Don’t tell me he deserves a chance

We deserve to be listened to

Today, I watched the video of Royal Oak Middle School students chanting “build the wall.” I had been avoiding the video because I knew the feeling it would evoke would be familiar, but unwelcome. Latino students in the video clearly intimidated and scared had gone through what many People of Color do in their formative years. They now know, if they didn’t before, that they are the other. They are painfully aware that they are set apart, viewed by their White classmates as dispensable, hated.

The video reminded me of the school experience my family members have all had—a common experience for non-white peers of mine as well. It reminded me of my younger brother being called a spic and having his lunch thrown on him because he is Latino and proud. It reminded me of being called a mulatto throughout middle school and high school by multiple classmates. And I knew incidents like those mentioned weren’t isolated, but now I know they’re even more widely accepted than ever before.

Ask me, “Why can’t we just come together?” But if you listen, you’ll find out you have been pushing us away all this time. Ask any Person of Color about their formative years and I guarantee you you’ll encounter the word “marginalization,” or a close variant.

The dismissive nature of the pro-Trump posts I’ve seen on social media have done little to progress a meaningful discourse. Those who should be heard are silenced by those too annoyed to listen. “He is our president now, he deserves your respect.”

Calls to “give Trump a chance,” meant to silence someone who is rightfully frightened for their well-being are commonplace. The social norms have been set, and any decency that was left that rendered explicit racism wrong is now considered political correctness. And political correctness is the antithesis of the tell-it-like-it-is, post-fact presidency we will now live with. Otherwise, Trump supporters would be condemning the hateful acts carried out in support of the president-elect. All there is from that side is silence, and that white silence is violence all the same.

If you want to see us whole again don’t just ask why we can’t be united. Ask, “Why haven’t we been united?” Search for the knowledge of the causes that brought about these effects. Think about how you are merely annoyed with the protesters for rejecting the election’s result, when many of those who are out on the streets are scared for their well-being. Discourse goes both ways, it’s not unidirectional. But effective conversation, the kind where solutions develop, starts by listening to a person that is part of a marginalized group.

Asking people to accept Trump, but failing to condemn the hatred brought about by his ascension to the presidency, is just as damaging as the violent acts themselves. I cannot be the only one seeing the swastikas, the murder, the hatred. But I have yet to see a Trump supporter I know denounce the hatred. That silence is complacency. That complacency is the problem.

You ask us why we cannot be united, when that is our goal as well. Listen to us tell you why we haven’t been united and we can build the conversation from that point.

Temple University