Widgets Magazine


Bernie’s army

I had my first good laugh about the election in ages when I got the following message from a dear friend: “Remember when Dolores Umbridge took over Hogwarts and there were Dementors watching the castle and everyone except the Slytherins were [sic] scared out of their fucking minds? Imagine if the Slytherin kids went around telling everyone that they need to be supportive and understanding of the Dementors. Now of course, not all Slytherin kids were assholes like Draco Malfoy, I’m sure some were cool too and were just trying to make a good living.”

My friend was talking about recent calls for reconciliation toward those on the left to start accepting Donald J. Trump as our president-elect. In terms of logos, I understand the practicality of the sentiment, since Donald J. Trump will end up being inaugurated in January despite circulating online petitions or calls for the members of the Electoral College to vote their conscience. But in terms of pathos and ethos, these calls for reconciliation come from the same side that had huge part in fomenting the fear against Hispanics, Blacks and Muslims in the first place. Where were the efforts for reconciliation and peace during the election campaign? It’s maddeningly hypocritical.

I don’t doubt that Trump — as a New Yorker born of privilege and wealth — is more socially liberal than he has made himself out to be, but his rhetoric has validated and emboldened people who consider other lives to matter less than theirs.

One confirmed instance of hate came from the University of Pennsylvania, in which more than 150 Black freshmen were added to a GroupMe chatroom with racial slurs and threats of lynching. The incident brought in FBI agents, who eventually traced one source of the hate crime to a University of Oklahoma student. And yet there are people who brush off these sorts of instances as hoaxes or as jokes.

But in the world in which Donald Trump is slated to assume the position of the most powerful individual in the world, what are we to do? To take another page out of Harry Potter would be to form Dumbledore’s Army to serve as a prophylactic for hate.

Fortunately, the United States’ most apt counterpart for Dumbledore is still alive and well. Senator Bernie Sanders, as the elder statesman, provided some much-needed hope and a rallying cry against injustice in a recent opinion piece for The New York Times. He commented, “I am deeply distressed to hear stories of Americans being intimidated and harassed in the wake of Mr. Trump’s victory, and I hear the cries of families who are living in fear of being torn apart. We have come too far as a country in combating discrimination. We are not going back. Rest assured, there is no compromise on racism, bigotry, xenophobia and sexism. We will fight it in all its forms, whenever and wherever it re-emerges.”

And all across America, there has been calls for vigilance against hate and intolerance in the microcosms of our private lives, in buses, in schools and in the workplace. And in these uncertain times we should always be on the lookout for each other, to be brave and courageous when people need our help and think, “What would Neville Longbottom do?”

But what should we do with the Slytherins, our fellow classmates/countrymen? My friend suggested, “The other students need to call out Draco so he can stop being a fucking asshole.” In a sense, it is our responsibility to engage, and we can’t dismiss people by calling them racist or homophobic, because when people feel as if they are castigated or condemned, they tend to double down on their beliefs.

Rather than name-calling or refusing to interact with those whom we disagree with, we must take the high road while still staying true to our progressive principles. In a 2016 paper in Science, researchers found that encouraging people who are resistant to transgender rights to talk about their own experiences of being treated unfairly can reduce their feelings of prejudice. People can change, and it is up to facilitate that change. We must learn to talk about our feelings and our thoughts to those who disagree with us.

Progressives may have lost the election, but we cannot compromise on the matters that affect the well-being of our minority populations. Rather, we must take the small opportunities in our own lives to oppose injustices and help our communities for the better. As Harry points out in “The Order of the Phoenix,” “Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now: students. If they can do it, why not us?” In short, we have a long but a crucial road ahead of us.


Contact Yoo Jung Kim at yoojkim ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Yoo Jung Kim

Yoo Jung Kim is a medical student and a biweekly columnist for The Stanford Daily focusing on the intersection of science, medicine, and education. She is also the co-author of What Every Science Student Should Know (University of Chicago Press), a guidebook for students pursuing STEM majors. You can contact her at yoojkim 'at' stanford.edu with questions or comments.