This week I returned to the United States for the first time in over 8 months. Which means it’s really the first time I’ve been able to see the way our newly-elected president has affected this country.
Let me first just say, I respect everyone’s beliefs and I don’t know your reason for voting for Trump so I really can’t judge you for it.
But I disagree with nearly everything that’s going on politically in our country at the moment. As someone with a degree in International Relations, our current approach to foreign policy is horrific and reckless.
But that’s not the worst part. The worst part, and what kills me about coming home after so many months, is all of the hate. Why do Americans feel the need to spread so much hatred? Now more than ever our country needs to come together.
It’s made me think…can you reason with racism? I’m not sure and that’s what breaks my heart the most.
No person should ever be made to feel like they don’t belong. Nobody should ever have to fight just to be acknowledged as a person. Is this what the United States stands for now? Hatred and exclusion?? I know we’re better than that.
According to James Truslow Adams in 1931, the American dream means that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. Where does it say that this only applies to white people? Where does it say that this doesn’t apply to immigrants?
Unless you’re Native American, every single American citizen had family members who were immigrants at one point or another. How would you have liked it if your family was treated the way we treat immigrants in our country today? Where has our sense of empathy gone?
It breaks my heart to see white supremacy rallies. And to see friends and family who’ve always seemed like accepting people make comments that they never would’vemade two years ago. Honestly, I don’t understand. And I want to. I want to understand where all of the hate is coming from.
I once thought that my state was friendly and accepting. That everyone had a place here. But now that everyone is showing their true colors I see that’s not the case. There’s so much more hatred than I ever realized.
And one thing has become clear even just after two days being back in the United States. We cannot let hatred win.
But how can we make a difference?
One of the biggest threats to hatred and bigotry is education. Understanding the history of this country is key to understanding our current situation. How did we get here? And why do we still have these problems? It’s also important to educate yourself on current events and what’s going in our country every day.
Read books or personal accounts of people who have experienced racism or prejudice first hand. Try to understand their experience and develop your sense of empathy.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already fairly educated, but we can always learn more. The more you educate yourself the more you’ll be able to help solve the problem. You become more useful to society and, most importantly, you can educate others and participate in discussions about finding a solution.
Be Mindful of the Language You Use
The language we use affects our culture and our thoughts more than we might think. Be mindful of the words you use when you talk about minority groups and try to challenge others to do the same.
For example, when we use the word “they” it automatically creates a divide between us and the group we’re talking about. Sometimes it’s contextually correct, but not always. Try to challenge yourself to use the word “we” in some situations.
Also, sometimes we don’t think a word is offensive, but it actually is. Think about how your words are affecting the people around you.
Vote and Talk With Your Senators and Representatives
One of your most important duties as an American citizen is voting. This is your chance to share your opinions and elect government officials that represent your beliefs. Avoid voting for officials that support policies with racial inequality or that seem indifferent to the issue.
And remember, the national election isn’t the only important one! Your local elections matter just as much when it comes to improving race relations in your community.
The job of your elected officials is to represent you! That means that calling or talking to them in person about what you want can make a huge difference!
Be Mindful of How the Media Portrays Issues
How the media reports news to the public is super important in forming public opinion. Remember that what they say isn’t always the complete truth! Many media outlets have alternate agendas or biases. Instead of taking facts directly from media sources, challenge yourself to search for the truth. Compare different sources and discuss current events with friends, family, and the general public.
Teach Through Example
If you’re in a position of authority, use your power to educate others. Encourage open discussions in your classroom or your community and ask people to share their ideas. Create a judgement-free environment so that everyone feels free to share their ideas and opinions, no matter what they might be.
One of the biggest threats to racism and prejudice is understanding. When we understand the opinions of others, it creates a better environment for debate and discussion and makes us more open to changing our opinion or changing the opinion of others.
Attend Different Cultural Events/Travel
What better way to overcome prejudices than to experiences new events and places?? Your community probably has events that you never even knew about! You can also create your own event. This is especially easy if you’re a student and involved in clubs and organizations.
Some other cool ideas are to try that local Mexican restaurant you’ve always wanted to try or head to a nearby culture festival. Talk with different people and learn about new cultures with an open mind!
Traveling is also a great and fun way to erase prejudices. Travel often and encourage others to do the same!
If you live in a closed off community, reach out to minorities in your community. Sometimes something as little as letting new neighbors know that they have someone to count on can make a huge difference. It can be incredibly scary moving to a new place, and even more so when you don’t feel welcome.
It can be a little scary talking to strangers, but it can really make a difference! Put yourself in the shoes of others and think of how you would feel.
Talk With People Who Have a Different Opinion Than You
It can be extremely stressful to talk with people who have a completely different opinion than your own. It’s frustrating when you feel like your opinion is not getting through to anyone and that you don’t agree with anything they’re saying. But it’s an important way to make a difference.
The important part in having a debate, which we often forget, is to listen! The best way to have a clear and meaningful conversation is to listen and understand, make the other person feel respected and appreciated, and then share your own opinion. Remember it takes two people to have a conversation!
Whatever you do, the most important thing is to spread messages of positivity and acceptance in your daily life. When you advocate for positivity and love, you inspire others to do the same.
We can change our current situation, but we need to start at the individual level.
What are some other things you can do to help improve race relations in your community?