Darkest Before the Dawn

This election has brought out the worst in too many Americans, but there's still an opportunity to deliver overdue justice

Caleb Walsh illustration

Like most Americans, I can't wait for this election to be over. On the morning after, no matter what, I imagine a sense of peace, but I can't lie to you: That peace involves Donald Trump and his hate losing; however, the next test waits with an angry constituency in the millions. Worse, many will be convinced of a rigged election, and that the President-elect belongs in prison instead of the Oval Office.

Clinging to a rigged result is the easiest explanation for justifying a loss on Nov. 8. It's a deceitful stance, especially after reports of Trump supporters intimidating people of color at the ballot box, creating extra hurdles. Voter fraud claims are part and parcel of the myth that Republicans have built up to pass new voting restrictions — another rhetorical flame that has been fanned for years. So if that rhetoric leads to danger, you can't just blame Trump, even though he's never one to admit defeat.

In addition, the claims are more puzzling when in Washington, Secretary Of State Kim Wyman sent out a Spanish-language voter pamphlet that made it seem that if Spanish-speaking voters had a misdemeanor on their record or even a parking infraction, they could interpret it to mean they don't get to vote at all.

Why so scared? We live in a time where there's a continued transfer of massive power — America has been run almost entirely by white men, and now the future is going to be in the hands of a new majority.

The coming backlash will be immense. Jorge Ramos from Univision found that hate groups in the country have grown significantly in the past year. According to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of organizations linked to the Ku Klux Klan grew from 72 in 2014 to 190 in 2015. It's called "the Trump Effect." In the excellent Netflix documentary 13th, Trump's rallying call of returning to the "good old days" when protesters were carried out on stretchers are heard in a voice-over against archival footage of civil-rights-era news footage of water hoses, attack dogs and beatings.

How does the hostility of the campaign stop? So much media oxygen has been sucked up by the next worst thing that most Americans aren't paying much attention to the warning signs of dangerous confrontations to come. Last week, as a verdict was released in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge armed occupation trial, protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota were violently attacked and arrested. Both situations involve a clash between the United States government and private citizens over land ownership, but the way the government is treating the people involved couldn't be more different.

If we are serious about truth and reconciliation throughout our country as opposed to appeasing parts of it, then both Republicans and Democrats must acknowledge that the frustration and anger in communities are recurring symptoms of our history.

We must change this hatred and respectfully deliver justice to those who have been wronged. People directly impacted by injustices must lead the conversation about what that justice looks like to them — and acknowledge that "the Trump Effect" is a side effect of forever treating a certain group of people less fairly and equitably than others.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative who was in Spokane last year for Whitworth University's President's Leadership Forum speaker series, touched on the question of whether this election had any silver lining in the New Yorker. Regarding the transfer of power, he said, "if anything, the moment seems like a moment of light, because things are being illuminated that have been going on for a very long time."

It's always darkest before the dawn. After waking up, America can't look the other way if it ever wants to be great again. ♦

Paul Dillon, a Center for Justice board member, manages public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.

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