Letter to the editor: An open letter to members of UB Law community
In the wake of Donald Trump’s success in securing enough Electoral College votes to claim the presidential election, it became clear, from our perspective, that certain members of our community are neither welcome in the country nor at UB School of Law. Post-election day reactions revealed that some UB Law Trump supporters did not understand what these election results truly meant to many members of marginalized groups, nor the message of exclusion it sent to us. We write to share our perspectives on the election, even while we affirm everyone’s right to freedom of conscience and the right to express that conscience through the right to vote (assuming you were allowed to exercise that vote).
After the election a number of comments supporting the election of Trump on the grounds that his supporters deserve to have their needs met to the same extent as others, among other grounds, have been made to students from traditionally marginalized communities. While a discussion of the needs of Trump voters should be had, to assume that their concerns, particularly their economic concerns, are the only ones that have been ignored by society, is to deny decades of similar concerns registered by minority communities. These comments, and the election itself, from our perspective, are prime examples of the disregard we, the often forgotten and disenfranchised, face daily. In contrast to these positions, we, like the CNN commentator Van Jones, see the election as a "white lashing," a hate driven revolt against a changing country and a black president. The whitelash of this election is representative of white privilege, the idea of it, or benefit from it. Said revolt is highlighted in numerous exit polls, including those conducted by MSNBC and CNN. These polls show that the majority of those who voted for Trump were white men and women, specifically working class whites, many of whom publicly admonished America for electing its first black President and for extending equal rights to women and LGBTQ+ individuals. Moreover, during the campaign we saw Trump supporters engaging in unpatriotic, racist, sexist, and xenophobic verbal and physical attacks on members of vulnerable groups that appeared to go unpunished by authorities and unreported in the mainstream media.
Making matters worse, there has been a spike in hate crimes on members of disenfranchised groups after the election, igniting deep fears in our communities. Hijabs have been pulled off unassuming Muslim women, innocent black and Latinx students have been threatened in schools, LGBTQ+ Americans merely minding their own business have been physically attacked. Yet, there has been no widespread outcry or swift action taken in response, other than protests launched primarily by those from these same communities. This leads us to conclude that our lives, our safety, and our contributions to this great nation do not matter. It further leads us to conclude that lack of concern about a Trump presidency, likely resides in those who will not be affected by Trump’s decisions or who do not belong to or align themselves with vulnerable groups, which continuously endure threats of domestic terrorism.
We would like to remind everyone that Donald Trump’s campaign was rooted in hate so palpable that it will likely engulf all of us and make refuge impossible. This is a man who suggested building a wall to keep immigrants out. He has called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, and has been on record for encouraging sexual assault of women. Trump explicitly approved violence against Blacks, selected a Vice President that believes in converting LGBTQ+ people through electromagnetic therapy, and who continuously refers to Muslims as terrorists. These ideas do not make America Great Again, but are instead an attack on the very characteristics that make us great. While everyone has a right to vote for whom they choose, please understand that, from our perspective, a vote for Trump is a vote for discrimination. It is a vote for racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, islamaphobia, misogyny, and homophobia. It sends a message to the entire world that liberty and justice are for whites only and that this country does not value our lives or care about our inalienable rights as citizens.
Sadly, the response from the UB Law community to all this has been mostly silence. Students openly embrace the hateful rhetoric of Trump online and in class, making us feel unsafe or unwelcome in the very places we should feel a part. Furthermore, faculty members who remain silent on these issues are complicit in creating a climate of discrimination on campus. We are a valuable part of this University community and will remain a crucial part of that which makes it both successful and unique. We are people in your section, people you greet in the hallways, people you socialize with in and out of school. We believe that cross-cultural engagement and competency cannot be separated from being a legal professional. We further believe we must be cognizant and sensitive to these issues, as it is almost guaranteed that we will be working with people who may have been the target of Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric. Now is the time to stand up for what is right and to pursue a more just and inclusive society for the betterment of everyone.
To those Trump supporters at the Law School who did not vote for Trump with malicious intent, it is important to recognize that this vote nevertheless has an impact. We urge these people to help combat this impact with compassion, and above all, with a deep understanding of the socio-economic institutionalized issues that have plagued our communities since long before this election. From this perspective, you may better understand why we felt the need to write this letter.
To all immigrants, LGBTQ+ folks, women, differently abled, Muslims, blacks, Latinx, and other vulnerable groups, we stand with you. We see you. We love you. We will continue to fight for you every day in our classrooms, in our communities, in the workplace, and beyond.
Concerned students of UB Law