Just in recent months, Trump has made headlines for his likeness being used in a terrorist video, his newly released campaign ad, his sexist comments about Hillary Clinton's bathroom break, his being shortlisted for the TIME Person of the Year and his proposed bans against Muslim travelers.
Trump's latest campaign ad is not only factually incorrect, since it actually shows Morocco, rather than the Mexico/United States border as it seems to suggest, but it's also yet another show of his stark discrimination. Trump loves to oversimplify the issue by saying that closing our borders to an entire religion is an outlet for stopping terrorism, but under that logic, we should ban white people for acts of terrorism as well.
With the amount that Trump has been in the news this year, it didn't even surprise me to see him on TIME's shortlist in December. He's arguably made a remarkable difference in both the Republican party and the election as a whole.
It's still difficult to swallow the fact that the media often ignores the influence of other candidates, but provides Trump with platform after platform to dominate the media in the wake of his horrific proposed ban against Muslims in the United States.
I can't go a single day without hearing about another of Trump's offensive comments or policies, but it's rare that I hear anything specific about Sanders, Clinton, Carson or any of the other candidates unless I actively search for it. Meanwhile, news of Trump's encounter with a feisty bald eagle goes viral.
When Trump first announced his candidacy, I laughed out loud. The idea of Trump as president was so ridiculous that even The Simpsons had already parodied it in 2000.
I'm not laughing anymore. I'm in complete agreement with the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK. When Trump announced his proposed new policy against Muslims, I shared the article on social media with the caption, "I propose a ban on Trump!" It was meant as a joke, but this isn't a parody now. Media outlets won't stop covering Trump, and we need to stand with petitions like these to fight for what's right.
I'm not arguing that the media should stop the presses and not cover timely, breaking news about Trump's latest offensive policy or sexist comment. Journalism exists to inform people of what's going on, nationally and on a global scale. However, media outlets are also influenced by what's trending, what people are listening to and talking about, and what people are willing to pay money for. As individuals, we have the ability to influence what's covered.
If we want Trump's coverage in the media to be negative, and we want to see more #TrumpIsDisqualifiedParty trending on social media and less celebration of Trump's anti-Muslim discrimination, we're the ones who can make it happen. We may not have control over all forms of media, but we do have some control, especially online. We have purchasing power in terms of what we click on, what we buy at the newsstand, what we tune into on television and what we share on social media. We can write essays about why Donald Trump isn't fit for the presidency. We can trend the candidates we do support on social media, for positive reasons rather than the overwhelming controversy surrounding Trump.
If we want to push back against media outlets covering Trump's Islamophobic, racist policies, and we want to stand up for coverage of the issues that we believe in and stand behind, we need to make it happen. In the wake of the growing discrimination, the most important action we can all take is to be a strong ally to Muslim community members around us, all while pushing for the media to cover this issue.
If you see a Muslim person, or anyone who might be seen as Muslim, being harassed in any way, intervene. If you can't intervene, call for help immediately. If you use public transportation or see Muslim community members in public, don't shy away from them. Look them in the eyes. Sit next to them on the bus. Say hello. If you have any Muslim colleagues, classmates, peers, friends, family members, check in with them and ask how they're doing. Tell them that they have your support and solidarity. Call out any hate speech and discrimination when you see it, especially if you think the person doing it may not know a Muslim. Read and share articles about Muslim community members who are defying the intolerance. Write essays and articles about how horrific the rhetoric has been against Muslims, and don't be afraid to show that you stand on the side of the Muslim community. Use your privilege as a platform to support Muslims who may not have the ability to speak up without fear of violence.
I'm sick and disgusted by the amount of hate rhetoric I've witnessed toward the Muslim community lately, and I think it's crucial to use my place of privilege to stand as an ally. Last year, I stood among a room of participants who wore hijabs for a day, as encouraged by the Muslim community organization on campus. Initially, I'd worried the event was appropriative, but it was hosted by the Muslim student organization, and the event coordinator was a Muslim woman. She explained that she wanted non-Muslim students to have the chance to experience even a fraction of what Muslim students that wear hijabs go through on a daily basis. The saying goes, when it comes to oppressed and marginalized groups, "Nothing about us without us." The Muslim student community wanted us to wear hijabs for a day, so we could understand that it's not the hijab that oppresses Muslim women, but the discrimination they face from others.
I listened as my Muslim classmate recalled the many times she had been harassed and even threatened for wearing her hijab to class, and even sneered at by professors. My stomach was in knots as I thought about the struggles she was facing, but I knew it to be an opportunity—to join the fight as an ally, and to never back down when I witnessed discrimination.
It may have been TIME's choice to include Trump as a finalist, but it's my choice to include the Muslim community as a loved, included and accepted part of society. I'll make that choice every day until the fight for equality is over.