Simran P. Gupta & Kaydee Donohoo
Today’s news cycle appears consistently bleak. Focusing on lighthearted and happy stories can feel like distractions, when we should be keeping track of civil rights that seem to be disappearing and a president who talks more like a character from “Mean Girls” than someone in power.
Last week, however, there have been a number of happy victories which are by no means distractions. On the contrary: they are something we should focus on. Last week’s victories are something to cheer us on with lessons in how to keep moving forward.
The positive outcomes of recent local elections include: Ravi Bhalla, the first turbaned Sikh mayor of Hoboken, NJ; Andrea Jenkins, the first out trans woman of color elected to Palm Springs City Council (CA); Vi Lyles, the first black woman mayor of Charlotte, NC; Kathy Tran, the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Virginia House of Representatives; Justin Fairfax, a black man elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia; and gun control advocate Chris Hurst, elected to the 12th House district seat in Virginia. The newly elected leaders of color defeated opponents who attacked them based on their identity. Danica Roem, a transgender woman, won against the man who penned the original “bathroom bill”; Chris Hurst ran on a platform of gun control and defeated an opponent who was backed by the NRA. Both are now Members-Elect of the Virginia House of Delegates.
These victories are the definition of “overcoming;” of persistence in the face of blind hate and prejudice.
Perhaps the most important takeaway is the value of diversity. By having more representation in government there are going to be a variety of issues brought to the table, as well as a variety of perspectives discussing future and existing legislature. More perspectives and representation ensures that more people will be heard; more people will have their needs met.
There is a also a shift in generational power. The younger generation is more politically empowered than ever before. These local elections are proof, or at the very least allow us to hope, that each generation becomes more and more open minded and open to change.
Also we should keep in mind that more liberal opponents won through a democratic process. It was enough people educating themselves on the issues, showing up, and voting. It was more people caring about politics.
Hopefully, this will spark greater empowerment for marginalized communities. Hopefully, a first generation child will look at Ravi Bhalla, and decide that they can have an impact as well. There will be less fear in speaking out, political platform or not. There will be more and more diverse people ready to lift others up and encourage them as they make it to government offices.
Hopefully, it’s going to make a safer country for the groups being vilified.
Things change from the bottom up. All of these victories showcase the importance of local elections. If we do the research and show up, the kind of change we need is possible.
This is also a huge reminder that people all across the country do not all share the same bigotry as the current administration and other more outspoken groups. Hearing speech laden with bigotry and prejudice can feel overwhelming, but now we should feel less alone. We should remember to speak up for each and remember that the oppressor wins when we feel isolated.
At a time of seemingly endless xenophobia and bigotry, Wajahat Ali said it best: “Karma is a transgender woman, a black female Mayor, a turbaned Sikh Mayor, an Asian American elected official, a black LT Governor, a white man who ran on gun control after losing his girlfriend to gun violence. In other words, Karma is American.”
These victories are worth being exciting for. Don’t let anyone tell you that they aren’t.