If I Could Vote I'd Vote for Acceptance

By Ananya Kalahasti (Age 16, Shaker Heights, OH)

When I was in fourth grade, I was the victim of bullying. So much that I started looking to move schools in sixth grade, even though I was thriving in Montessori. I started fourth grade in 2008, right when President Obama was first elected. When I asked my parents why they supported President Obama and wanted him to be president, they said it was because he accepted us in this country as Indians. I understood what it felt like to be marginalized for my identity even in my classroom.

I was too young to vote this year. Aside from being a debater, I was a fellow with the Hillary Clinton Campaign & Ohio Democrats this fall, and that’s where I learned that while I personally believed in Hillary Clinton for a multitude of policy reasons, that this campaign wasn’t just an effort to break the highest glass ceiling. I live on the edge of Cuyahoga County, where the deep-rooted Democratic support starts to turn into conservative values, and fall in the Trump line of support. I go to a pretty liberal all-girls high school. But the stories I’ve heard here, of love, forgiveness, anguish and grief, that’s what this campaign was for so many people. A movement to look to equality and representation and fair voices in DC, and regardless of how one individual campaign goes, that movement can never die. 

To say I was upset Tuesday night would be an understatement. I was awake until 3 am, until the final call, talking to friends from all around the world. Not only did I know the efforts that had gone into this election, but I felt for this cause as well. I’m a 16-year-old Indian girl living in the US, and the fact that we ended up with a candidate who took every instance to shoot down the differences between us, that was what broke my heart. I cried that we elected Donald Trump, someone who has failed to understand what makes America so strong in the first place: that we, as a nation, embrace diversity and tolerance in perspectives and experiences.

This is an election that has rooted divide in the hearts of so many Americans. Relationships have been broken over this election. But never have I seen such fear and hatred in the words of so many. It’s not even the majority of people who voted for him. But those voices are loudly heard. I’ve never realized how many people hated me in this country, and wanted me gone, just for the color of my skin. I was born here, I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never felt so out of touch with everyone else around me. 

This wasn’t just an election between Democrat and Republican. It was an election that thrived on the bigotry that one candidate put out, and how many Americans took it up. The first presidential election I saw and understood, in terms of policy and perspective, was that of Barack Obama in ’12. As someone who aspires to study international relations in college, the compassion and humility Obama showed in office was characterizing of my outlook on this country, and the world.

So today, my heart does go out to every minority community in this nation. We’re faced with a candidate who has marginalized every identity different to him, and has made us feel fear in our own skin and lives. 

But I will still spend the next 4 years hoping that Donald Trump is a good president. Despite over a year of criticizing his platform, and the discrimination he has sent, what else can we do now, aside from trying to work with him? Partisan gridlock won’t help advance this country. Yes, I will continue to condemn Trump’s bigotry and past hateful words. But for the people who need it most, I hope I am wrong about the type of leader I think he will be, because there are people in need of new policies in Washington and I respect that. And I hope those who supported Trump this election, will condemn the attacks of hatred that have gone on for the past few days.

Above all, I hope that we continue to push our issues and make them heard at the front of this country. Our fights don’t end here, and the future will continue to be bright as long as we have a positive outlook on it.