New York City in the Aftermath of the US Election
It’s a festive time of year in New York City. Iconic Fifth Avenue stores unveil elaborate holiday window displays, steaming mugs of apple cider warm the hands of Christmas market shoppers, and the Empire State Building glows red and orange in honour of Thanksgiving.
But the mood in the city feels a little different this year.
The election of Donald Trump has soured our holiday cheer. Our daily commute is marred by the graffiti swastikas that now decorate subway chairs. Excitable coffee shop chatter about ice-skating and the Rockettes has adopted a somber tone. And strangers offer one another messages of support in contemplation of the next four years.
Nonetheless, New Yorkers have pushed back. Since Trump’s shock victory on November 8, subway station walls have been plastered with rainbow messages of hope, students have staged campus walk-outs, and thousands are taking to the streets to protest the xenophobic and dangerous campaign rhetoric of the past eight months.
Conservative commentators and political figures have labelled the protesters “spoiled crybabies”. The conservative consensus is that liberals need to accept the election result despite Hillary Clinton now leading by over two and a half million in the popular vote.
New York, too, overwhelmingly voted for Clinton, but the protests here and around the U.S. represent much more than a collective tantrum over an unpalatable result.
They’re a stand against the vilification of Muslims and Mexicans, the rolling back of women’s and LGBTQ rights, and the divisive discourse leaching into America’s public spaces. And more importantly, they’re an affirmation of New York City values that champion diversity, multiculturalism and acceptance.
With at least 700 hate crimes reported since the election — most recently, a Brooklyn park was defaced with anti-Semitic and pro-Trump graffiti — these actions are more important than ever.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have vehemently denounced these acts, with Cuomo saying he would launch a hate crimes unit of the state police to protect civil rights.
I love New York’s uncompromising commitment to tolerance and acceptance, and it’s just one of the reasons why I moved here from Australia this year.
In a city where you can love freely, organize peacefully and express your identity without fear or prejudice, the opportunities for personal fulfilment are endless.
But are the New York values I and millions of others hold so dear now under threat in Trump’s America?
The President-elect has already threatened to abolish the J1 visa, a cultural exchange program allowing students the opportunity to work and study in the United States.
It’s this very program that gave me — and thousands like me — the chance to experience New York for a year and to contribute to the U.S economy. It would be tragic for others to be denied the same opportunity.
But the scrapping of student visas is inconsequential compared to the millions of lifelong immigrants terrified at the prospect of being separated from their families. The potential cancellation of these visas is startling when you consider what America stands to lose.
International talent is valuable to the American economy, with a recent study suggesting restrictions on skilled immigration are negatively impacting US companies’ bottom lines.
Indeed, Australians who reside here on J1 visas are eagerly sought by employers who value their global perspective.
While Trump’s election represents a threat to immigration, it’s also a danger to globalization as we know it.
Since announcing his candidacy, Trump has demonized free trade, announced the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, backed away from America’s long-standing commitment to NATO, and drawn the ire of many allied countries.
What are the consequences of a Trump presidency for trade and international security? I shudder to think.
No nation can operate in a silo. Populist messages of “Make America Great Again” may resonate with Middle Americans hoping for to return to a golden age of blue collar manufacturing. But that era has come and gone. Like it or not, we live in an interconnected world.
As one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities on the planet, the prospect of a parochial, insular America is hitting New York particularly hard. You can see it in the faces of the people.
But New Yorkers are resilient. They’re willing to stand up to injustice and fight for their beliefs.
In the wake of America’s most divisive election, the message is clear: No matter who you are, you are welcome.