When I was house-hunting earlier this year, there were many factors that were important to me in finding the right place. Aside from the budget, I wanted to live in a neighborhood that was culturally diverse. Being ready to plant roots and start a family, I wanted to buy in an area that would welcome the opportunity to be around the type of diversity I grew up with.
I settled in a subdivision that’s rapidly developing and changing. As I was moving in, I became cordial with a particular set of neighbors; a family across the street who are of Middle Eastern descent and a white family who have a few kids. Next door to me is a middle-aged white couple with a son in his 20s.
Nothing felt out of the ordinary until one day the couple’s son had a group of friends over who all were wearing Make America Great Again t-shirts and hats. I’d heard earlier that day that Donald Trump was at a nearby high school. I’d actually wanted to go to the rally because I’d held exercise boot-camps at that very high school but to my surprise, the traffic was crazy. (Despite the metro suburbs of Washington DC being progressive, Loudoun County is partially why Virginia was a close call on Election night.)
When I got home from work, I was met with one of the friends blocking my driveway. After asking him nicely to move, I heard him snicker and mumble “they let black people live out here now too?”
I was used to blatant racist remarks like that. I didn’t say anything since it wasn’t a big enough deal to address in the moment. However, Election Night has given Trump supporters like him a level of arrogance and hubris that suddenly feels different in its delivery.
Once Florida and Ohio was called in favor of Trump, I knew it was over. I didn’t go home Tuesday night. Not because I feared for my life or safety. I didn’t want my disappointment and displeasure to be turned outward. I wanted to be able to channel my energy into something productive. I wanted to educate myself on what I could do when the tears finally stopped flowing.
When I finally returned home Thursday, that same neighbor’s father’s came outside as I pulled up and said, “hey buddy, thought we might have sent you running back to the hood.”
This time, the remake was said with a sneer. It felt like he was mocking me, baiting me to say something back. I was seething because a huge part of me knew he wanted a reaction from me. And the other part of me couldn’t understand why and how I suddenly had become a target.
The way I’ve come to view Donald Trump becoming president is that certain white people feel like they’ve finally taken back power. They feel they’ve fulfilled the manifest destiny he’s been preaching for the last two years. Perhaps some feel vindicated in their hate because it’s an extension of the political process—however antiquated it may be. To further assert that power is to intimidate those who they believe to be powerless. In this case, the statistics have shown that white women and white men overwhelming voted for Trump. Anyone who’s not that is subject to harassment of varying degrees.
I’m experiencing it in my own neighborhood. I’m going to guess that Middle Eastern family across the street has as well. About 25 minutes from my house, a man made national news using intimidation tactics at a polling station that are not illegal but scary to some nonetheless. So far, people in Oakland have been shot at an anti-Trump protest. A black student in Texas was escorted by over 100 classmates after another student allegedly shoved her stating “I’m just trying to make America great again”. While Trump has begun to fill his Cabinet positions with known political malefactors and pariahs, he has not once encouraged his followers to stop their violence or attacks against peaceful protesters.
As for my Trump-supporting neighbors, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to handle dealing with them. Thankfully, I often work late so by the time I come home, they’re settled in for the night. However, I refuse to hide or shrink myself so that they can feel puff their chests out for the next four years. If his supporters expect us to give Trump a chance—which I think is fundamentally ridiculous—they have to first understand that they were sold a dream too.
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