It is highly unlike me to make political statements, but I can’t stay quiet. I am devastated. I am devastated because it is small rural towns like the one I am from, where racism and ignorance is deep seated, that made key states like Pennsylvania red this election cycle. I have grown up around the hateful rhetoric that prevailed this election cycle, and I am ashamed and disappointed in myself for every time I came home from college and remained silent in the presence of this dialogue. I realize now that these comments were not harmless, but reflected a fundamental ignorance in our country that almost all of us underestimated. This is not to shame the rural population or my hometown; these are my friends, family, loved ones, and some of the hardest workers and smartest people I have ever met. However, people fear what they do not know, and growing up in a rural area can make you extremely insulated from the rest of the population. I realize how incredibly privileged I am to have had the opportunity to travel, live abroad, and engage with many people of different races, religions, and backgrounds. Had my circumstances been different, I may have different views than I do today.
I woke up this morning to a long email from my father, who was raised 20 minutes away from where I was in a culture that I can only imagine was plagued with the same fear and ignorance that I have experienced. He said to my brothers and I: “You are smart, mature, sophisticated, well educated, adaptable, critical thinkers and are well equipped with the skills that allow you not only to survive but to prosper and influence change in the future…You are not alone! There are many around you that you associate with every day that have a similar worldview and will be the synergy that creates the change needed in society.” I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend college and be surrounded by people who challenge my worldview every day. And today, more than ever, I am inspired to not let my opportunities or my education go to waste. I will never again write off hateful rhetoric as an uncomfortable conversation I do not want to have or as an unfortunate reality that I must concede to. I will continue to be proud of my country and of my small rural town. I promise to use my privileged position to fight for the equality, diversity, and acceptance that every single person in this great nation deserves and I am proud to live in a country where I have the opportunity to do so.