On Tuesday, November 15, I found myself surrounded by a sea of empty desk chairs in my 5th period English class. About half of my classmates had left school around lunchtime to join the DCPS walkout.
The goal of the DCPS walkout was “to send one message to our future president: that he can’t divide us,” not to attempt to undo the results of the election. Messages such as “love trumps hate” were effective while others like “we reject the president-elect” (when it meant to reject the outcome of the election rather than to reject the president-elect’s statements) were ineffective.
The protests were extremely meaningful for most students who attended. One MCPS student described the event on Instagram as “one of the best, and most eye-opening, experiences of [his] life so far.” Another commented on the “overwhelming feeling of unity” that arose from a large group of strangers all working towards a common goal.
However, despite the positive effect this protest had on many students, it was not without controversy. One student, who supported President-Elect Trump, allegedly shouted racial slurs at protesters. In response, a group of protestors physically assaulted him, eventually resulting in him being escorted to a local hospital. Clearly, this type of behavior from both sides is unacceptable.
At times of intense emotions and heightened tensions like this, it is important to reach out to those with differing opinions. These protests aim to fight against a divided society by spreading the message that everyone deserves certain rights and respect. However, if not executed with extreme care, this message can deepen the divide instead.
Earlier that morning, I had worked with my school newspaper team to plan what we viewed as a productive complement to these protests: a roundtable discussion about the situation of women following the election. Our discussion group was made up of four women who voted for Secretary Clinton, four women who voted for President-Elect Trump, and one woman who voted for neither candidate. Personally, I wholeheartedly supported Secretary Clinton leading up to the general election. But as I kept in contact with all nine women who would speak in the discussion, I found myself adopting a more open-minded point of view; I was eager to learn what those who had different viewpoints from me–especially those who were female and/or part of a racial minority–found promising about Donald Trump’s candidacy.
This discussion occurred on the evening of Thursday, November 17. One of the questions brought up regarded their opinions on the protests.
Eliane Nieder, a Secretary Clinton supporter and B-CC senior who participated in the November 15th walkout, began by saying, “I think a common misconception is that we’re protesting because we don’t want Donald Trump to be our president, that we want to overturn the election, which I didn’t feel was the message at all. This was a message of unity, about accepting the presidency and showing the policies we believe in.” To this message none of the nine women in the discussion voiced disagreement. All of them agreed that it is important for students to learn as much as possible about the political issues that they are passionate about and then work to promote their beliefs.
Throughout her campaign, Hillary Clinton repeated time after time that “we are stronger together.” Yes, the divide among ethnic groups in our nation is a tragic and urgent issue. But while we attempt to repair this issue, we must simultaneously attempt to remove the divide between the political parties and groups with different belief systems. While protesting can be a meaningful way to express feelings after the election, it is now more important than ever to engage in productive discussion with those with different opinions.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Zoe Nuechterlein of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School