I was dozing off on my bed with my laptop and the voice of a news anchor drifting in and out of my ear. Then the whole world went quiet. I could hear the same exact words from my roommate’s laptop: Donald Trump won Pennsylvania. As my mind started to clear up to the news, I felt something swelling in my heart, streaming through my limbs, and then oozing out from all of my pores. I lay in bed until my whole body was wrapped in this emotion. It’s a strange feeling.
To be more specific, it’s a sense of joy.
The joy was a strange, but relieving kind of sensation. It was as if someone broke my yoke and lifted the burden from my neck. It was like the end of a week of continuous midterms. It was like walking out of Lau after pulling an all-nighter. It was a pure sense of liberation. It was shocking to me, revealing my true colors, but the sheer happiness was so clear, so palpable, and so intractable. Even now, I can still clearly recall how this elation flowed through my veins and reached every corner of my body.
I savored this happiness and tried to reason through it. But I captured the fleeting happiness I felt and was soon engulfed by an enormous sense of guilt, and then fear. At the end of the day, my own feelings betrayed me. They cornered me and forced me to look at them in the eye. Over the sleepless night I endlessly questioned myself: Am I selfish? Am I uneducated? Am I ignorant? Do I not empathize with other minorities? Most importantly, am I racist?
When I first stepped onto American soil as a sixteen-year-old teenager, my mind was bombarded by a flood of new words and ideas. Concepts like racial segregation, discrimination, and marginalization unfolded in front of me with a vividness I had never seen before. It was a period of enlightenment, as much as it was one of confusion. I was amazed at the country’s diversity and openness in discussing these questions on race, identity, and prejudice. It opened my eyes to see the vibrant reactions after Ferguson. As a protest, various clubs in my high school took turns hosting discussion sessions, support events, and social activist activities. I remember sitting in the crowd for every single event like this, gazing at the passionate and eloquent speakers. When they imbued such enthusiasm into fighting against systemic injustice towards certain racial groups, admiration would spill out from my heart. That teenager, that first generation immigrant with a sparkle in her eyes could convince everyone with unwavering certainty that she would stand firmly with all minorities forever. No one, not even the girl herself at the time, thought she could ever have a racist side.
But things just didn’t go as planned. More and more often, this teenager started to find out things quite incomprehensible about herself. When she saw herself crossing the street to avoid a group of African Americans, her heart sunk. When she saw people advocating for full legalization of illegal immigrants, she felt her heart fill with disagreement. When her college counselor implied that it was better to not check that little box in front of “Asians” in common application, she felt the urge to ask for a reason. She continued to go to those advocacy meetings, but now she saw how suffocating that was. People came up and talked about their personal experiences, but somehow they all sounded the same, delivered the same message, and never contradicted each other. She knew it would be unacceptable to express dissent, so she carefully pressed down that quarrelling piece of herself, and remained silent.
And now I finally see the real face of that tinge of joy: it was the victory of the other part of me that I ignored and tried to suppress for so long. It was also the victory of the side of American society that everyone ignored and tried to dismiss as “racist” and “bigoted”. The election did not further divide American people. Instead, it just reflected how people were already long divided.
All of those nights I had been wondering, with all of the isolated predominantly-white towns scattered across the United States, how many of those people are living in enclaves, seeing just a little corner of the much more diverse social structure. And now, as the demographics of this country are changing at an unprecedented speed, they might find their hometowns turning into something they don’t understand. They are Americans, but in some way their experiences with race and diversity are as shallow as the ones I had as a 16-year-old girl. While their eyes are open, their deep-rooted views face more challenges than before. They find their proportion in population, as well as status, in America shrinking day by day.
I wholeheartedly want this country to achieve racial equality, so when I applaud one racial group for their great valor in achieving rights for themselves, I want to give the same level of respect to the other, regardless of their historical status in society. I am frustrated that those in power have to put themselves in the shoes of minorities to appear moral. To push the frustration further, the mainstream media nudged the voice of such a great proportion of America aside and put bad labels onto those who voiced their concerns. When all the voices around people are singing in unison, it’s easy to ignore any tune to the contrary. Those who are singing the contrary tune thus gradually feel lonely. They continuously lower their voice until it is buried deep in their hearts, but they never change what their hearts call for. This is how society produces the “silent majority” that Trump claims he represents.
Personally, I am grateful for this presidential campaign, not just because it provided a chance to reflect on and recognize my true thoughts, but it gave all of America a wake-up call. By employing political correctness, people may temporarily indulge themselves in this illusion that nothing is wrong. The result of this election tore through that disguise. It might hurt to see the reality so far away from the self-constructed dream, but it is only now that healing can sincerely begin.