Shame on Me, Shame on Us!
Last Tuesday, like many of you, I watched the election results in disbelief. How could we have gotten the polling so wrong and how could the American populous have elected Donald Trump as President? As I thought about facing my colleagues and students on Wednesday, I wondered what can I say to assure them that everything would be okay and would it? Ever the optimist, I tried to consider how the checks and balance system would not allow one person to completely dismantle the progress made in recent years. As news emerged that the populous vote did not go to Donald Trump, would that soothe the Clinton supporters or only infuriate those who have challenged the role of the Electoral College?
As I tried to wrap my head around the results, my thoughts drifted to my colleagues around the country who are people of color, LGBTQ and/or identify with any of the groups that President Elect Trump marginalized in his campaign; how are they reacting to the election results? Did my work in higher education influence my perception on how the results would be determined? Have I become so isolated in my work bubble that I am not in touch with those disenfranchised—the large percentage of under-educated Americans who voted for Trump. According to a recent Pew study, Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in the exit polls since 1980. As a college, we can be doing more to attract adults with some credits and no degree to return and complete their education. There are a number of opportunities in northern Michigan to teach critical thinking, cultural perspectives, and communication skills outside the formal classroom and yes, we have work to do!
As I wrestled with these thoughts, I found myself looking for glimpses of victory and I read about the five women who DID make history last Tuesday evening. Kamala Harris, the second black woman to be elected to the US Senate, a strong proponent for women’s health care and supporter of the LGBT community. Catherine Cortez Masto, US Senator, the first Latina senator and granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant. Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon, the first openly LGBT governor. Tammy Duckworth, US Senator from Illinois, a veteran who lost both legs in Iraq. And last but not least, Ilhan Omar, a former refugee and first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office. We will have a record high 21 female senators in Washington DC and although the increase is only one, there is still a reason to celebrate. Consider these to be our victories last week and let’s do all in our power to help them be strong in their journeys!