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Empathy Is A Two-Way Street



In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I have been seeing a lot of think-pieces that encourage the average Hillary-supporting liberal to empathize with Trump supporters instead of protesting. These articles state that the vast majority of people who voted for Donald Trump did not do so for reasons grounded in bigotry, but because of factors like the economy, corruption, and a fear of being left behind. The authors of these think-pieces urge Democrats to “put themselves in the shoes of Middle America and come together to unite as a country”.

Here’s the problem with these think-pieces. I see a lot of content that perpetuates the stereotype that Hillary supporters are all elite, high-class, urban dwellers that don’t struggle and have no idea what it’s like to have problems.

As a Hillary supporter, I empathize with the struggles of a lot of Trump supporters. I really do. I understand that life is not what it was like before, and it’s almost impossible to find a job with a stable income when all you have is a high school degree. I understand that the cost of healthcare is increasing exponentially, and illness can be detrimental to a lot of families. I see that public education in a lot of states is abysmal, and a lot of families just want their kids to have the same chances that private school kids have. I understand that when Liberals advocate for eco-friendly energy, it means that someone who works in the coal industry might have to lose their job. I get it.

But people who voted for Hillary have valid concerns, too. A lot of the rhetoric I’ve seen going around basically comes down to saying “Liberals, take a break from your fair-trade coffee and organic quinoa and try to imagine what it’s like to have problems”, and this is so misplaced. Just because I vote Democrat doesn’t mean that I am part of an unreachable elite that doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle. A lot of the rhetoric out there makes it seem like liberals are entitled babies whose problems are childish and hyperbolic. But this isn’t the case. I, with every other person who supported Hillary, have rational anxieties about what may come with a Donald Trump presidency.

As a senior in high school,  I really worry about my future. I plan on going to college, and going to Law School afterwards; and I frequently find myself panicking about how much debt I’ll be in. As a black person, I wonder about my safety and the safety of every other person of color who will have to endure an America under a president who doesn’t think that Stop-And-Frisk is unconstitutional and discriminatory. I worry about what it means for people of color that over half of this country is okay with having a KKK-endorsed president. As a woman, I wonder what it will mean for myself and other women that our President-elect dismisses harassment as “locker room talk”. As an ally to the LGBT community, I worry about what life will be like for people across the gender and sexuality spectra under a Vice President who supports conversion therapy.

These are real issues that give a lot of people great unease. But from the National Review to Fox News, people who express these concerns are written off as “hypersensitive crybabies who need to go back to their safe spaces”. Across the political spectrum, there has been a laudable call for empathy towards Trump supporters. Why not share this empathy with Hillary supporters as well?

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Omene is a high school senior. She is thrilled to be a writer for Affinity Magazine and is particularly excited to write about politics and women's issues. She hopes to be a human rights lawyer and at some point, work for the UN when she grows up. In her free time, Omene likes to read, play with her dog, and binge-watch The Office on Netflix. Follow her on twitter at @samaddeh

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