By: Jasmine Cochran
When people think of the word leadership, their minds probably go immediately to positions. However, the most effective leaders know that their positions are about serving those who follow them and leading by example, not lording over them with fear and being a perpetual embarrassment.
As far as demonstrating the qualities of an effective leader who represents the ideals of unity, acceptance, and the validity of all people, America’s new president, Donald Trump, is off to a rocky start. But let’s be honest, he was off to a bad start before Election Day even rolled around.
The world watched and listened and laughed to SNL skits as he campaigned under the overhang of “not being political,” but his tactlessness wasn’t a joke to most of us, and now, everyone sees that he was playing, after all.
Trump has made distasteful (ok, disgusting) comments about minorities of all demographics, including the mother of fallen Army Captain Humayun Khan, who, when silent during her husband’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, was targeted by Trump who implied that she, because of her Muslim heritage, must have been silent, because she wasn’t “allowed to speak.”
His comment about Mexico not sending their best people over to America, but instead, sending drug dealers and rapists, ruffled feathers everywhere, even though he capped the comment with the statement that some Mexicans “are good people.” Great, thanks.
And his attitude about black people spans decades, as he’s been quoted as saying, “…laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control,” in the book, Trumped!, written about him in the 1990s. When confronted about the comment, he admitted that what he said to the author was “probably true.”
I can’t say I’m surprised. Stereotypes aren’t anything new, but what is new is the acceptance of a world leader who so brazenly expresses his thoughts towards any group that differs from the one with which he most closely relates, and the expectations of us to just take it. Trump’s mouth is not simply an inconvenience; it’s a real problem, because:
Trump doesn’t show remorse. There is no change of heart on the horizon for him. In his first few days in office, he has managed to marginalize an entire religion, push through legislation to commence running a pipeline through Native land and make fun of women who marched, demonstrating their constitutional right to do so. The only good thing I can say about this is at least he’s open. Better overt than covert prejudice, right?
The next one is simple. America is for all of us, and we need a president who agrees.
This “leadership” has given citizens with his same mindset a pass to act on their racist views. I’ve heard and read numerous stories of Americans experiencing harassment because of the way they look. A friend of mine has a daughter who has tan skin. A man, in public, screamed at this child, “Go back to Mexico!” She’s not even Mexican. Another friend, who is a nurse, was approaching the front door of her patient’s home, when the neighbor and his son ran over from their house and demanded she tell them whether she was moving in or not. “If you’re moving in, we’re leaving!” She is black. They are white.
Stereotypes perpetuated by those in leadership positions become gospel to those incapable of thinking for themselves. So what can we do?
Eventually, we can reach the masses, but we must not despise the victories of daily battles that end positively. Knowledge destroys stereotypes. Years ago, after spending a significant amount of time with a young white man as a result of a course we took together, he admitted on the last day, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but you’ve disproven everything I thought was true about Black people.” No matter what people think, no matter how they treat us, it is our responsibility to respond to the high calling of walking in truth, walking in dignity, and walking together. Together, if we stay focused and fight diligently, we can mold this country into an America that truly feels like home for us all.