I knew that my Western Civilization class today was going to be difficult. I knew that I would come into class and look at the faces of America’s future, and they would be devastated. They would be crushed, just like I am. I didn’t expect the dead silence. I didn’t expect our professor to admit to us that she has no idea what to tell the influx of students who have been coming to her in the past two days, asking what we’re supposed to do now. And I didn’t expect the silence of the sole Trump supporter in the class.
All I could think as I felt his presence three seats from me was, “Good. You spoke volumes on Tuesday night. Now- now it’s time for you to listen. It’s time for you to shut the fuck up and listen.” I’ve been meditating on that idea since it formed. It’s got me thinking about how much of this could be solved if we listened, really truly listened to each other.
I did not vote for Trump, and I could never vote for Trump. However, I understand that as a white cis woman, this election will not affect me as much as it affects others. When I weep, it is not for me. The only thing that I have against me is that I’m a woman. And I will not forget the fact that half of that voter demographic was white women like me. But this isn’t about me. It’s been about me and people who look like me for far too long.
I want to apologize to everyone who has ever been hurt by the power structure that gives me my privilege. I want to apologize for the people who continue to hurt you, who continue to feed into this power structure for their own advantage- who continue to view you as “collateral damage,” as someone in my class today so aptly put it. Nothing I could ever say would be enough, ever. So I also want to offer my action.
I have no way to know what you need from me in this moment, but I’m listening. I’m on the lookout for ways to help you, to try and use my privilege to give you whatever measure of assistance I can offer. It’s not going to do it any longer for the compassionate people who hold the privilege to sit around in a room and try to tell ourselves how we can help. The very definition of privilege is that we have no idea what you’re going through. This shouldn’t be about us doing what we think is best, it should be us actively listening to what our fellow humans need. It’s your voices that need to be heard.
I also understand if you don’t know or can’t tell me what you need, especially so soon after this tragedy. That, as well, is completely valid. I just wanted to let you know that I’m here and I’m ready to listen and to help in any way that I can if you’re ready to speak.
You are valid. Your identity is valid. You deserve respect. You deserve love. You deserve so much more than what you’ve been given.