Bigotry, in shadows since Obama’s election, comes to light with Trump’s
Since the election last week, the country has been full of heated arguments on the President-elect. Many of those upset with the outcome have taken to the streets protesting, while others use social media to share their opinions. Race, religion, and identity have all played major roles in many of these interactions.
One particular idea keeps being repeated online: this idea of a “liberal bubble” that has now been broken, that the protesters are finally seeing what the world is like and are now appalled. However, for most of the people upset about this election, these results aren’t showing them something new. Rather, it’s a huge blow against an already failing hope for this country to not allow bigotry.
Eight years ago, when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, I was in sixth grade. Until then, I had always accepted that if I wanted to, I could run for President. It wasn’t really a dream, but rather something that was just known. If you were born in the U.S, you worked as hard as you could, and you tried to be a good person, you could be president. A simple view on the issue, definitely, but the kind elementary school kids often hold.
Sure, no one who had ever looked like me had been President. No woman, and certainly no one brown. But that didn’t bother me. I knew how the Constitution worked. There was an inherent equality to it all, and I loved it.
When I first learned about President, then Senator, Obama, I felt so many emotions. I was amazed that he was running, and charmed by his hope. Politicians had mainly existed in the abstract. I knew I had senators and representatives and mayors, but I didn’t know much about them. President Obama was real and exciting. He represented something so much bigger than just one election. It was about change.
Yet, for all the excitement he brought, the campaign of President Obama began to reveal a darker side of this nation, an intolerance with an unexpected intensity.
I was born in the U.S., and throughout my life, I had never questioned my identity as an American. But when I saw the brilliant senator get attacked for not being a “real” American, I began to doubt myself. Because of the color of his skin, President Obama was attacked.
If a man that inspiring could be distrusted because his middle name was Hussein, why would anyone trust me, with a last name no one could pronounce? He did not look the way Americans should, and so he was ridiculed.
It wasn’t just his skin color. He was accused of being Muslim, and there was an implied statement that being Muslim was an unacceptable trait for a President. There were rumors of how he was a terrorist.
No one expected the election of the first non-white president to go smoothly. But since the beginning, the level of dissent against President Obama that has its roots in his heritage, rather than his policies, has been high. Racist caricatures, jokes rooted in stereotypes — everything seemed to be fair game. The prestige and sanctity of the presidency didn’t seem to extend to President Obama. Even his family was open to the same types of attacks.
There were always going to be groups that were unhappy about President Obama. The Ku Klux Klan wasn’t supposed to be ecstatic about the new president. But instead of a historic presidency that brought people together, what was created instead was an environment where anything was okay. Photoshopped jokes comparing Obama to a monkey, or calling for him to be lynched have somehow entered the public sphere. People hid behind the First Amendment, claiming that political correctness was destroying America.
Racism existed before President Obama. It was widespread and horrendous. It did not just start again because of President Obama. However, for so many people, the election of a black president was meant to herald the beginning of a different time. It was supposed to mean that equality was a legitimate part of American life. Instead, it meant that there was a new central target, a polarizing figure.
Since that election, race-based issues have become more relevant. The Voting Rights Act was repealed. Police brutality has become a divisive issue in many cities. Black Lives Matter has become a national movement. All of these issues bring up discussion that is now tinged with racial slurs, among other things. Bigotry has been expected.
The 2016 election cycle only exemplified this more. The man who pushed the birther movement to new levels in 2011 is now our president-elect. He has made comments disparaging a judge based on race and has promised a ban on Muslims entering the country.
When Donald Trump was elected, it added a certain credence to the words he spread.
The people who are dismayed about the election of Trump aren’t overreacting. Rather, the election of a man who spews awful comments is the culmination of what people have heard for a long time. For far too many Americans, racism isn’t a worthwhile problem. It’s easily outweighed by many other things. The protests of this election are about more than just the results — they’re about a loss of faith in the ability of Americans to see the racial problems that besiege this country.