To My Dear Friends and Family Who Voted for Donald Trump:

I know you are not racists, bigots, sexists, misogynists, or homophobes. But I would like you to know why so many of your fellow Americans are upset with you. I don’t think most people can hear this message above the din of protest and anger, as righteous as they are, and so I am hoping you might hear it in a letter coming from a friend and family member who has always appreciated you and your views and who has spent a lot of time over the past year talking to people on both sides of the aisle.

Many of you have told me that you don’t like the president elect’s rhetoric, that you don’t approve of his sexist locker room talk, his culturally insensitive statements, or his potentially discriminatory policies. “But,” you said, “We can’t have four more years of Democrat rule. We can’t stand for Hillary’s dishonesty. We need to repeal Obamacare. We need to lower taxes. We need to dismantle business regulations.” These things are each valid in their own way. But what you need to recognize is the inherent message this line of reasoning contains for so many Americans. It may not be the message you intended, but it is the message they heard nonetheless. To women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, and their allies, this line of reasoning sounded like this: “Tax breaks, smaller government, and deregulation are more important than racism, bigotry, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia.” They heard, “Your right to be spoken to and spoken about with respect and dignity is subordinate to my economic and political preferences.” They heard, “Your human rights don’t matter as much as my political views.”

That is the message these Americans heard, and, if you were placed in such a threatened position by these issues as they were, I am certain that is the only sound you would have been able to hear, too. If I said to you, “Here is $500, you filthy pig,” I am sure you would take that $500 and shove it down my throat. You wouldn’t want it. Neither would anyone else.

So now, as you call for unity and for us to be one United States, please try to understand and be sympathetic to those Americans who had such a crushing message delivered to them by their fellow Americans. Hillary supporters are not upset because they won’t be getting Obamacare, or because they are going to miss their government handouts, or because of any of the things many of my Republican friends have attributed to them. They are upset because their human dignity was placed second.

Looking ahead, this is what you need to know if you truly want us to be one people and one nation. You need to understand what your fellow Americans heard, even if it was not what you intended. Racism, bigotry, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia are not options to be placed on a sliding scale of priorities. Human rights must be a non-negotiable underlying condition of all of the other work that we do. Can you prove to your fellow Americans that this is the condition of your hearts? That is the task our president elect’s rhetoric has set before you for the next four years.

Your Friend, Family Member, and Fellow American,
Justin Maaia

P.S. Please understand that I was not trying to represent your position as you meant it, but rather as it was heard by many minority and underprivileged persons. After all, I know you are not racists, bigots, sexists, misogynists, or homophobes…

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