In the wake of the 2016 election, I traveled the country and met with a diversity of people to document the hate they experienced during the campaign and under the Trump administration.
Vicious intimidation and cybertrolling, vandalism and arson of houses of worship, and assault or even murder on their own doorstep, people are targeted across this country because of who they are and what they believe.
Communities also experience hate through cruel and discriminatory policies: banishing immigrants and separating them from their families because they do not have papers; depriving the elderly, poor, communities of color, and people with disabilities of health care; and threatening to send refugees home where they would face an uncertain future.
As I traveled the country and met with survivors in their homes, houses of worship, and community centers, I saw an extraordinary amount of pain, hurt, and suffering. But I also saw plenty of resilience, too.
Survivors are not recoiling or abandoning hope. They are coming together, rebuilding their lives, and advocating for a better future for us all. Their communities are following their example by reaching across divides, building stronger coalitions, and centering young people and women of color in the fight against hate and state violence.
Just weeks into my journey, I quickly learned that there is a spirit of love and joy in these communities that hate cannot destroy—a spirit that originates and endures because of the power of community.
This same community exists at the United World College in New Mexico. That’s why I accepted a fellowship in residence at the school just weeks before my book manuscript was due. I knew that the community, and the love and care they have for one another, would motivate me to complete my book American Hate: Survivors Speak Out.
And that’s precisely what happened. When I taught class, the students would ask about hate violence and how they could help curb it. When I met with the school Amnesty International chapter, the students began planning a program on campus where their peers affected by the travel ban could share their stories. When I spoke at the school assembly about civil rights abuses, the students described their volunteer work in local detention centers.
Other times, it was more subtle. I can’t remember the number of times I saw students check in on folks who were sitting alone during a meal or otherwise by themselves. Everyone felt included. Everyone belonged.
There’s an extraordinary spirit of community in the foothills of Montezuma, New Mexico, and the rest of the country would be wise to follow their example.
Arjun Singh Sethi is an activist, lawyer, professor, and friend of UWC-USA.