Donald Trump walked out of the White House this morning and waved to cameras. What did we just go through?
Nearly five years ago I wrote a story called, Donald Trump Is The Most Dangerous Man In America. I didn’t want to be right.
It was before he actually secured the republican presidential nomination, when it was becoming clearer and clearer that he could actually win. If you remember, there we many of us who didn’t take him seriously when he began his bid for the presidency. So many of us wrote him off as a washed-up reality TV star. It was only until after his campaign promises came to light that we realized how dangerous he really was. He was proudly showcasing the ugliness most people had been forced by polite society to hide. But he wasn’t a member of polite society. He was someone who grew up with a silver spoon that allowed him to show exactly who he was without repercussions. And that behavior had served him his entire life.
“In August of 2015, two men invoking Trump beat up a homeless man while making anti-immigration statements,” I wrote. “From CNN, ‘Donald Trump was right,’ the two men said, according to police, as they beat the man with a metal pipe and then urinated on him. ‘All these illegals need to be deported.’” We knew who he was emboldening back then. He showed us.
In November of 2015, after a protestor yelled Black lives matter! during a Trump rally, Trump stopped his speech and made a plea: “Get him the hell out of here, will you please?” Trump supporters then punched and kicked the protestor, even choking him at one point. When Trump was asked about the assault he said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up. It was disgusting what he was doing.” We knew how he felt about Black bodies back then. He showed us.
At an August 2015 Trump rally in Alabama, two supporters screamed White Power! after one of Trump’s particularly xenophobic speeches about building a “Mexican wall” to keep immigrants south of the border. We knew how he felt about people with brown skin trying to escape their turmoil for a better life. He showed us. We had no idea at the time it would lead to Brown children being ripped from their parents’ arms in United States custody.
In 2015 I wrote, “The special thing about Trump, and why his followers are so devoted, is because he says all the things such a huge percentage of the population has been just dying to say for decades. The only thing that’s stopped those people is the fear of being a social pariah, because before Donald Trump coined it ‘anti-political-correctness’ we just referred to it as “racism,” and it wasn’t en vogue. Before Trump coined “Make America Great Again,” we just referred to it as xenophobia — or a fear of people who don’t look like you. It’s painfully clear what ‘Make America Great Again’ means to Trump and his supporters: make it as white and as Christian as possible.
“His numbers keep climbing. That is terrifying. The reality of Trump possibly getting the Republican presidential nomination means that nothing about this man is funny anymore: not his hair, not his stupidity, not his arrogance — nothing. Those funny Trump memes, the cats with the Trump wigs, and all the other jokes we make about this man are masking the simple truth that he’s becoming the most dangerous man in America.”
I didn’t want to be right.
I didn’t know when I wrote that the 2016 election would go the way it did. I didn’t know I’d travel to the polls, hope-filled, with my young daughter that morning — certain I was voting for the first female president. I didn’t know that hours later I would go to bed defeated before the election was called. I didn’t know I would wake up at 4am, pick up my phone, and see Trump’s faced projected on the Empire State Building, with the words “winner.” I didn’t know I’d burst into tears. I didn’t know I’d return to those tears for months after.
I’m not going to recap every horrific thing we’ve been through since Trump was elected. But we were in a different space then — a space where people who look like me, white, could effectively go about life pretending that we didn’t know we lived in a country so steeped in racism that a has-been reality star could rise through the ranks and hold the most powerful office in the land just because he was willing to show his true colors — unashamed of his filth. He was proud of his ignorance. He shunned all the things we expect from someone in power in favor of showing us that he could be who he was and no one could stop him because there were so many like him.
Well it’s impossible now to ignore that white women lifted Trump up and secured the majority of his votes, repeatedly. It’s impossible to ignore that so many people are willing to sacrifice decency to protect their wallets. Over 70 million people voted for Trump. These aren’t all people beating up homeless people and shouting racist expletives. They’re our neighbors. They’re teachers. They’re police officers. They’re Senators.
I’m filled with hope today, once again, watching our first female VP being sworn in, and filled with hope that she’s a woman of color. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Trump exit the White House for the last time. But pretending that this alone will fix all the wounds in this country would be naive. We’ve been shown the worst of this country and we can’t pretend we never saw it. We have to be actively anti-racist. We have to turn out for local elections. We have to demand more from our school districts. When the inauguration wasn’t mentioned to my children in their NY school at all this week, I emailed the principal, superintendent, and a list of teachers this morning to share resources to send to parents to allow their kids to participate. We need to stay awake. But more than that, we need to realize how complicit we’ve been and vow to change. There’s so much work to do.
The most dangerous man in America doesn’t become the most dangerous man in America without a hell of a lot of people helping him get there.
Those of us who’d never consider themselves supporters included.
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