Berkeley, Lick Wilmerding, Alameda, Antioch, George Washington. The list of high schools that have staged walkouts during school hours to protest Donald Trump’s election as president grows every day.
Piedmont will soon join the list.
While I fully respect the rights of students to protest, I do not think this form of protesting is in our best interest as a community, nor as a country.
As a journalist, I have immense respect for the First Amendment rights protected under the Constitution, as it is what allows me to write this very article. And despite a school walkout being illegal (due to truancy laws), I still respect students’ right to protest. However, I simply do not think a school walkout will be effective or productive.
There is a certain irony in choosing to walk out of a school to protest a Trump victory predicated on the votes of the uneducated (Trump beat Clinton in voters without a college degree by eight percent according to Pew Research Center). And although missing a few hours of high school certainly will not have a large impact on one’s education, the symbolism of walking out on education rather than taking advantage of it still stands.
But outside of symbolism, there are other reasons a walkout does not make sense. To begin with, it is already evident that the majority of the Bay Area, California and swaths of the West Coast are upset with the election. Hillary Clinton won the state of California by a margin of 29 percent, already a display of California’s political leaning against Trump. And although many of the students protesting were not part of this vote, and that is their reason for protesting, their point has already been made loud and clear by the state voters.
Secondly, these protests are incredibly counterproductive. Rather than protest and be upset, we should be working to be part of the solution. There are other, more constructive methods to combat the effects of a Trump presidency, whether it be donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ rights) and the NAACP or getting more engaged in politics earlier in the process. Why not work to influence the 2018 midterm Congressional elections?
More local options include becoming more educated by getting involved in school clubs like the Feminist Club or even simply travelling to a local mosque to learn more about Muslim culture. To take this a step further, begin talking with your classmates about issues and fact checking.
These alternative methods have the potential to make tangible change and actively combat the expected ramifications of the Trump presidency and future presidencies. These options make positive change in a much more powerful way and do not seek to challenge a legitimate election.
But if protesting is a must for you to voice your anger, so be it. It can be done in a way that does not hinder your education and harm the school. Since the election, the mural outside the parking lot of Trader Joe’s on Lakeshore has been covered in post-it notes with people’s sentiments about the election. These protest post-its lead with words of kindness and optimism, with advice like, “Don’t become cynical”, “The more negative you are the less you can create”, and, “The revolution will be lead by love.” These simple notes preach positive thoughts and kindness in a time of tribulation for many. Pursuing protest in this form is constructive, and creates a difference for others, and is not just individuals expressing anger over a foregone conclusion.
Let’s be real; had the election gone the other way with Clinton winning the presidency, many of the people participating in the walkout would be heavily critical of the Trump supporters protesting the election. We would argue that they would be impeding the peaceful transition of power and undermining democracy. We must make sure not to be hypocritical.