Why Your Post-Election Optimism Hurts

     November 8th, 2016 is a day that has forever been burned into my brain. That day I got up and waited in line for about 45 minutes so that I could cast my vote for who I truly believed would be the first female president of the United States. As I waited on that line, I was actually proud of America. When I voted in the primary, there was no line. I cast my vote in less than five minutes. I was so elated that people were actually getting out to vote during an especially important election.

     I’m not naïve. I knew that there was a good possibility that Donald Trump would win the election. I knew from following his campaign that Donald Trump had brought to light the bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia that always existed in America. I was very aware of the fact that there exists a large population of Americans who identify with and feel empowered by this fear mongering.

    However, I was still hopeful. I had faith in the fact that enough Americans would get out and vote. I had faith that people like me who supported Bernie in the primary would use their good sense and vote for Hilary. I had faith that white women would support women of color. I had faith that people wouldn’t use their vote on a third party candidate who had no chance of winning. I had faith that the majority of white men were not like Donald Trump and would support the qualified candidate. I had faith in the fact that people cared about human rights.

      That all came crashing down as I watched the live election results. Once it became clear that Donald Trump was going to win the election and that we would have a Republican controlled congress, I felt paralyzed. I felt paralyzed in fear. I was frightened for my rights as a woman under a president who clearly doesn’t see me as an equal human being. I saw my right to choose anything about my own body being forcefully ripped from my hands. Even more powerful, though, was the fear I felt for my loved ones in the LGBTQ community, people of color, Muslims, and immigrants. I felt small and helpless. I felt like America had failed these people and that there was nothing I could do. There was not only fear of what the government would do moving forward. I was scared of what the citizens who voted for Trump would now feel they are capable of doing to those who Trump waged an attack on during his campaign.

     The next morning, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I just felt sick and disgusted by the country I have lived in my entire life. I no longer had faith in the system that I had been told would protect me.

    This is when I started to receive messages from friends and family. Their messages all began to mingle together in my head:

Everything would be okay. This country is great and will recover. We made it through Bush, didn’t we? Have faith in democracy. At least she won the popular vote. This is not the time to get pessimistic. Oh come on, you’re exaggerating. Nothing’s going to happen. Relax. Trump won’t be able to actually do anything. Our lives aren’t going to change.

     These cut me to the core. These were all people who had voted for Hilary. I couldn’t understand, at first, why they were not as distraught as I or my friends at school were. For us, the time for optimism ended when the map started turning red. Soon though, I began to realize how blind privilege has made people. When these people went out to vote for Hilary, they didn’t see this as something vital to not only their survival, but the survival of disenfranchised groups all over the country. Now, post-election, they are disappointed with the results, but they know they won’t have any true bearing on their lives. This is what hurts the most.

     If you are optimistic post-election, you have a responsibility to realize that this is a privilege that many other Americans are not afforded. Groups such as women, POC, the LGBTQ community, and Muslims are dealing with the very real ramifications that this election will have on their daily lives. We don’t have the time to be optimistic while we are fearing for our future. Inaction and optimism are painful to those who are now scrambling for a way to make their voices heard. By simply telling us that, “everything will be okay,” you are invalidating our very real and very rational fear.

      So while I do recognize the fact that you mean well….stop. If you are optimistic about the fate of the country, realize that is a privilege and keep it to yourself right now. There are people who are grieving and in pain. They are looking for ways to draw attention to the issues this election has brought to light. Listen, when they tell you how they feel. Don’t tell them to calm down or stop being dramatic or stop speaking up. Stop telling us that we are young and don’t know how to feel. Stop telling us taking action isn’t worth it. I will not allow your choice to remain silent dictate my future.