PERSPECTIVE: Lean in and listen

It’s been almost a week since Donald Trump was elected to be our next president, and since then, I’ve talked way too much. I’ve talked about how I feel, how I’m frustrated that others don’t feel the same way, what I think should happen next, and why I think I’m right and others are wrong.

But this weekend, I took some time to listen. I met a friend at Starbucks, and as the sun slipped below the horizon, she poured her heart out. She’s a minority student here at Union, and she’s hurting.

She’s not ok with the things Trump has said about Asian Americans, African Americans, immigrants and women. She’s not ok with the deep divide in our country his campaign revealed. She feels genuinely afraid that she is not welcome, that she is not wanted, that there is no place for her voice to be heard.

That’s not ok.

“I am really upset over the fact that it takes so much for people to even consider racism as an issue in our country. No one wants to talk about the shootings or mass incarceration that occurs. No one wants to discuss what has been validated through this election,” she said. “A lot of us people of color deal with this on a daily basis. The most annoying thing is that for some it’s a new concept and to others, they don’t care to recognize it at all.”

I’m not revealing her name, because she told me those things in confidence, and because that’s not the point. No matter which candidate you supported in this election or how logical and well reasoned your justifications were, none of that matters any more.

Our country has chosen a new leader, and there’s no changing that. We are called to respect him, support him and pray that he guides our nation wisely. But the last year of campaigning has fostered hatred, fear and anger on both sides of the aisle as well as across our country.

Union’s not immune to the deep divisions that have been created. We don’t all agree here, and we don’t have to. But we do need to have empathy for each other, especially for those in our community that are truly struggling right now. I’m not saying every minority student is devastated and afraid, or that no majority students are acting compassionately.

But there are more students like my friend here who are hurting. Don’t dismiss their pain because you don’t feel it. Don’t dismiss their pain because you think they should “get over it”. Lean in, and listen. Seek to understand their perspective. Seek to let them know that you care about their voice.

The fourteen percent of campus that isn’t white needs to know they are wanted, welcomed and valued here, and the rhetoric of the last several months coming from Trump and his campaign have left them questioning that.

By the same token, Clinton and her campaign spouted equally hateful rhetoric about Trump supporters. But vilifying each other gets us nowhere.

Reach out to someone that doesn’t look like you, and give them space to share their story. Give them space to talk, and be willing to just sit and learn. You may not agree on everything, but you’ll have more empathy for each other, and that’s key to open and honest conversation.

My pastor spoke yesterday about how reconciliation with each other is our responsibility as Christians. Christ came not just to bring peace between men and God, but between men and men. He died so that every tribe, nation, tongue and race could be reconciled to each other and built up into the body of Christ.

Paul writes to the church at Ephesus that Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

We can all learn from each other, and we all need too if we are going to be a campus that truly emulates unity in Christ. Let’s build bridges instead of walls. Let’s reach out to each other in humility, and lift up the downtrodden and weary.

About Cardinal & Cream 1009 Articles
The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.