I will be a more active citizen. I will stand up against discrimination. I will encourage civil conversation. I will advocate for those who feel their voices have not been heard.
Since writing my blog post, “I am.”, I have received many emails and comments saying, in so many words, “Ok, we get you are not racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., but what are you going to do to stand up to the people who are?” or “How do you plan to advocate for those who feel that their voices have not been heard?”
First, I would like to point out that the purpose of “I am.” was simply to express my feelings on November 9th — those of which I felt were under-represented. I shared it with the thought that only my close friends and family would care enough to actually open the link and read it. Because they know my character, I did not feel it was necessary to clarify what I have done and will continue to do to separate myself from those who voted for Donald Trump for the wrong reasons. Obviously, many more people have read and reacted to “I am.” than I could have ever anticipated. With that said, most of the people who have read my blog post are people I do not know, or will ever know personally, so I understand why many of you were frustrated with the lack of action that I expressed in “I am.”
After reading and responding to so many of your comments, I feel a great responsibility to continue to educate myself and to listen to those of you who have so kindly expressed your concerns to me. I have tried my best to read as many comments as I can and take the time to provide thoughtful responses. However, when I started to notice a repetition of questions, I felt that a new blog post would be a lot more effective in addressing them.
As I’ve said, you all know my political position. So the question now is, “How am I going to advocate for those people who feel they are not going to be fairly represented by our new president?” After talking to a few close friends and family members and having conversations with many of you about your concerns, these are a few things I will do to be an active citizen:
- I will vote in my local government. Presidential elections get so much media attention, while our local governments do not. We have the power to directly affect more change within our local governments than in our federal government. I will further educate myself on the issues and concerns of my local community so that I can more effectively take part in helping the lives of those around me.
- I will be more actively involved in my community. Community involvement may be the most underrated way to be a more active citizen. This can be as simple as volunteering at a township building, helping register people to vote, cleaning up trash at local parks, or attending community days. All of these actions give me the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their concerns, frustrations, and hopes for the future. Even though it’s cliché, knowledge is power.
- I will speak out against and stand up to discrimination. Many of you are right, it is not enough to say that I am not racist, sexist, or homophobic. So, I pledge to speak up when I witness racial slurs or verbal abuse. One of the best lessons I learned in elementary school is that there is power in numbers. If I stand up, others are sure to follow. No one wants to be the outcast. If we show that more people are against hate, less people will be for hate.
- I will contact my local State Representative. Essentially, our local Representatives’ job is to advocate for us at the state level so that our voices can be heard at the higher levels. I have contacted my local state representative so that I can learn more about the prevalent issues within my community and what I can do to help.
- I will encourage civil discussion across political parties. This may be the easiest way to ensure that what we have to say is heard. But the key here is civil! As I have said in many of my responses, our voices are much more likely to not only be heard, but also to be respected when we speak in a civil manner. Contrary to how the media portrays things, there are people who want to learn more about opposing viewpoints. If you have an opinion, express it, if you don’t understand a viewpoint, ask about it, if you are not knowledgable on a topic, look it up. We have this wonderful advantage in technology to be able to easily and quickly share ideas with people from all over the world. Let’s use this advantage in a productive way.
- I will be an active student on my campus. After researching University policies and clubs, I noticed a lack of “safe places” for students to openly and respectfully discuss current issues. College is supposed to be the “hub” of ideas. I am in the process of starting a club on my campus called Students for Civil Conversation. This club will encourage conversations among students about opposing perspectives so that we can all be more knowledgeable. We are the most knowledgeable when we are educated on our perspective as well as others’ perspectives.
These are just a few ways I plan to help our country move forward. While this blog post is specifically about what I will do, these are things all of us need to do. It is not enough to vote in the Presidential election and expect your voice to be heard. In order for our voices to be met with action, we all need to take part in affecting change.
Hate and violence only perpetuate more hate and violence. By continuing to point fingers, we are preventing the healing of our country. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can combat those with hate in their hearts. So, let’s spread knowledge, not hate.
If you have more suggestions about how we can work towards unity again, please comment below or email me. I would love to hear from as many people as possible! With that said, if you are not going to say something in a respectful way, please do not comment. There are far too many people with productive suggestions to clog up the comments with hateful ones.