I went to bed at 2 a.m. on election night, disappointed but not completely surprised.
I was raised in central Florida, in a county that turned red on Tuesday. My experience growing up in a predominately white neighborhood wasn’t negative. As a light-skinned Latina, I never felt discriminated against by my peers. But my mother, with her caramel skin and thick accent, sure felt it.
During the campaign season, I didn’t doubt Donald Trump could win the presidency with our electoral college system. And sure enough, by the time I forced my eyes shut on election night, he was well on his way to acquiring 270 electoral votes. But he was also ahead in the popular vote.
That crushed me.
I woke up the following day afraid to check the results. As a woman of color and an immigrant I struggled, like many others, with how to stay optimistic. But when I finally sat down to analyze the numbers, I felt a flicker of warmth fill my heart for the first time in hours. Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote.
Love had, in a way, trumped hate.
It was a small comfort. By the time almost all of the polls finished reporting, I could see clearly that she had won by a margin of 301,002 (voting matters, folks!). That number may not change who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years, but it makes a big difference for this country. At least in my book.
That’s hundreds of thousands of people who chose love over hate. That’s tens of thousands of fellow Americans who chose progress. And that means something.
I realize it doesn’t change our somber reality. It doesn’t change the apparent rise in hate crimes since election day. And it certainly doesn’t change the fact that there are American Muslims who are afraid to wear their hijabs, Latinos who feel their own country wants them out and women who worry they will no longer have a right to control their own bodies.
This is no doubt a dark time for many, especially for those who didn’t have a voice at all in this election or who now fear for their safety. But please, know that the majority of this country is here for you. It may only be a difference of 301,002 people, but that could be enough to outnumber hate.
Progress doesn’t stop here. Democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box. We must protect each other. We must keep moving forward. And we must never forget that where there is love ― no matter how seemingly insignificant ― there is hope.