Why I Organized A Walkout At My High School
Donald Trump announced the launch of his presidential campaign two years ago. At the time, many Americans laughed at the idea that a reality TV star and multi-billionaire businessman with no political experience was running for the highest position of political leadership in the country.
On January 20, 2017, no one will be laughing. We will swallow the large pill of Donald Trump’s presidency as he is sworn into office. We will watch him place his hand on the Bible and promise to honor a Constitution it’s doubtful that he has even read let alone one which plans to interpret with fair and honorable intentions.
The night of the election, my family sat in front of the television trying to hide our shared nervousness from each other. Our feet tapped anxiously, we bit our nails, and emitted exhausted sighs. That night my family watched the country to which we have all worked so hard to contribute turn against us. My abuelo’s tired brown eyes slowly closed and his head fell into his hands as the five words we all thought we’d never hear pierced our ears: “Your President-Elect, Donald Trump.”
I cried. My family cried. So many people in this country cried that night. But ever since, I’ve seen my generation turn those tears into a sense of strength and dignity. The events of November ninth have empowered and encouraged a movement the Trump campaign has and continues to underestimate.
Immediately following the election, I saw that students at schools across the country were organizing walkouts in protest in high schools and even many University campuses. I was in turn inspired to organize my own walk out, as my high school district already has a history of sweeping racial tensions in our community and issues concerning race under the rug rather than confronting them. So along with two of my closest friends, I organized a walk out to prove that though our voices may be young, our opinions still matter and there is strength in our unity.
Directly following the election on November 9, two of my close friends and I posted on Twitter that we’d be organizing our own walkout on Friday, November 11. We immediately received responses from those interested in walking out as well as from students at other high schools in our district who wanted to know how to organize their own walkouts at around the same time and day of ours.
Our school's administration wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the walkout. Our school sheriff told us to give Trump a chance before we protested. Our principals told us we could face consequences should we walk out. Our school district even blocked our Internet access and access to social media sites like Twitter at the district level to prevent us from spreading our message. They returned our access the following day but continued to monitor student activity.
We walked out anyway. During our ten minute break between classes on November 11, around 100+ students assembled in our school’s quad. They came with signs that read “Not My President,” bible verses, and even Mexican flags. We chanted “Not my President” as we walked from our main quad and out of the doors of the school's student entrance.
The school’s faculty and administration appeared shocked that we had actually managed to successfully assemble. Administrators, teachers, and even lunch staff came out to watch us walk out. Some gave us looks of shock while others offered encouragement as well as looks of silent support. Even some of the sheriffs waiting at the door took out their cellphones to record our protest.
The other walkout organizers and I decided to limit our walk to school grounds out of concern for everybody’s safety, so we walked in front of the school and then migrated to the football field. Once on the field, we settled down the crowd of students and one by one shared our own stories and opinions about our lives, our fears, and what we could do as students to better the environment at school for everyone following the harsh election. Administrators and officers watched us closely and tried to convince us to return to our classes, but we preserved. We spent an hour crying, laughing, and sharing our own hopes for the future. We reminded each other that even if our district has ignored, and very well may continue to ignore, the issues within our community, we can still use our voices and continue to loudly and clearly advocate for ourselves.
The conversations I had with students during the walkout only emphasized to me how much my peers and I are concerned about the Trump administration. Countless marginalized communities across the country are filled with fear at the prospect of what this administration will have in store for them. It is easy for others to claim our fears are just the “cries of snowflakes” as Tomi Lahren would say, but there is no way of understanding how this presidency will and already has affected us unless you’ve walked in our shoes — like the shoes of the black community whose movement created to express the importance of their own lives is excused by Trump supporters as an anti-law enforcement movement. Like the shoes of members of the immigrant community who work hard for this country only to be dehumanized as “aliens” in this so-called “land of opportunity.” Or the shoes of members of the Muslim community, who have somehow become defined and feared as a group based on the actions of extremists, as well as the shoes of members of the LGBTQ+ community who somehow will live both in the “land of the free” as well as one that elected a Vice President who threatens them “conversion therapy.”
My generation understands America was founded on the idea that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We believe that true Americans fight to maintain the ideal of inclusivity on which our country was founded. Therefore we oppose the construction of a wall that divides us from “outsiders,” oppose a “database” to monitor the Muslim community, and oppose the misconception that “conversion therapy” can “heal” a person from loving someone they should be free to love.
Donald Trump, we the people — we the most inclusive generation that the U.S. has seen yet — would like to remind you that the power of our unity is far stronger than any divisions you have created and will continue to create. We have only been empowered by the hate that has sprouted from your campaign — one based on a foundation of bigotry — and the voices of the brown, black, LGBTQ+, Muslim, feminist, disabled, and otherwise marginalized among us will only grow louder as we oppose it.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC or WMC Fbomb. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.
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