I am 17, I am gay, and I am scared. I am scared of what a Trump presidency might mean for me, members of the LGBT community, and the society in which I live. But most of all, I’m scared that nobody cares to listen to my fears.
Donald Trump tweeted that protests against his election were “very unfair”. High profile Trump-surrogates like Rudy Giuliani have suggested that the protests are staged by Democrats and the media. This kind of rhetoric serves to discount the very real concerns that millions of Americans have about a President Donald Trump.
Richard Cohen, president of the civil rights watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, has said that spikes in hate crimes following Trump’s election are worse than the spike seen after 9/11. In Durham, North Carolina, downtown residents awoke the day after the election to find graffiti that said “Black lives don’t matter, and neither does your vote.” The gay community of Rochester, NY has seen an increase in the burning of pride flags and vandalism since the election. Minority communities across America are feeling the effects of a Trump presidency even before his inauguration.
Many Trump supporters have countered reports of increasing hate crimes by saying that he is not responsible for his most extreme supporters. Others have suggested that the wave of hate crimes across America are fabricated by the liberal media to further damage the approval ratings of the president-elect. However, the very real fears of minority communities also stem from those that Trump willingly surrounds himself with.
To understand the damage that a Trump administration could do to minority communities, we need not look further than Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. The man in charge of Trump’s legislative strategy has suggested the African-Americans are “naturally aggressive and violent.” When asked about women’s rights, Bannon described feminists using an anti-lesbian slur. While under oath during a 2007 testimony, Bannon’s ex-wife claimed that he was uncomfortable sending his daughters to schools with a heavy Jewish population. Although these words do not come from Trump himself, it is no less concerning that an openly prejudiced man like Stephen Bannon will hold high status in a Trump administration.
Bannon is not the only member of Trump’s inner-circle with a troubling record on minority rights. His own running mate, Mike Pence, has a long history of discrimination against the LGBT community. While serving as the Governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals on the grounds of religious belief. During a 2006 speech to the Republican Study Committee, Pence suggested that homosexual marriage would lead to a “societal collapse.” If the records of Trump’s closest advisors can tell us anything about his policy ambitions, minority Americans have good reason to be afraid.
The most concerning thing to minority Americans should not be about Trump’s potential policy positions, but rather the lack of reaction from the rest of America. Despite the documented increase in hate crimes and the various statements from Trump’s closest advisors on minorities, many refuse to believe that our concerns are real. Members of my own family have claimed that I am “overreacting”. Classmates at school have criticized me for being “weak”. Pundits on cable news are questioning the reality of the protests altogether. This is what is most dangerous.
In order to defend civil liberties and general safety for minority Americans, we must be willing to acknowledge their concerns. We must not turn a blind-eye. The political polarization in this country has driven millions of Americans to blatantly ignore discriminatory statements from Trump and those in his inner circle. Partisanship has led people to suggest that anti-Trump protesters are paid professionals because they cannot face the reality that many in this nation are truly concerned about him becoming our commander-in-chief. In order to heal our nation’s divide, everyone must be willing to acknowledge that our fears are real, our fears are founded, and our voices deserve to be heard.
This piece originally appeared on Medium, and has been reprinted with permission.
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