When my mom woke me up the morning after Election Day and told me the results, I should have been happy. The person I voted for was elected to be the next President of the United States, and my party now controlled both the Senate and the House. But instead of being filled with joy, I was immediately overcome by nerves. I knew that once I returned to my classes, the only thing people were going to be talking about was the election, and how devastated and outraged they were by the result. One of my three majors is Sociology, and the majority of the classes I am taking this term revolve around the concept of race and the constitution. All semester, my professors and classmates alike have been badmouthing Trump and the entire Republican party, and I have kept my mouth shut for fear of them reacting negatively.
However, today, I could not let it go – I knew that I was going to have to defend myself against their words. One of my professors is slightly younger than the rest, and a little more outspoken, often swearing in class and saying things that are normally relatable. She began class, like I expected, with a discussion about the election. One of the first comments she made was “what the FUCK is wrong with women who voted for Trump?” I didn’t even know professors were allowed to take such serious stances on controversial issues during open class discussions. My classmates then exploded into a hate-driven discussion about the projected horrible direction America is supposedly spiraling down into. I completely understand the hurt they are feeling after being so hopeful that their candidate would be elected, and the disappointment they must be feeling, but that does not give them the right to say some of the things they were saying. I decided to finally stand up for myself, and my party, and say something.
I first asked if anyone else in the room was a Republican. No one spoke up. I do not know if this was because everyone else in the room was truly a Democrat, or because they were too scared to respond. Even though I am not a shy person or someone who has ever been nervous speaking in front of groups, I started shaking. I explained that if the situation were flipped, and if I were saying the things that they were saying, I would have been absolutely crucified and called out immediately. As I was speaking, people were rolling their eyes at me and whispering to each other. I said that I knew they would leave the room and say bad things about me, and change their opinions about me, but I didn’t care. I wanted to stand up for myself, because I have been told so many times throughout my college career to not be a bystander.
I told my class that the things they were saying were disrespectful and hurtful, and I defended myself against the names they were calling me and my party (think: racist, homophobic, privileged, disgusting, ‘fucking stupid,’ ridiculous, and so on). I explained to them that the people who were complaining were the people who didn’t vote, and that Trump had more voters than anyone thought because people were afraid of being victimized for showing their support. I reminded them that the sun still came up this morning, and there was no use crying over spilt milk. Donald Trump is the President-Elect, and there is no changing this.
In response to my comments, my professor called me a racist and a homophobe, and told me that she took my vote for Donald Trump personally. She said that it was simply factual: anyone who voted for him has to stand by everything he has ever said, and that you could not vote based on the bits or pieces you agreed with. Well, I didn’t have a choice during this election. I did not want to vote for Hillary, and I did not like everything that Trump had said or stood for, but a vote for a third party would have been throwing my vote away. I had to vote for the candidate that stood for similar things that I did. He has absolutely said things that I do not agree with, but his views more closely aligned with mine than my other option. I would have loved a female president, but I personally did not want to choose Hillary for that job.
My class continued on with their discussion, and didn’t change the tone of anything they were saying. It was like I never even spoke at all. I had began to tune everyone out, and took to writing one of those annoying political Facebook statuses that I normally hate in my anger (and because I wanted to share this Odyssey article I wrote again). While I was in my own bubble, reading the extensive comments that my Facebook friends were leaving on my status (making me regret my decision of posting on Facebook rather than going straight to writing this article), one of my classmates asked me to explain why I voted for Donald Trump, and why I thought the comments being made about the Republican party were not deserved. I didn’t like how she put me on the spot and expected me to act as the voice of all Republicans, but I did my best to answer. I explained that I personally thought professional politicians were often corrupt, and that even though he is crass, Donald Trump would offer a new perspective and wave of change that maybe professional politicians could not.
However, the point of this post was not to explain to you all about my political views. It was to explain my outrage over what happened to me in my class today. When I came to college, I never expected that I would fear sharing my views, or that I would be brought to tears in class, or that I would be openly shamed by a professor for stating how I felt. I should not have to be nervous that my opinions will affect my grades, or feel victimized for my political participation. I cannot understand how our professors can so heavily encourage us to get out and vote, then criticize us for doing just that. Discussion is supposed to be meaningful and respectful, and I don’t believe that either of those adjectives describe the experience I had this afternoon.
I left class feeling extremely down and dejected. I was happy that I stood up for what I believed in, but even though I knew that I was going to get a negative reaction, a small part of me was still hoping for some sort of positive aspect to come out of it. On my way out, I walked alone to my next class, when I heard someone say something behind me. I turned around to see one of the boys in my class trying to catch up with me. I had never spoken to him before, and to be honest, I couldn’t even remember his name at the moment. He told me that he admired what I did, and that it took a lot of bravery to be a verbal minority. He explained that his views did not align with mine in the slightest, but that he really respected me for standing up for myself in a classroom full of people who were against me. I was so thankful that he went out of his way to tell me this, and he is the reason I chose to write this post. In fact, as soon as I finished my conversation with him, I went directly to my computer to sit down and get this post published.
Several other people have reached out to me and told me that they respect me and my opinion since I’ve published my last two blog posts, and I could not be more grateful for their words. After feeling so defeated earlier, I truly value everyone who reached out to me and told me they appreciate what I’ve spoken up about. The most meaningful feedback I have received has come from people that I don’t speak to regularly, and people who identify with the opposing party. When I first started this blog six months ago, I never could have imagined the number of people who would reach out to me and praise me. These people are the reason I feel comfortable to share my opinions so publicly.
So, in conclusion, if you have ever wanted to speak up and defend yourself, whether you’ve felt this way in regards to a political conversation or not, my advice to you is to go for it. It is definitely possible that you won’t get the response you’re hoping for, but I am certain that the feeling of standing up for what you believe in will be enough to make you happy with your decision to say what you want to say. Be brave. Be a verbal minority. And most importantly, be respectful.