What does America do now? Post-election anxiety can inspire social change

When lame duck president Barack Obama was elected in 2008, most current college-aged students were only in middle school. The 2016 presidential election is the first that many are eligible to vote in—and is arguably one of the most controversial and unprecedented elections in recent history—so emotions are running high in response to the results. Voters who are not just disappointed, but also sad and frightened by the election of Donald Trump should express their heavy emotions in a productive way. For the numerous groups of people Trump alienated during his campaign—such as people of color, immigrants, women and the LGBTQ+ community—the wake of Election Day brings the promise of organized solidarity and change.

Many marginalized and disenfranchised people who are personally affected by Trump’s insults and proposed policies flooded social media with posts expressing their anxiety and recent experiences of violent discrimination. One Rochester resident reported that a gay pride flag displayed in front of their house was set on fire and destroyed, and former Geneseo student and New York City resident John Rodney Turner reported that he was publicly harassed and called racial slurs by a Trump supporter in Times Square.

The one productive takeaway from the election results is how the cultural racism, misogyny and general ignorance permeating many areas of America have been brought to the undeniable surface. Because people who are privileged often ignore or choose not to believe in the existence of institutional prejudices and discrimination, this very public acknowledgement of Trump’s threat to marginalized people cannot be easily thrown away.

I believe that those who are fearful for their safety in the face of this horrifying outburst of collective ignorance deserve to take some time to rest and exercise self-care. Whether that means spending time with friends and loved ones or skipping class to get extra sleep, we should understand that facing fear and discrimination on a regular basis has a legitimate mental and emotional toll on individuals.

It is no doubt that organization and collective action efforts are crucial in these next 70 days before Trump’s inauguration. After taking a breath and collecting thoughts, young anti-Trump activists will be more inspired than ever to take ahold of and influence the future of the country.

The motivation of young people—the same motivation that brought Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to a once-promising candidate position—is crucial for organizing action against a dangerous and toxic president-elect. Starting as early as Wednesday Nov. 9, protests formed in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, NYC and other cities across the country, according to The New York Times. College campuses in Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania hosted demonstrations as well.

The success of grassroots collective action is not always definite or predictable. As long as existing societal and governmental institutions threaten the livelihood and rights of marginalized American citizens, however, there will exist the inspiration of individuals to take metaphorical arms against injustice.

For now, we air our uncensored grievances on social media and begin the early stages of creating social change.