Turn post-election fear into determination

A week ago, the nation was presented with news many did not expect – come Jan. 20, Donald Trump will become president.

Emotions flew high whether people supported Trump or not.

A few hours before the election results were announced, my father called me. With a sense of urgency in his voice, he asked for my opinion on a situation he could not yet grasp.

Earlier that night, while visiting my aunt’s house, a neighbor became irate because there were two more cars than the usual number parked outside. He began asking why these people were here – these Hispanic people.

The neighbor, again visibly showing his irritation, got into his car, turned it on and backed up – into my cousin’s car, barely missing my father when he accelerated. The man then tried to take off, but seeing as it would be a hit and run, my father told him he could not leave because that would be a felony.

The man jumped out of his car and began yelling obscenities at my father.

“I can’t wait until Trump is elected president,” he said aggressively toward my dad, “then people like you will have to leave my country.”

“Your mother is scared,” my dad concluded. “Do you think he can really win?”

I’m sorry dad, but the person who advocated for racial intolerance, hatred, bigotry, sexual assault and xenophobia won.

When Donald Trump was named president-elect, I saw my opportunities as a Hispanic female dwindle. I saw my value to the American people spiral downward and my future, once saturated in color, went gray.

A tear fell from my eye considering all of the violence, hatred, intolerance and racism my people and other minorities will encounter even more frequently in the nation. Racism and sexism have always existed – I understand that – but now people are not scared of showing or speaking their true feelings.

I, like many others on campus, felt angry, scared and even sad that the country I had adopted let me and so many other minorities down.

Although it felt like the end, I saw it was also the beginning – the beginning of a new era of people standing up and voicing their concerns, fears and hopes, just as Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of others did during the civil rights era, and Cesar Chavez and thousands of others did during the farm workers movement – the beginning of our generation’s interest in politics.

A few hours after the election results were announced, it started. Several cities around the country were seeing floods of people protesting. The hashtag #NotMyPresident began to trend. And as people tended to do throughout the campaign, they took to social media to release their frustration.

Although public demonstrations have been shown to change the course of history, this is not the only way the community needs to be engaged. Once Trump is sworn into office and the protests, marches and rallies begin to decrease, our – your – work is not done.

If you feel passionate enough to take to the streets, write a message on a sign and use your voice to show people the injustice you experience – feel passionate enough to use your written words to illustrate your concerns to your state senators or your house representatives. Feel passionate enough to pick up the phone and call their offices. Feel passionate enough to become involved in politics – not only with your vote. Contemplate running for office.

If you are willing to invest your time standing up for what you believe in, then invest that time where it will be most fruitful.

I came across a tweet that went viral this week from Emily Ellsworth, a Salt Lake City-based writer and editor who worked for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and Rep. Chris Stewart, – both Republicans – as a liaison between the people and federal agencies.

I worked for Congress for six years, and here’s what I learned about how they listen to constituents,” she tweeted. “First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones. Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to D.C.. But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there.”

She went on to explain the number of emails and letters they received were impossible to personally respond to, but “phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time to time.”

She explained how a radio host gave out her district office phone number on air, and all day long the office was receiving calls: “You can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action.”

“If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can’t ignore. Pack that place and ask questions,” she continued. “We held town [hall meetings].. consistently that fewer than 50 people showed up for. And it was always the same people. So, shake it up.”

If, and when, Trump takes office don’t take that as a defeat or as a wall that you and your beliefs cannot overcome. Don’t stop pursuing what you think is right. There is no time more important to be more politically proactive.

Look up your state senator at http://www.senate.gov/, find your house representative at http://www.house.gov/,  or go to http://whoismyrepresentative.com/

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