I’ve spent the last few days frightened to spend Thanksgiving with you because I don’t want the issue of President-elect Donald Trump to come up over several bottles of red wine.
But it’s that very fear that landed us where we are.
Fear stopped me from reaching out and telling you what Fox News wouldn’t. Fear deterred me from telling you how deeply I was affected by this election as a woman. Fear kept me from writing this letter a week ago. And, for that, I’m sorry.
I was so scared of building a wall in our own family that now Donald Trump may get to build one that’s far scarier. So before we hold hands and give thanks, there are some things I need to say. Because breaking down those walls of fear needs to start with you and me.
Let me start with this: I love you. I do not think you are sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic or any of the other terms used to label Donald Trump and his supporters. But I do think you gave them a platform to stand on. And in a lot of ways, that’s just as bad.
Your vote made intolerant people feel like there were more of them than I pray there actually are. By casting a vote for Donald Trump, you validated them. You validated their hateful rhetoric and actions. And that validation is all they needed to come out of the woodworks, guns blazing, confederate flags flying.
I know you think that sounds dramatic.
But consider this: within 24 hours of Trump being elected, a swastika and the words “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN” were spray painted on a baseball dugout in Wellsville, NY.
Or this: A fifth grade teacher says she spent the morning after the election trying to convince her class of terrified 10-year-olds that they wouldn’t be taken away from their families.
Or this: A black woman says she was harassed at a gas station by four white men allegedly saying, “How scared are you, you black bitch? I should just kill you right now. You’re a waste of air.” When she refused to respond, they allegedly continued by saying, “What, are you deaf or something, you n*gger?” When she still didn’t reply, she claims one of the men showed her his firearm and said, “you’re lucky there are witnesses or else I’d shoot you right here.”
I know you. You wouldn’t wish those things on anyone in the world. You didn’t go into that voting booth in hopes children would start chanting, “build the wall” to their Latino peers at school. But they are.
You didn’t color in that tiny bubble in hopes that Muslims all over America would stop wearing their hijabs out of fear. But they are.
I know it’s hard to hear that you contributed to these things that I’m sure are making you cringe. But you need to hear it. You need to hear that these horrible, heartbreaking things were, in part, made possible by your vote.
I get it — it’s much easier to deny that a vote for Trump inadvertently inflicted pain on millions of beautiful, diverse, loving people across this country. It’s much easier to say that wasn’t the goal of your vote. After all, you voted for less taxes and a repeal of Obamacare, not to put hate on a pedestal. But unfortunately, those things went hand-in-hand this election.
I think that if you knew what the fallout would be, you might have done things differently. I think you would have paid more in taxes if it meant young girls could look in the mirror and think, “I can be the President of the United States one day” instead of, “the President of the United States thinks men have the right to grab me by the pussy.” I think you would have compromised on Obamacare if it meant American citizens of color weren’t being told, “Go back to where you came from.” I think you would have rethought your vote if you knew millions of Americans, myself included, would wake up Wednesday morning with puffy eyes from the tears they couldn’t suppress.
I believe you were naïve to the unleashing of bigotry that would occur with a Trump election. But I don’t believe you should stay naïve to that bigotry now. Because I think you’re better than your vote.
The election is over. We can’t go back and change it. I regret not trying to talk to you about this before, a guilt that would be unfair for me to deny. But it would also be unfair for you to deny the pain, sadness, and unrest your vote helped instill in people all over America. You have to live with it. Because the people affected have no choice but to live with it for the next four years.
As for you and me, I don't know what happens next. Maybe this letter does nothing. Maybe you get upset about it. Ashamed, even. But what I do know is that opening a line of dialogue is probably a good place to start.
Now please pass the gravy.