Thankful for My Bubble of Protection

By Rebecca Thau (Harvard College Undergraduate)

I’ve lived in New York City my whole life. It’s no secret that Manhattan is a bubble. My Judaism and liberal politics were not only accepted—they were the norm. Harvard is an extension of that bubble. My political views are confirmed by my peers and my professors, and although being Jewish no longer puts me in the majority as it did in high school, there is a substantial community here, and I’ve encountered nothing but acceptance.

So, to say that seeing bigotry prevail on this scale is a shock would be an understatement. Of course, I knew intellectually that people are still racist and sexist and xenophobic and anti-Semitic, but it was easy to image that those people were a minority and that our country was widely moving towards a more equitable society. That no longer seems like the case.

Mere days ago, political pundits were discussing the “sleeping giant” of voters belonging to racial minorities who would vote as a result of Trump’s candidacy. Yes, our president-elect (that hurts to say, I must admit) certainly mobilized new voters, but not the kind that we imagined. Instead, this “sleeping giant” was the bigotry that has been brought to the fore for the first time in my lifetime.

This election is not about a Republican president. People would not have cried all over Harvard’s campus if Mitt Romney had defeated President Obama in 2012. There would have been disappointment, frustration even. This week’s tears come from the knowledge that we were so close to finally shattering that highest and hardest glass ceiling, and instead, we’ve legitimized sexual assault, intolerance, and violence.

Yes, some of Trump’s supporters do not actively hold these abhorrent values. Condoning them, however, by voting for a man who incites such violence is equally, to use Clinton’s word, deplorable. 

Since Tuesday’s election, Muslim women have had their hijabs torn off, swastikas have been emblazoned on walls in plain sight, and students have chanted, “Build a wall” in school. We haven’t just gone back in time, as I’ve heard many people suggest. No, we’ve somehow managed to validate every hateful movement of our history all at once, allowing them to exist simultaneously and out in the light of day.

Right now, I’m very thankful for my bubble of protection. Harvard has been an amazing community these past few days. Professors have taken class time to debrief and moved assessments, friends have checked in on each other, organizations have reached out to provide safe spaces to talk, and administrators have opened their office doors for discussions. 

Hopefully this time, my glorious bubble won’t blind me to the dark reality just beyond it. I will try my best to remember that not seeing something does not mean it isn’t there. I’ve now learned, unfortunately, that people whose values are so antithetical to mine have always been hidden just beyond my bubble of light.