November 21, 2016

8 Reasons Writing About Trump Has Been Extremely Difficult For Me

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What is the issue?
Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore

I have seen countless news stories about people fearing for their personal safety, people who have become victims of harassment and assault, young students chanting bigoted rhetoric to classmates of color, and blatant hatred written on the walls of buildings and school bathrooms. This is what America looks like under President-elect Donald Trump. People are legitimately afraid and rightfully saddened. I’ve wrestled with whether or not to write about Trump since the election for several reasons and I often found myself at a loss for words as I thought about the topic.

Like so many in America, I literally felt numb in the days following election night. I didn’t think that kind of reaction was possible, but it happened and despite the echoes from Trump supporters to ‘get over it’, my feelings are valid and I won’t be told otherwise. This was the most historic, vile, outrageous election our nation has ever seen. The worst has been brought out in people and the true colors and feelings of so many Americans have shown that racism, bigotry, and sexism still thrive throughout our country. It is truly upsetting and while I’m glad that the election is over; my faith in the best of humanity has been altered.

Some of my friends and family members may not speak to me for a while – if at all – after reading this

I live in California, but I am originally from Florida – a primarily republican state. That fact makes it natural that I have many friends and family who are Trump supporters. They voted for him and they voiced it proudly. I know that many of them would do nearly anything for me if I asked and I know that the majority of them are not inherently racist; nor are they bigots, sexists, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant, intolerant people like the media has made all Trump supporters out to be. They’re people who, like Hillary supporters, felt that Trump was the better option for America. I don’t fault them for that. What I question is why they stood silent as story after story arose of Trump inciting violent, racist, intolerant rhetoric at his rallies. Where they proudly posted “Trump train” or #MAGA status updates, they said nothing about the hateful uprising of his many other bigoted followers. As a mixed race woman of color in an all-white family, I would be lying if I said that didn’t have a deeply profound effect on me.

I am half white, but the world sees me as a black woman

In the third grade, I recall being told by a classmate that she couldn’t be friends with me, because her mother told her that it was disgusting for a white woman to have a black baby. I didn’t fully understand it then, but I understood enough to know that I was experiencing a type of discrimination that ran deep beyond that little girl’s mother. It was the kind of discrimination that trickled down through years of conditioning where young white people were programmed with the notion that whites are superior. It’s the same kind of programming that has come out of hiding with so many Trump supporters – not all – but many. How am I supposed to feel when I know that millions of people in our country have supported a man who has incited such rhetoric? It is difficult not to be upset when so many people came out of the woodwork to express their inherently racist, sexist intolerant beliefs under the guise of Making America Great Again. Van Jones said that Trump’s election to the Whitehouse “was a white-lash against a changing country” and sadly, the stories of harassment and assault against minorities since the election have supported his statement.

Trump’s campaign gave rise to a new wave of racism

I understand wanting change, but I don’t understand all of the hatred that has risen as a direct result of his rhetoric. Whether or not Donald Trump is a racist – he manipulated and rode a wave of those who are and that is even worse. In my experience, racism has always been indirect – from the girl who repeated her mother’s words to me in the third grade to the pretty white “friend” I had in college, who rolled up her windows while stopped at an intersection in a black neighborhood, as she practically sang the words “negro crossing” in a melodic tone. No one ever said anything to me that was directly racist, but that’s not to say I haven’t experienced racism. In all honesty, indirect and even systematic racism is worse, because so many people don’t truly understand or recognize it, as often it is disguised as a stereotype that people don’t question. It’s rooted in generations of conditioning that affect the attitudes and opinions of one class of people by another. It’s the belief that certain types are better than others, because of who wrote the history books. It’s the kind of racism that the Trump campaign thrived on.

I worry for the equality we have achieved

The poor behavior of every white man who has spewed racial slurs, committed sexual assault, and incited violence against anyone whom didn’t share their beliefs including culture, religion, or gender has been justified by the behavior of Donald Trump. And I don’t buy his insincere statement on 60 Minutes, telling supporters to “stop” harassing minorities. For the first time, the LGBT community truly has a voice and people are listening, whether they want to or not.

