In 2012, my husband and I purchased our first home together in a quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhood in New Jersey. We were welcomed with warm wishes and congratulatory statements by our neighbors, complete with gifts of cookies and gift cards.
We hadn’t anticipated such a reception but as the days, weeks and months stretched into years, we look at our neighborhood and smile because we realize just how fortunate we were. We have hosted dinner parties to celebrate love and family; sometimes including just a few but always welcoming everyone. And it’s in that ideology that we cling to the thought that people, with all of their idiosyncrasies are inherently good…that we believe that we all matter and that each and every one of us has societal value.
But in the age of Trump, that ideology is rebuffed in the guise of patriotism and respect. In this last year, the America that I was born in has changed into something that I don’t recognize. I see this America through the lens of an African American, LGBTQ perspective…and it’s unsettling what I see if not downright terrifying.
In this America, the disdain for me is no longer hidden. Where at one time, I could walk in blissful ignorance of what some people think of me whether that opinion would be grounded in fact or not, I now no longer have that luxury.
I am a black man living in a world where I am responsible (at least in part) for another segment of the population’s problems. I am living in a world where somehow, it is my fault that some people aren’t getting ahead and in that, I am a threat. I am living in a world where my inalienable rights are regarded with suspicion and my very existence is to be questioned. I live with the knowledge that there are people that perceive me, my intellect and drive for success as a threat and as a result view me through a lens of fear, apprehension and distrust no matter how eloquently I speak.
What is sad in all of this is at the end of the day, no matter how many accomplishments I have under my belt, to some, I will still be just another “nigger.” And if that be the case, how dare I desire much less demand equal treatment. But here we are in 2018…a year that I thought would be so much more different than the turbulent 60’s, and yet, the discrimination that people of color endured in that time period has morphed into something that I thought had been packed away in emotional history books.
I wish that I could say in all good conscious that these issues had been greatly reduced before Trump and that he is just a symptom of the hatred that some white people had and may always have for people of color. But the truth of the matter is that Trump just provided a voice to tap into the anger of this demographic. This is a demographic that feels as if they were forgotten…that other people of various religions and ethnicities have been given preferential treatment to something that they felt entitled to. They are feeling the effects of financial struggling even if that struggle isn’t the same as the struggles that people have had to endure all their lives.
Trump has managed to tap into that anger and say the things that they secretly feel. He has given them the right to vent their anger even if the source of their anger has been misplaced. He has pointed the finger at people of color and different faiths and said that they were to blame for all of their problems.
Trump has to have an enemy and so do his followers, so they attack…and attack…and attack.
So what is it like being a person of color in Trump’s America?
I am on edge…and it’s like the pressure never stops. I feel like some white people look right through me instead of seeing me as a human being. I feel like people have made assumptions about me before they ever make eye contact with me and that they could care less what or that I feel.
I think about what I would do if I ever get pulled over by the police because I don’t know the mindset of the police officer and although I know that the likelihood that I would survive the altercation, a small voice inside of me isn’t so sure.
I watch the news and know that half the time, I am being lied to and that the press is under assault simply because they don’t heap glowing praise on a man who loves the press when they cover him favorably, but hates them when they don’t.
Patriotism is now equated with the men who decide to take a knee and protest police brutality being regarded as people who hate their country when no one questions or cares to address the reason why they are taking a knee in the first place.
People of color are referred to as “animals” on a regular basis…and day after day, we are reminded that what is important to us is not as important as the issues that the average Trump supporter has to endure if we even matter at all.
People that seek asylum here looking for a safe place to raise their children are now separated from their children…some of those children to this day have not been heard from again because they are not seen as people…and we all know that it is easier to place less value on a human life if you don‘t see that life as human to begin with.
But mostly, it’s the resurgence of the word, “nigger” that is being used with such commonality that you have to wonder if it was ever socially unacceptable to say it. I say this because there are those that feel emboldened to say the things that they once used to keep to themselves because the leader of the free world has convinced them that it is okay to be this way because once again, I am to blame for their problems.
I am not seen as a human being. I am from a “shithole” country or I have no value because somehow, I am branded as a drug dealer because I drive a nicer car. Nothing that I do can be deemed as legitimate because I am viewed as not being legitimate. And then there is being part of the LGBTQ community.
I am part of an inter-racial relationship and in that, some people will assume that if we are out together that he will be paying for dinner and will be mildly surprised when I place my credit card on the table.
Indeed, even when I am doing all the right things, I will never be given the credit nor the benefit of the doubt that I am forthright, intelligent and honest because somehow, those qualities are not reserved for me or people that look like me.
Because this is Trump’s America…and in that, only the Trump supporters matter.
~ J.L. Whitehead