While being a minority doesn’t make for an easy life, 2017 definitely made it a lot more difficult. America seems to be stuck in limbo. Before this year, with voices that had been silent, generally bigoted people, such as the alt-right and the white nationalists, had (finally) begun to take to the shadows as diversity had become more and more welcome.
Of course, that was until Donald Trump became the president and gave their voices the biggest platform possible. Racial and religious minorities were under constant attack, or, at least, more blatantly under attack. LGBT people, specifically transgender people, were the target of many discriminatory laws or the overturning of laws put in place to protect them. And, most prominently, immigrants were being subject to dangerously life-changing laws and repeated bigotry by our government and citizens.
Still, despite what feels like multiple setbacks, there were instances of hope and progress. Much of this uprising hate has inspired movements and collectives to fight against it. Many people are coming together to create hope and unity despite how much those in power and their followers try to stop it. 2017 was a wild, crazy and mostly awful ride, but here are the top ten good (and bad) news stories about minorities in America.
1. Danica Roem’s Election
It was refreshing to see the headlines after Danica Roem’s victory in the race for the Virginia House of Delegates. In a year full of breaking news and headlines of constant turmoil and hatred, it was a small bit of hope to see that even in the midst of the most divisive time in this country, someone from the LGBT community become a government official and, in turn, making political history.
Roem, a former journalist, ran a dedicated campaign. Her team raised over $500,000 in donations by knocking on doors and doing countless interviews. Her opponent, Robert G. Marshall, who infamously called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” had repeatedly refused to debate against her and often misgendered her. She was able to overcome all the hatred and become the first openly transgender person elected to a U.S. statehouse. As Roem herself says, “Discrimination is a disqualifier.”
2. Trump’s Transgender Ban
In July, in quite the opposite situation, Trump tweeted that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.” Then, a month later, he signed a memo to actually make his statement mean something outside of a post on a social media site.
Thankfully, people did not stand by and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed a motion for preliminary injunction shortly later in August. Several judges and courts have blocked his ban, as well. Still, it will likely continue to carry into the 2018 news.
3. Sikh Mayor Elected in Hoboken
While Trump’s election and following presidency has been a huge step backwards for most minorities, many local elections are small victories to keep you hopeful. Former councilman Ravi Bhalla was elected as the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey.
He had previously served on the City Council as a member and the president, but that didn’t stop some citizens of the city to release racists attacks on him, writing “Don’t let terrorism take over our town!” on top of campaign fliers despite the fact that Sikh is a monotheistic faith that is definitely not Islam or Hinduism even though they do traditionally wear turbans. Still, he won the election and set another milestone for minorities.
4. Cancellation of DACA
Back in September, the lives of over 700,000 people were put on the line. Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. They (so kindly) allowed Congress a certain amount of time to come up with a replacement.
DACA was put in place by the Obama administration to help undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 to get driver’s licenses, enroll in college and secure jobs.
These immigrants also pay income taxes as every other citizen. Tax advantages are what so many people have attacked immigrants for, yet even when they do follow the tax codes of the U.S., their livelihoods are still threatened. Similar to the transgender ban and just about everything to do with Trump, it’s going to carry on into 2018.
5. The Women’s March
The Women’s March was an enormously large political march and inspiring movement at the beginning of 2017. The turnout in Washington, D.C., the central location, was estimated around 500,000 people and around the world, about five million people attended marches. If only this immense encouragement had set the tone for the year.
It was, according to some political scientists, the largest protest in United States history. The Women’s March was an amazing gathering of peaceful protesters for women’s rights and against the election of Donald Trump. One of the very few good moments in 2017.
6. NFL Protests
While Colin Kaepernick started the protest back in 2016, it gained steam in 2017, both in hate and support, and snowballed into the major theme of political debates nationwide. The protest spread from one player on the 49ers to several people across several different sports. Professional athletes do this to silently protest police brutality and racial inequality, and became yet another thing that has created a division in the population.
Trump has not been quiet on his disapproval of the protests, claiming once that the athletes who protest should get fired. As well, Pence pulled a political stunt by attending an Indianapolis Colts game vs the 49ers (you know, the team where the protests began) and left after seeing players kneel. It has enraged many people, but the cause needs to be addressed and the protests don’t seem to be losing any steam.
7. The #MeToo Movement
When the internet isn’t used by the president to deliver twitter rants at six in the morning, social media has the ability to do amazing things. The #MeToo movement actually finds its roots with social activist Tarana Burke in her grassroots campaign on Myspace. It gained its current popularity when actress Alyssa Milano employed the hashtag in her tweets advocating for female victims of sexual harassment.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Since then, #MeToo has been tweeted millions of times and several famous actresses have come forward with their own stories. Its widespread impact seems to be changing the discussion of sexual violence and assault.
8. Hurricane Maria Devastates Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic that resulted in the total destruction of the island of Puerto Rico. While this was a particularly nasty hurricane season (I wonder what could be behind that) as Texas and Florida felt the power or Harvey and Irma, what makes the Puerto Rico devastation just that more devastating was the poorly administered disaster aid.
The hurricane effectively demolished the power grid and left millions of people without access to clean water and cell service. The total number of fatalities remained controversial for a long period of time and recently officials have called for a recount. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, received both praise and criticism for her hurricane relief effort and her criticism of Trump’s incapability to produce an adequate response and the federal government for their lack of help.
9. Roy Moore Loses the Alabama Senate Race
Likely the most attention Alabama has ever gotten outside of college football, the senate race between Doug Jones and Roy Moore populated the headlines nationwide. Roy Moore, previously a known racist and homophobe and otherwise general bigot, was accused of sexually pursuing underage girls.
Despite the accusations, he held the lead for most of the race against Democrat Doug Jones. Thankfully, on the day of the election, numbers showed an unprecedented amount of African American, specifically women, voters supporting Doug Jones and he was able to turn the table around to fill the Alabama Senator seat. Though, still to this day, Roy Moore has refused to concede defeat.
10. The Charlottesville Rally
While the Women’s March began 2017 with a hopeful, peaceful message, a little over halfway through the year, another group decided that they wanted their voices heard too. The official “reason” for the rally was to oppose the decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue, but it quickly became something else much more dangerous.
The actual Unite the Right rally was a collection of white supremacists, neo-Confederates, Klansmen and neo-Nazis chanting hateful and racist slogans while carrying “Trump/Pence” signs among other things. Just the night before the rally, a group of white nationalist marched across the University of Virginia’s campus chanting “white lives matter.”
The protest turned into a violent occasion when scuffles broke out between rally participants and counter protestors. Several injuries occurred, most serious of which includes DeAndre Harris, who was beaten by a group of six men, and Heather Heyer, a counterprotestor who was killed when a white supremacist drove their car into a crowd of people.
Still, when Trump addressed the issue, he quickly assured the people that there were “fine people on both sides.” The whole thing was a terrifying, upsetting and disgusting display of hatred and bigotry, one that shook the country as its core.