Four more jeers

A fourth year details an incident of racial hatred she experienced after the election

My name is Taylor Gist and I’m a fellow student at the University of Virginia. I attended election parties like many of the citizens in our community did Tuesday night, but I experienced an inexcusable level of hostility during my celebration that I hope no other citizen of our nation had to. That is only the hope of my idealistic thinking. Wednesday morning around 12:30 a.m., my friends and I were walking down the corner toward Elliewood Ave. when we passed by Trinity, the location of the College Republicans Victory Party. As we walked by, a white male on the balcony tossed his freshly lit cigarette at us only missing my head by a foot. Then another white male on the balcony yelled “N***er” at us and the two males smirked. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by this, as dealing with racism is unfortunately a regular experience for me, but I was disappointed in the fact that while our country moves toward social justice for people like myself to feel more included and valued as a member of society, there is still so much work to be done in our community.

I chose not to respond to this male at the time because I wanted to celebrate a night of victory. I wanted to celebrate a night that reflected my participation in my first presidential election. I wanted to celebrate the night that allowed me to feel like I finally fit into this nation that has traditionally excluded persons like me. I am a woman, I am a black descendent of slaves, and I’m queer, and since being a student at this University I have heard enough slurs regarding these descriptors of my individual that I am ready to take a stand against them.

In the early hours of Wednesday our president of the United States, Barack Obama, directed a speech to every individual in this nation. The heart of the United States resonates in his words, “I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try. I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America. And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.”

I would like to find the two males last night who attacked my group both physically and verbally, and I would like a discussion with them to pursue a proper resolution to their bigotry and indecency. Our University needs to have a discussion about why some individuals in our community still think it is okay to harm others because they perceive difference in the “other.” I want to know why those two males chose to exercise their privilege in a way to bring their fellow Americans and peers down. This discussion isn’t just for me so I can sleep comfortably at night knowing that these males are facing consequences. The former “others” will no longer be silenced by bigotry in this nation, and this starts within our community. I believe that members of our community in leadership positions should work together to rectify this situation to prevent incidences like this from happening again. The male didn’t throw his cigarette at me. He threw his fire at a dark disease in the United States of America: racism. Racism persists in a climate of positive change; however, racism will not triumph.

We cast our votes for our preferred candidates and those votes were tallied. We all received the same result, and I believe that the United States needs to move forward in a positive direction regardless of which candidate won because after Election Day we still have important choices to make. I choose to work toward a more tolerant society where people do not need to fear being ostracized and attacked on the street because someone else disagrees with who they are as an individual or what they represent. Silence is not an acceptable response to the incident that happened last night.

I hope that after reading this letter you will also agree with me. I am one voice in the United States speaking out for change, yet I need an echo to make change happen. Please help me in combating this darkness.

Taylor Gist is a fourth-year in the College.

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