Women are speaking out against gender inequality whether people think it’s relevant or not. The black community is speaking up whether the rest of America wants to hear it or not. Groups of people who make up large portions of the American population are using their voices with far less fear than they would have 100 years ago and somehow that has become a threat to the “American way.” People want to take their country back, but what does that mean? For those that want to “Make America Great Again” I ask, what isn’t great about equal rights?

I am concerned about the family I’ve chosen

My husband is a black man. He is also an immigrant among a family of immigrants. My husband is lucky though, because he has an easy way of finding common ground with even the most difficult people, so I know he has the ability to de-escalate potentially negative situations. He may never experience the xenophobic language where he is told to go back to his own country, because he doesn’t have an accent. However, others in his family very well could. I’m talking about people who immigrated from a third world country to have a better life. These are people who pay their taxes and give back to their communities, but as a result of the hatred and negativity that arose from the Trump campaign, they could very well experience the type of ignorant harassment that we’ve already seen in the news since the election. It saddens me that this kind of fear has been validated.

Trump ran a campaign on the slogan “Make America Great Again.” America is a country where anyone – literally anyone who has a dream and the drive to make it a reality can succeed. I have friends who came from very little that have created entire brands for themselves and now they want for nothing – other than to help people achieve the same kind of greatness that they have. My husband’s family started with nothing and they raised intelligent, capable human beings who are thriving in a society where people are constantly told: you have to do better and be better if you want to succeed. They are proof that America is already great so when I hear the expression “Make America Great Again” I can’t help but question exactly what that means.

I know what it’s like to experience sexual assault and abuse

Donald Trump winning the Presidential election has given validation to the bad behavior of every man who has ever committed an act of injustice toward another person. His victory sends a message to every man who molested, sexually assaulted and took advantage of me as a child and a young teenager that their actions were okay. It tells the abusers of other women and girls that their actions are okay, because “you can do whatever you want – grab ‘em by the p*ssy.” It tells those men that consent doesn’t matter.

Some may say I am playing the victim card here, but I want to be very clear: I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor. I am a survivor who fights nearly every day to overcome the trauma that my abusers inflicted upon me and I know that I’m not alone. There are millions of women like me who have been triggered by the incidents that have arisen from this campaign. Unless you’ve ever been a victim of sexual assault or had your body taken advantage of when you were too young to fully understand and properly consent to the things that were happening, then there is no way you could ever understand the wounds that have been re-opened for women across America.

Hillary wasn’t my first choice

The truth is that Hillary was never my first choice. When she first stated she was running for President I thought something along the lines of ‘Cool, Hillary for President – go her.’ The prospect of a woman President was pretty awesome to me, but I didn’t think too far into it, because it was so early on in the game when she made the announcement. However, when Bernie Sanders appeared on the scene I was quick to ‘feel the Bern.’ For myself and millions of other Americans, he was it.

Sure, Hillary would have been the first woman President, but as Ana Marie Cox recently put it “the first black president had to be a truly extraordinary person. He wasn’t just a good politician, he was an extraordinary person.” She continued to imply that maybe our first female president is also going to have to be an extraordinary person and maybe Hillary didn’t have those qualities. I certainly don’t disagree with that. Hillary has done some great things throughout her career, but she also has a lot of political baggage that has made it difficult for people to trust her, which was reflected strongly in this election.

Donald Trump doesn’t share your “values”

Over and over again, I’ve heard about American values in conjunction with ‘Making America Great Again.’ Once more, I ask: what exactly does that mean? Donald Trump has admitted that he hasn’t paid taxes in years; he’s taken advantage of small business owners, neglecting to pay them; he’s a narcissistic, habitual adulterer and misogynist, who thinks he can do whatever he wants to women’s bodies; and he sets a fantastic example on how to be an internet bully with his ridiculous middle-of-the-night tweets. He is a billionaire businessman who over and over has perpetuated the stereotype of using his position to get what he wants with no regard for anyone who might be in his way. Is this really what we want to teach our younger generations?

While Hillary may not be extraordinary, I want to know exactly what about Donald Trump is, because from where I sit, along with millions of other Americans, he is the most unqualified President-elect in American history. TC mark

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