By DANIELLE HOWARD
Throughout the entirety of his campaign, President Donald Trump actively insulted and attacked large margins of American citizens while empowering a select few under the guise of his slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’ His words and beliefs against people of color, members of the LGBT+ community, women, Muslims and more were met with horror and praise.
It was heavily debated, whether or not a man with such a temper and willingness to fly off the handle would be capable of acting presidential. Whether he is capable now, is no longer the only question many still ask. Since his confirmation as president, many feel that his election has left them with sentiments that their identities and beliefs are not validated as being acceptable under the current socio-political climate, myself included.
For some, this is just another drop in the ocean among numerous other acts of oppression against their respective groups. However, for many, they feel that the remarks made against them by the president are not only a threat against their humanity but also emboldens many who feel empowered by the election to actively initiate harmful behavior or actions against those that look or identify a certain way.
Due to the perceived lack of acceptance by President Trump and his supporters, many activists took to social media to vocalize their contempt by starting the hashtag #notmypresident. This trending hashtag was met with strong backlash. Many felt that using this hashtag was disrespectful towards the highest elected office in the country. Often the words, “take the higher road,” or even Michelle Obama’s famous statement, “when they go low… we go high,” is used as a rebuttal or a way of shutting down people who speak about their discontent with the current president and his cabinet.
These sorts of statements can be harmful and used as a way of downplaying or discrediting people’s feelings or lived experiences. When those expressing their feelings are told to “take the higher road” it plays into the myth of respectability politics and in a way, attempts to tell the oppressed to act in a way that is more pleasing or acceptable, in order to gain the respect of those that oppress them.
Because many of those who feel personally affronted by remarks made by Trump are considered to be on the societal outskirts, they have to find a way to amplify their voices or bring attention to the systems that continually marginalize them. It is best to hear them out, rather than to simplify their claims.
Just because someone is in the president’s chair does not mean that they are without reproach. Disagreement is not a bad thing, it allows genuine conversation to flow and understanding between different groups to arise. When we work together to allow the perspectives of those who have been overlooked by society to be heard, we collectively have the responsibility to make sure that they feel their existence is being validated and to ensure that the world becomes much safer for us all.
As James Baldwin once said, “I love America more than any other country in this world and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”