A year later, I find myself reflecting on the mess of the US Presidential Election and the effects it is has had on society as a whole.
The 8th of November 2017 marks a year since the USA Presidential Election where many around the world, including people in the USA, were shocked, confused, outraged or in disbelief that Donald Trump would win more states, and thus be elected President of the United States of America. Trump for many years and even in 2017, continues to be one of the most problematic leaders in modern day society and his defense, protection and subtle endorsement of white nationalism and white supremacy have arguably caused ripple effects throughout the world, with many countries now facing the rise of far right wing movements and political parties. A year later, I find myself reflecting on the mess of the US Presidential Election and the effects it is has had on society as a whole.
On a personal level, I felt that this was an extremely important election considering all the rhetoric, hate, fake news and events that took place leading up to it. On the one side, we had a man who blatantly, overtly and essentially discriminated and dehumanised individuals and groups throughout his election campaign in order to gain the votes from white, ignorant, hateful individuals. He was being ableist towards a disabled reporter by mocking the way the person spoke in front of his supporters. He continued to stereotype and label Mexicans and all Latinos as drug dealers, rapists and criminals. He has been reported many times to have been problematic and racist towards people of colour, especially black individuals. He never defended Muslims but instead, he allowed his supporters and colleagues to dehumanise Muslims by proposing banning bills and legislation. Finally, he was able to convince many ignorant, white LGBTQ+ individuals to start a “Gays For Trump” collective campaign group. However, he has not shown practical or open support for the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, in fact, he has endorsed a homophobic organisation and as a result, is allowing for businesses and groups to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite all this hate that Trump himself fuelled, he was able to gain mass support from many Americans. I and other South Africans were heavily interested and engrossed in this election because we were extremely concerned about the implications of Trump winning the election. We put a lot of effort into organising discussions and engagement sessions to make more people aware of what was truly going on. Although some may argue that Hillary Clinton was not the perfect candidate either, at least she was not a bigot and a hateful individual who used ignorance and prejudice as political weapons. I remember clearly when the election results were being announced. I had just finished my exam paper and as I left the room, I checked the results, as did others around me. Many of us, especially those in marginalised groups in society, were in complete shock or outrage whereas others, predominantly white, heterosexual men, found it absolutely hilarious. This comparison was an identical demographic of who voted and supported Donald Trump and who supported Hillary Clinton.
Regardless of who laughed, who cried, who screamed, who shouted, Donald Trump, an individual who used hate in his political campaign, had won. The shocking ripple effect began immediately. In France, the far right wing party led by Marine Le Pen grew in votes and used division to grow its support base. In other parts of Europe, anti-immigration, white supremacist groups began to form and lead movements against the influx of refugees into Europe. South Africa was not different. Many right wing, white supremacist groups feel as though Trump’s election has legitimised their hateful ideological beliefs and that they can express hate speech freely. Just recently, the Black Monday event turned into an opportunity for the far right to dominate headlines and discussions by singing Die Stem and waving the apartheid flag. All of these events have been a domino effect of the US Election and Donald Trump’s
After a year since the election, it is obvious that more hateful movements and events are going to continue. So many Neo Nazi and white supremacist occurrences have been taking place in the USA and this time, they are not afraid to show their faces. It is up to us, as citizens of democratic states, to fight against injustices and speak out against hate. It should be our moral obligation to uphold our constitutional values which is to promote equity and egalitarianism which directly oppose the immoral ideologies of far right wing movements. Although they may argue that they have freedom of speech, they do indeed have freedom of speech but this freedom is limited if your freedom is dehumanising and violating the dignity of other individuals and groups. Thus, it is up to us to continue engaging on these issues and allies of marginalised groups need to educate the ignorant and hateful.
Yes, Donald Trump may be the President of the United States of America for 3 more years. However, his election and his continuous actions are causing effects around the world. There is no doubt that the USA’s influence on other countries has allowed this to happen; however, we need to oppose this hateful influence by focusing on empowering our own identities and our own ideologies of inclusivity and equality. It is important that while we do this, we allow the voiceless and the marginalised groups in society to be empowered and to have a voice as this will be the only way that true unity can be achieve in a world that has become so divided and hierarchal based on who someone is. The question which often leads to action is this: what world do you want future generations to live in?