Columns

Steinman ’19: Finding a way forward

By
Staff Columnist
Monday, November 28, 2016

In the hours before dawn Nov. 9, I walked to where I could see the Providence skyline and looked out at a country I wasn’t sure I recognized. These couldn’t be the actions of the America I thought I lived in. It wasn’t until morning that I recognized the privilege of that thought.

As a straight white woman from an overwhelmingly liberal city, I have spent my life so shielded from the dark hate and vitriol of this country that I didn’t see these election results coming until they slapped me in the face: the planned Ku Klux Klan victory rally in North Carolina, the appointment of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist, the constant stream of hate crimes meticulously documented on Shaun King’s Twitter feed — innumerable individual outrages combining into a toxic pool of intolerance. Extreme proposals we hoped would remain campaign promises suddenly have prominent nominees to back them up: anti-environmentalism crusader Myron Ebell, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus.

If you feel crushed by the election results but have some measure of privilege, we have a lot of work to do. Now is the time to fight for civil liberties and to be ready to defend what this administration is likely to actively dismantle or let fall apart by inaction. Standing up for people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ+ people, women, people with disabilities and especially the many who hold more than one of those identities, is the most important task of the era of President-Elect Donald Trump. As allies, we must not take up space that doesn’t belong to us but be vigilant, supportive and ready to call out injustice in all its forms. And if you feel that any of your identities have been attacked, either by the president-elect himself or by his supporters, I am here for you and always will be. At the same time, we can use the privilege afforded to us, whether by our identity or our education, to take on the role of protectors and defenders, devoting our time to educating ourselves and volunteer work.

Looking ahead, I see hard work. I see days when it’s too much to hear about yet another victory for hatred or a court decision that sets us back 30 years. The next four years — which include for most of us our entry into the post-college world — are going to ask everything of us: our patience, our energy, our faith in justice. But it is only with focus, commitment and unity that we will be able to turn the bulldozers back from Standing Rock and to hold open the doors to Planned Parenthood. We’ll need to fight off despair — both in ourselves and in others — and go to bed each night ready to work harder tomorrow.

I had a teacher in high school who liked to say “your vocation is where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” When it feels like there is nothing to be done, remember that in every field there is a way to make changes that promote inclusivity and acceptance. Whether your passion is art, political science, medicine, engineering or economics, find a way to utilize it to do good when Trump will not. Look locally: Don’t just call your senator; call your governor, your mayor and your state representative. If we are lucky, we can still achieve progressive reforms on the state and city levels. This kind of work is tangible and meaningful and serves as a much-needed reminder that there are still things we can do to repair the world. There’s no way to stay truly neutral in times like these, and every choice we make — from internships we apply for to how we spend an afternoon — has the potential to influence the status quo.

“What to do next” articles abound on the Internet these days, and many of them offer valuable advice, but they aren’t directed at college students. We are in a truly remarkable place in our lives — living in an echo chamber, yes, but surrounded by passionate and driven fellow students who share many of the same ideals. We have more choice and flexibility right now than we ever will again until retirement. It would be an almost unforgivable waste for students to pass up the opportunity to get involved right now. We’re living in history, in moments that our grandchildren will ask us about. It’s time to come up with answers that will make them proud.

Clare Steinman ’19 can be reached at clare_steinman@brown.edu. Please send responses to this op-ed to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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