Since Donald Trump’s election Tuesday, demonstrations and protests have been sustained throughout Los Angeles. Thousands, including USC students, have marched to City Hall, filled the lawn of MacArthur Park and even poured into streets and freeways. Throughout the city, the cries are familiar —”Not my president!” resounds from Trousdale Parkway to Main Street.
Social media has become a space for users to both broadcast protest and denounce it. Despite my political leaning, I have friends on social media who occupy the entire political spectrum. A quick scroll through my Facebook newsfeed will show one friend posting a video in front of City Hall, another friend calling anti-Trump protesters “whiners.”
Although my political loyalty lies with the friend with the sign and megaphone in hand, I have endeavored, throughout this election, to hear the friend who supports Trump. I find, however, the rhetoric of “unity” and the “anti-whining” campaign many Trump supporters have adopted, in response to protests, frankly disturbing. This rhetoric and campaign function as silencing tactics that readily disregard the rights of protestors and ignores palpable violence happening across the country.
The purveyors of this narrative, which seeks to silence discontent, fail to recognize the impetus behind the protests. People are not merely protesting because they dislike Donald Trump. Many are protesting because they fear for their lives and safety. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported more than 200 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation since Election Day. These attacks — many of which have included direct references to the Trump campaign — have particularly victimized women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
One report came from an black woman in Louisiana who was harassed by a group of white men while waiting at a red light to cross the street. One of the men in the passing truck yelled, “F-ck your black life!” Meanwhile, the others laughed, and one eventually began chanting “Trump!” as they drove away.
When I read stories such as this one, I wonder if the average Trump supporter who has criticized the recent protests would tell the Muslim woman whose hijab was pulled off her head to “stop whining.” I wonder if they would tell the Latino boy handed a fake deportation letter from one of his classmates to “stop whining.” I wonder if they would tell my black classmates called the N-word last week to “stop whining.” The hundreds of incidents that have occurred since Tuesday illustrate that people are outraged for good reason. A group of protestors inevitably includes people whose lives are being threatened by those emboldened by Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
With knowledge of the hateful incidents growing in number across the United States, responsibility falls on everyone to speak out. Speaking out does not just look like protesting. You can constructively engage with friends on social media, talk to your representatives, sign a petition or remain vigilant and report hateful attacks. Now is the time for solidarity, not silence. When we tell people to be silent, we allow violence to continue.
Bailee Ahern is a senior majoring in political science and international relations. “’Lend a Hand” runs every Monday.