This week has been immensely difficult. The election of Donald Trump as the U.S. president has left us devastated. But we must understand and acknowledge that there are some who are hurting much worse than others. Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC), members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, undocumented and documented immigrants, refugees, Muslims, women, and those who exist at the intersections of any number of these identities are especially affected by his rhetoric or policies. Marginalized folks: we see you. We support you.
The extent to which contemporary society is divided on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and class, has now become apparent. However, things have never been alright – the U.S. and Canada have been built on genocide and oppression of Black and Indigenous people, and the legacies of this history are still being felt today. The Trump presidency is only a symptom of deeper, systemic divides.
The U.S. electoral system has been built upon the disenfranchisement of marginalized peoples. Access to the vote has been withheld from Black and Indigenous people for most of U.S. history. Native Americans were allowed the right to vote in 1957 under the Indian Citizenship Act, and, although Black men were able to vote under the 15th Amendment, their ability to do so was not protected until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Just three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that states no longer need their voting law changes approved by the federal government. As a result, this election has been the first in 50 years during which historically disenfranchised voters – specifically, Black, Indigenous, and racialized voters – have not been legally protected by the VRA. This election has also seen some Americans essentially lose their access to the vote through the creation of voter ID laws, and “redistricting,” also known as gerrymandering, the process wherein politicians and government officials re-draw the boundaries of voting districts in order to sway the election in favour of a particular candidate or party. These legislative acts make participation in the democratic process inaccessible to marginalized voters, disproportionately affecting BIPOC and working class voters. This election has proven that it is time to reevaluate and dismantle the current electoral system – including the electoral college, a system created to protect the elite from an “interested and overbearing majority,” – in order to create one that allows all people equal access to the fundamental right to vote.
For marginalized people, it’s devastating to know that nearly half of the American population either supports or is apathetic toward the discriminatory and vitriolic rhetoric Trump used to run his campaign. But before the dust could even settle, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was already warmly welcoming President Elect Donald Trump into office. The hypocrisy and spinelessness of the Prime Minister, and of all the self-proclaimed liberals who have chosen to now embrace and work with Trump during his presidency, is on full display. This is not the time for complacency. This is not the time to remain passive in the face of violence and discrimination. This is the chance for those with privilege to protect and uplift marginalized communities. That means providing support – monetary or otherwise – to local Black Lives Matter chapters, Indigenous groups, worker’s unions, Muslim community organizations, LGBTQ support organizations, reproductive rights groups, immigrant or refugee aid groups, or any other sort of community collective created to support marginalized individuals. Now is the time for us to rise up against the increasing hatred and oppression of a divided society. Now is the time to use our privilege to protect the rights of marginalized people, and to do the work that may not be safe for others. This means white people, straight people, cis people, rich people – support those forced to exist on the margins of society. Do not allow complacency and comfort to guide you through this increasingly difficult time. Listen to marginalized people, support them, do not let them continue to bear the weight of hateful rhetoric any longer. The time of assuming that everything is alright is over. The system doesn’t work, and it needs to be dismantled and reinvented in a form which empowers us all.