Maddie O’Connell | Contributing Editor
It’s been an overwhelming 48 hours for many of us.
Wednesday was perhaps the most surreal day of my life. I walked into work that morning, and the air had rotted – we went through all the motions, but as a staff of mostly women and people of color, we felt paralyzed by shock. My professor nearly cried in front of us that afternoon. More than one student burst out sobbing during lecture. I had to excuse myself during class to get sick in the Cathedral bathrooms.
After this election, many of us feel betrayed because we are confronting the shocking reality of intolerance in America, which apparently runs far deeper and wider than anyone – even the writers at an intersectional feminist publication – could fathom. We are confronting tangible flaws in our supposedly Democratic system: we know powerful hands rigged the primaries from the beginning, and now, the electoral college guarantees the very outcome we wished to avoid. We are confronting half a nation of people who not only excuse racism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and ableism, but act on these violent ideologies.
A Trump presidency will unquestionably result in the further oppression of marginalized groups. But Trump himself isn’t the problem. Trump is a problem. The problem is that Trump has mobilized millions of right-wing Americans and coddled their sense of aggrieved entitlement. Something is fundamentally wrong if we have built a culture that accommodates his election to the presidency, or moreover a space where he is taken seriously as a candidate. Even if Trump fails to pass a single piece of promised legislation in the next four years, the ramifications of his candidacy will pose long-term consequences. He has normalized the hatred of groups who publicly flaunt their oppressive ideologies and feel proud to commit violence against minorities of any age and background. Trump is the modern symbol for groups that oppress, in a society that has exacerbated the social power of the oppressors. These awful people are our neighbors and our leaders.
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Unfortunately, a large portion of the post-election climate is characterized by a “stay positive” attitude. But when I hear “stay positive,” I mostly just hear “give the fascist a chance,” and I sense that you shrug at the idea of being complicit in my oppression. Of course, I acknowledge the outcome, but that does not mean I have to accept it. I have mourned, and I have felt terrified. I have been angry, and I plan to stay angry. The most productive uses of my anger – and perhaps many of yours – require a commitment to activism, resistance, and action. When Trump had all but clinched the presidency on Tuesday night, The Fourth Wave teamed up with other student activists to claim the streets of Pittsburgh and make our feelings clear. In just hours, hundreds joined us to express our rage and disappointment with the decision of American voters (more of whom voted for Clinton, by the way). Despite feeling overcome with nausea and sadness and fear and outrage, I felt inspired to see students pour out of their dorms to join us in our march of solidarity.
I’ve seen what young people can do, so as a university student and the Managing Editor of a publication run by university students, I must address this: It is wildly misdirected to blame young people for Tuesday. People from all demographics stayed home or voted for third parties; millennials clearly understood the stakes of this election and favored a blue outcome. Many of us, myself included, rallied behind candidates other than Clinton and do not align with the major tenets of the current Democratic Party. Progressive leftist, socialist, and anarchist millennials have been on the front lines in support of causes like Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 for years, and they know what Trump will do to unwind this progress. Yes, fewer third party votes and higher millennial turnout might have saved Clinton this election, but it is wrong and incorrect to blame young people for not rallying behind moderate Clinton hard enough – most millennials voted for her anyway.
Blame Trump on the 59 million Trump voters, most of whom silently snagged this election from accidentally blind liberals and left-leaning media. In fact, the overwhelming force majeure on Tuesday was the turnout of white voters, specifically white women for Trump, who apparently wish to preserve their white privilege more than they want to overthrow structural and social sexism. If we really should try to “stay positive,” then we should do two things: first, if you are a white person, you must spend less time discussing how to be allies with marginalized groups and spend more time having conversations with other white people about oppression. Second, we should outwardly thank the millennial voters – especially millennial people of color – who overwhelmingly used civil and social action to prevent a Trump presidency, yet were once again drowned out by white supremacy. If there is anything to be positive about, it is the future of progressive activism and the political climate shaped by a diverse array of young people.
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On that note, I hope to now speak on behalf of the amazing young people involved in The Fourth Wave and offer our support to anyone who will be disenfranchised by four years of a Trump presidency. We are here for you if you need someone to talk to, if you need help getting connected with relevant organizations, if you need help finding supportive resources in Pittsburgh – anything. For many of you, going about a normal day might now feel much harder than it did a few days ago, not to mention the added obligations of schoolwork and other responsibilities.
I wish to stress, though, how publications like ours are important and valued. We demand that others hear our voices, and the visibility of our publication is crucial to our efforts to force a paradigm shift in an obviously corrupt society. (Speaking of visibility, our Editor-in-Chief Zoë Hannah recently represented The Fourth Wave on CNN, and spoke about the post-election climate for CBC News.) There are hundreds of you who like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and read our site; there are thousands who must know who we are if our name appears on CNN. We would love for those of you who engage with us from afar to become more involved with The Fourth Wave. We care about what you have to say, and we urge you to exercise your creative voice and contribute to the discussions we hope to highlight. Consider submitting an article to our publication, or join us at our meetings, which we hold every Monday at 9pm in 236 Cathedral of Learning. Additionally, keep an eye out for this semester’s print edition, to be released on December 2, 2016 with an accompanying release party to celebrate the hard work of our team.
Now we work.