I am not a political or social scientist. In fact, I’m an engineering student, which is as far as conventional wisdom says I can get from either of those two things.
But I know one thing. As tempting as it would be to chalk up Donald Trump’s election to the latent racism, sexism, and all the other terrible mindsets still present in the U.S., doing so would oversimplify the situation.
Trump, Johnson sweep Wisconsin in historic night for RepublicansIn a historic sweep of battleground states that blindsided pollsters and analysts, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed victory early Wednesday Read…
We live in an economy that increasingly undervalues people who didn’t — and won’t — have the privilege of receiving a degree from an institute of higher education. Many of these people are from minority populations, and many government and nonprofit programs are doing the admirable and commendable work of making those degrees more accessible to them.
But many of these people are white, too. And, as no one can deny, white people have just as much of a right to access higher education and better job opportunities as minorities do.
I think many of us white, liberal college students, myself included, have become so focused on creating a society that treats minorities as equals that we’ve forgotten, or maybe ignored, that there are white people who are having a hard time too. They aren’t having a hard time because they are white, but hard times are hard times no matter the reason for them.
This is where we — the white, liberal college students — made a mistake. We assumed that because we have it good, all white people have it good.
So when lower-income white people vented their frustrations at the lack of help they were receiving, we immediately dismissed them as racist. Racist, sexist, idiots — we labeled them with the worst words we could come up with, instead of listening to what they had to say and acknowledging that their fears and frustrations are founded.
Does this mean we should get rid of programs that assist minorities? Absolutely not. But we need to acknowledge that some white people’s discontent with these programs doesn’t necessarily stem from racism, but from a fear of no longer being valued by their government.
Trump claims to value this group of people. He claims he will rebuild our economy so that things aren’t quite so hard for them. This is a big reason behind his “shocking” election — which probably wouldn’t have been nearly so shocking if we had listened to what a large group of our fellow Americans had to say.
As we go forward into the uncertain future of Trump’s presidency, we need to start paying attention to what “the other side” is saying. We need to start addressing their fears instead of dismissing them. It’s going to be a long four years, but we may get something good out of them if we learn to seek the reasons behind the opinions of others.
Kelsey Murphy ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in biomedical engineering.