While riding the Metro on the way to the Women’s March last January, I felt power and pride when my aunt, cousins, their friends and I came together, chanting. Soon, the whole train was yelling: “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now! What do we have? Girl power!”
Our greatest threat to civil liberties is the rise of intolerance. The election of Donald Trump reflects this ascension. The 45th President is not “for the American people,” and he certainly is not for young women like me. He is the president for select populations—many of whom openly express hatred toward women, people of color, LGBTQ folks and members of other communities. Hillary Clinton won by over 3,000,000 ballots—but we have a bigot in the Oval Office.
Inspired by the the words of the president, many acts of hatred ensued. Right-wing extremists united in support of Aryan superiority, taking a life and injuring many others in Charlottesville last summer. Muslims hid their identity, fearing harsh discrimination. Hispanic children, many knowing no other home but the United States, feared deportation. Young girls started to believe that the boys were superior, and boys started to harass and assault them in mimicry of the president’s own admitted behavior from leaked “Access Hollywood” tapes.
This is the opposite of progress. This should not be our reality. The struggle to be an activist through oppression may be one of the hardest we’ll face over these next years. Hard as it is, we must now grapple with knowledge that the repercussions of this presidency are bound to affect the future.
But there is hope in our fight. After the election, anguish and a collective need to fight back mobilized millions to protest. The day after the inauguration, the Women’s Marches showed us that supporters of equality will not be silenced. Surrounded by the masses marching through the crowded streets of Washington last year, I realized how monumental this movement was. Witnessing hope rise in the air as I marched in our capital, I realized that no matter how horrible the state of our nation seemed, we could turn things around.
Freshly energized, we saw protestors unite at airports to protect Muslims wrongly persecuted by the Travel Ban. Citizens defended DACA and adequate support for Puerto Rico following the hurricane. Many young people, including myself, did all we could to make our voices heard. Recently, along with millions of other women and their allies, I spoke out at the anniversary Women’s Marches around the world. Standing shoulder to shoulder in my town with my comrades in this battle allowed to realized that we have the power—whether it be on the National Mall or in a town of only a couple thousand—to stand together and fight on.
This will not be our defeat; it is our rebirth. We have much work to do in 2018 and beyond, but change is possible. And I believe it can begin with young women like me.
When we empower the next generation of girls to be active members of our democracy, change will occur. Young girls need to know that they are important. They have power, and they are willing to use it. They are equal to their fellow brothers, and nobody can tell them otherwise. If their elected officials will not support them, they will become the leaders they seek.
If the Women’s March showed us anything, it’s that even in the worst times, when hope seems gone, we have the strength to carry on by embracing one another and working together.