Melissa Holzberg: We must educate ourselves to come together after election

Melissa Holzberg, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

Like many students at GW, I spent Tuesday night shocked. I was gathered in my residence hall room with a few friends, excited to watch the presidential election results roll in. Like many of us on campus and across the country, I thought I would spend the night of Nov. 8 celebrating the election of the first woman president.

But I was wrong.

At around 1 a.m. when it became clear that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s chances at winning were slim, if not impossible, my friends and I walked to the White House. We couldn’t just watch TV and wait – we needed to do something.

I had waited almost three years at GW to race to the White House on election night. It was a moment I had planned for. I thought I’d jump around with excitement and take pictures with my friends to remember the moment. But when I finally got there on election night, I was scared. I was scared because I heard men threaten to sexually assault women around me. I was scared because I saw people breaking down in tears with fear of what a Donald Trump presidency would bring. And I was scared because when Pennsylvania was called in Trump’s favor, a friend texted me and urged me to leave the area surrounding the White House because she was afraid violence would ensue, given the almost instant emotional reaction of Clinton’s loss coupled with the negative rhetoric of Trump’s campaign.

I, like many of my fellow students, spent most of Tuesday night and Wednesday crying. My roommates and I hugged, and one of my professors decided to have us watch the Clinton’s concession speech rather than continue with class as planned. I didn’t cry because I thought Clinton would be the best president we would ever have. I cried because I thought I knew the country I lived in, and I was proven wrong.

Since the wee hours of Wednesday morning, students on campus have mourned. We’ve cried, and we’ve protested – the things we have the freedom to do if we don’t like how an election turned out. But now, unfortunately, we must move forward. After watching both Secretary Clinton and President Barack Obama’s speeches Wednesday, it was clear that accepting the election’s results and providing a peaceful transition of power is what makes our country unique and what makes it great.

I have about a year and a half left at GW, and in that time I want to learn how so many of us were blindsided by this election’s results. We must come together and learn about the people who elected Trump. It’s OK if we don’t agree or respect their votes, but we must accept them and learn about them. We have to start asking difficult questions. We need to learn why so many people in this country feel left out, why there is so much anger and why people believe Trump is the one who can fix these problems. I intend to learn about the people in this country who elected Trump because we must understand one another.

It’s time to educate. It’s time that people of every race, ethnicity, political ideology and socioeconomic status have tough conversations about racism in our society, about sexism, about fear and about blame. Unfriending people on Facebook because we don’t agree with their perspective isn’t the answer.

Especially as college students, we should break out of our bubbles and realize that people across the U.S. have different political perspectives. Both Clinton’s and Trump’s supporters should reach out and ask, “Why?” Why did you vote for him or her, why didn’t you think about the consequences of this or that? These conversations can educate us. And that education can bring us together.

You have a place in this country if you identify as a person of color, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re Muslim, if you’re Jewish and if you’re a part of the LGBT community. While many of us have fears based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, we must also remember that we are the ones to choose our leaders. We decided that Trump would be president, and now we have the power to hold him accountable – especially if our safety seems in jeopardy.

No one knows what the next few months and years will look like. As a young woman who openly supported Clinton, I hope that Trump is a successful president. I also hope that my peers and I are more motivated than ever to engage in the political process and to learn about the perspectives of Americans who don’t appear in our friend groups or on GW’s campus at all.

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