united. We must have the introspection and the humility to face these ideals about which many of us so fundamentally disagree.

In turn, those who voted for Trump must recognize that the way the Trump campaign went about vocalizing these concerns was, and still is, tremendously harmful. We ask these voters to please realize how nativism, racism, protectionism, sexism, etc., pose a threat to people’s livelihoods here on U.S. soil. Liberals and conservatives must work to extend themselves beyond their views into the perspective of someone else’s. Only when both sides feel they can speak openly about their deepest concerns can we engage in productive conversation.

That being said, we recognize that these kinds of conversations can be extremely emotionally taxing, if not impossible for those who are most threatened by a Trump presidency. We all need to keep fighting for equality, but marginalized groups absolutely should not have to do it alone. This is why people in privileged groups, people who are able to separate — at least to some degree — these political issues from personal struggles, people whose families or physical bodies are not as directly threatened by Trump’s presidency, need to stand up for those on the farthest margins of this country. We must be able to engage with one another on these issues that are so important to every single person in this country, no matter their background, sexual identity, gender identity, religion, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic or citizenship status. We need to work toward equality selflessly. We need to work toward equality together.

The University has many resources for those struggling to cope, including Counseling and Psychological Services and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.