How Millennial Activists Are Reacting to Trump's Election

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Yahoo Beauty
Millennials react to Donald Trump winning the presidential election, from excitement to shock and fear. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I am really scared,” Blair Imani, the executive director of Equality for HER, tells Yahoo Beauty about how she feels after Republican nominee Donald Trump won the election for the American presidency.

Imani, a young woman and activist who is black and Muslim, tweeted on election night:


And on Nov. 9:


“I just got back from the store — I was shopping for a hat,” Imani tells Yahoo Beauty, speaking from her cellphone on a New York City street. “I have an interview by Trump Tower to go to, and I am scared to wear my hijab. I was stopped by someone on the subway today. It is very scary.”

While many progressive millennials are deeply concerned about what a Trump presidency will look like, young conservative activists are having their own responses to the Republican nominee winning the election.

“Our job is to keep him accountable to every pro-life promise he made,” Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, tells Yahoo Beauty. “We need to make sure they come to fruition to make sure that millions of lives are saved. Our work is cut out for us.”


But for Yong Jung Cho, one of the leaders of All of Us 2016, a progressive organizing coalition that is focused on building a multiracial millennial generation committed to fighting racism, inequality, and economic injustice, a Trump presidency evokes fear and concern.

When Trump was announced as the next president, Cho says, “I was really scared. That was my first feeling. And I was really sad for my family and for our country. And really disappointed about how much racism and misogyny still runs our country — and the fear that’s built upon racism in particular, and the hate built on racism, and how politicians like Trump use hate and fear as a strategy to court white voters is still incredibly real. And so, with that, we have so much more work ahead of us to make this country that represents all of us.”


On Nov. 9, Cho participated in a candlelight vigil she helped to organize in front of the White House.


For some conservative millennial activists, however, having a pro-life president-elect is invigorating for their movement. Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life, tells Yahoo Beauty, “Last night’s victory was historic for the movement. We now have a pro-life president overseeing a House and a Senate with a pro-life majority. [Trump] made very specific promises as to what he will do as president of the United States — for the first time, we have a candidate making specific promises to our movement.”

Hawkins says that moving forward, much of the work she and her peers will be focused on is defunding Planned Parenthood and that she is “excited” about being able to advocate in a way that “can make an impact.” Hawkins adds: “We have different tactics than the previous generations — we’re focusing our sights on defunding Planned Parenthood and making a difference.”

Along with the threat to women’s reproductive rights and access to care, some progressive millennial activists are worried about what it will mean to not only have a Republican president but also a Republican majority in the House and Senate. Sadie Hernandez, a Latinx activist and member of Planned Parenthood’s Young Leaders Advisory Council, tells Yahoo Beauty, “Trump’s election came with the worst-case scenario: complete Republican control. This is not surprising, as we’ve seen the backlash white America has had with the modern progression of marginalized people in our country. As a Xicana living on the border in Texas, I can’t even bring myself to imagine what atrocities will happen in my community and state during the Trump administration. This was a loss across all fronts.”


Hernandez continues, “Not only will we see great loss politically, but socially — boundaries and the ideas of basic human decency have been shattered. From here on out, activists and organizers will have to be more vigilant, creative, and supported than ever.”

Other progressive millennials are concerned about how a Trump presidency might impact sexual harassment and assault on campus. “President Obama took urgent steps to finally address widespread sexual harassment and violence on campus — and it is absolutely critical that the next administration doesn’t undo the progress that we’ve made,” Sejal Singh is a policy organizer with Know Your IX, the student-led activist group that helps student activists and student survivors organize on issues related to gender-based and sexual violence in academic settings, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Donald Trump and his surrogates have raised the possibility of shuttering the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is responsible for enforcing nondiscrimination laws in education, including Title IX. Closing OCR would be an absolute disaster for survivors, safe schools, and educational access in America.”

