Following the election of Donald Trump, many minority Americans have reason to worry. In one month, America will be led by a president who indicated support for a Muslim registry, and a vice president who once tried to allocate state funds for conversion therapy. Across the country, hate crimes are on the rise. The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked almost 900 hate crime incidents since the election. It seems that all the progress America has made towards eliminating racism, homophobia, and sexism is at stake.
On the Saturday before election day, my grandparents found a severed head of a pig on their front steps. In the context of rising levels of hate crimes nationwide, my family assumed the worst: someone, thinking my grandparents were Muslim, sent them a hateful and unwelcoming message (Muslims cannot touch pork). In the weeks that followed, we searched our minds for who would do this, and why. It dawned upon us that the perpetrator was likely someone in our community—who else would know where my grandparents lived? Before this incident, I had doubted that Trump’s successful campaign meant that America would experience a significant rise in racism. I was forced to second guess myself.
Soon after the incident, the shock and anger I felt turned into amazement. Once the Piedmont community became aware of the incident, a handful of people left flowers and cards on my grandparents’ doorstep, one of them anonymously. At school, my counselor and history teacher provided emotional support throughout the ordeal. The Piedmont Post was filled with opinions chastising the alleged crime. I realized that for every racist individual in this world, there are entire communities willing to stand up against hate.
Then one day my mom got a phone call. The Piedmont detective investigating the alleged crime discovered that the gruesome spectacle was not a hate crime, but an inside joke of a college fraternity. The head had been intended for the previous house occupant, who was a member of the fraternity.
This information was a huge relief. My pessimistic view of America was replaced with optimism. Not only had the hate crime not happened, but I realized that at the slightest suspicion of hate, my fellow citizens would respond with love.
Right now, around the country, people are standing up to the xenophobia and racism that assisted Trump into the presidential arena. Several major cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago have said they would continue limiting their cooperation with federal immigration agents. Recently, the University of California has adopted similar policies. In Piedmont, people crossed out post-election racist graffiti that said “adios go home,” and replaced it with messages of love and support. Even though we have a ways to go as far as eliminating racism completely from American society, I know the strength found in America’s love and compassion will continue to guide us forwards rather than pushing us backwards toward fear, hate and intolerance.