This is Who We Are: Post Election 2016 Statement

john a. powell

Director

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When the Haas Institute came into being four years ago, our vision stated that we would “work on society’s most pressing and pivotal issues related to structural inclusion and marginalization," that we would do work that was big-picture and game-changing, and that we would do work even on what appear to be intractable issues, in challenging and perhaps oppositional environments, on issues that if won or lost will have a profound impact on society. 

It’s clear today we are in one of those moments. 

For many of us who care about inclusion, the results of Tuesday's presidential election were a nightmare. Of course we knew by yesterday morning that what happened was no dream, and that this is a new reality we must face with complete awakening.

We must develop new strategies and forge deeper alliances with each other. Our work has been thrust into even more sharp relief and it feels more urgent and necessary than ever. 

As Thomas Friedman in the New York Times wrote yesterday, many people are feeling homeless in America. Many are also pointing to the alienation that white Trump supporters have been feeling in America, while many white liberals reeled at how many whites voted for Trump, questioning who were these fellow Americans who were so discontent. Yet for far too long there have been many others who have not felt at home in this country, who have also experienced isolation and alienation. The trans person in search of a bathroom, the Black American in fear when confronted by the police, the Native American who faces militarized police when protecting their clean water, the immigrant whose right to be in this country is contested, the Muslim American who wants to practice his religion in dignity and freedom—for these and many more alienation has been a constant experience and a lived reality.

The question before us on Tuesday was not simply who our next president would be, but who does America belong to and who belongs to America.
 
Our boldness will be critical going forward. It’s necessary that we mobilize to protect our human dignity as well as civil liberties, that we resist attempts to further Other those who were singled out and demonized during the Trump campaign, and that we protect all who may be targeted for exclusion or expulsion during a Trump presidency. We must develop new strategies and forge deeper alliances with each other. Our work has been thrust into even more sharp relief and it feels more urgent and necessary than ever. 

It will also be critical to examine with clarity and rigor not only why Trump won the presidency, but also why a Hillary Clinton one was rejected by so many Americans. We know that both of these outcomes had roots in deep-seated misogyny, racism, and bigotry, and we know they were a result of deep discontent in this country. But that discontent doesn’t take just one shape. Part of the fear is that of change and loss. 

Going forward, we have to affirmatively invest in people, and human capital, and rebuild structures of opportunity that can promote upward mobility for all. We need to find areas of common ground, especially around how to heal the county and, in the days ahead, how to work towards a government, economy, and culture that is structured to serve people.

The question before us on Tuesday was not simply who our next president would be, but who does America belong to and who belongs to America.

We have to acknowledge that some of our policies have failed. And we risk continuing to fail unless we move towards a country that not only shares its prosperity and burdens with all, but that also shares our deep human connection. We must devote our work to questions of who we are, and who we aspire to become. Without reducing us to the same, we must recognize we are fundamentally connected—not just economically, not just as blue and red patterns on a map, but as a people living together in one country, and as humans living together collectively on this planet. This election is not just about Clinton and Trump, it’s about all of us. It's not just about people in US, but around the world. And this election is also about the earth. And while elections can be lost or won, we can’t lose the earth, as we don’t have another one.


So now we renew our own work in building a fair and inclusive society. We uphold our values and recommit ourselves to the work so many of us are already doing in equity and inclusion. 

While Trump may have won the electoral college, let's not forget there were other hard-won victories. More women of color were voted in Congress than ever before, and progressive agendas were passed in many state and local elections. The protests across the country yesterday, many of them led by youth, were promising responses, bright spots in what seem like dark times. 

So now we renew our own work in building a fair and inclusive society. We uphold our values and recommit ourselves to the work so many of us are already doing in equity and inclusion. 

In his victory speech, President-Elect Trump called for unity. It is not clear what he means or if he is serious. Unity is sorely needed, so we must take any effort to move toward unity seriously, but it must be grounded in our values of inclusion and belonging. There may have to be some compromises as to how to do this, but there can be no compromise on the goal. We need to unify but we cannot make the other pay for our unity.

We cannot afford just to be oppositional, but we also cannot afford to compromise our beliefs. We must aggressively embrace the space of belonging. We must do this work because it is the right thing to do and we must do this work because, quite simply, this is who we are.