Singh adds, “While Donald Trump has publicly floated the idea of closing OCR, we know it would be a deeply unpopular one. The opportunity to learn is a fundamental American value, and the American people care about students getting a safe education that isn’t disrupted by sexual assault. We know that they support keeping OCR in place and well-staffed, because closing it puts students at heightened risk of sexual and dating violence.”


 

But even some conservative millennials, like Rose, don’t necessarily see Trump as their champion.

“We have our work cut out for us,” adds Rose. “Trump was not the strongest in a field of candidates who had far deeper background on life. And millennials were given the short end of the stick politically in the Democratic Party — they had no pro-life candidates for them to choose from. Now, we don’t know what will happen. I know a lot of people have a lot of concerns about Trump’s candidacy. But they had even more concerns about Clinton’s, especially when it comes to life. But there’s a path forward here now. There’s a path to appoint justices who respect human rights. There’s a path forward in our communities to help single mothers and young children. We have our work cut out for us, we need to reach out across the aisle and do good work to protect the weak.”


But for Imani, it’s a very different demographic that needs the most empathy today. “I’m really concerned about immigration and mass deportation,” she says. “But more than that, it’s the nonlegislative issues. I’m most scared of the sentiment. The culture has spoken. There are a mass amount of people who don’t want us here.”

She adds that today, her fellow progressive millennials “have to make sure that the most vulnerable people in your community are safe from retaliation from Pence and Trump. And this manifests in everything from public housing to women’s decisions about their reproductive health care.”

Imani also notes that, at this time, many activists who feel “other” as a result of the Trump election should also “do self care. Do not apologize for doing things like not wearing hijab to preserve yourselves. Just take a breather. This isn’t anything we haven’t survived before. That’s not totally encouraging or reassuring, but it’s true. Don’t give up — and take care of yourself while you care for your community.”

Echoes Singh, “Survivors should take care of themselves and be with their communities today. But I know that I have found healing in fighting for my rights and for the rights of people like me — so to any survivors out there, when you’re ready, I welcome you to join this fight with us. It is only more urgent today.”

Singh also notes that the millennials, like those who make up Know Your IX, “are on the frontline of the gender justice, racial justice, LGBT rights, disability justice” fights — and are all likewise intersectionally committed to making sure that there is a federal government in place “who works with us to fulfill our civil right to equal access to education.”

Adds Imani, “In an awful way, the Trump presidency will be good for the movement. The level of sustained violence we will be experiencing as activists will need a sustained method of organizing. This is a time for people to really put their noses to the grindstone.”

Singh also points to this map as “the most important map of the election. If only people 18-25 had voted, Trump would have lost in a landslide, with only 23 electoral votes. The future voted to reject his hatred of people of color, women, immigrants, and queer and trans people. Our job now is to empower committed young people as we, no matter the opposition, work hand-in-hand to realize our vision of a better world.”

Ilyse Hogue is the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a group that turned out huge numbers of millennial organizers in this election cycle. She tells Yahoo Beauty that she’s now hearing these young activists express “shock and sadness.” “We are hearing a lot of what I’m going to call today ‘reckoning,'” Hogue says. “People actually realizing that we live in a country that isn’t going to just naturally politically reflect the future.”

Hogue adds that Trump’s victory last night was a physical representation of the fact that “when a new generation is rising, the old generation just digs in tighter. This was a backlash against the changes going on in our country, changes that millennials represent just by the nature of who they are. They are demanding equality and justice and plurality. This election is clutching to a power system that is outdated and threatened by those vary values that so many millennials hold dear. I think people are realizing that power doesn’t just shift naturally. You have to commit really deeply to making [institutions] reflect the next generation — and that takes playing a long game and that takes working together. Electoral politics is just one component of it. Legislation is another component. Doing service work, getting involved in communities, caring about local races — these are all parts. … But organizing can create a community that can advocate for itself and that creates political power in a new set of values already being lived. And I’m seeing that happen naturally.”

Hernandez says this is anything but the end of progressive millennial activism. “This election will only make us stronger and more resistant,” she says. “We will take back the progress we’ve made and create our own world by any means possible. We’re not done here by a long shot.”

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