I Got a Taste of Trump’s America Way Before He Ran for President

My assistantship coordinator constantly portrayed me as a stupid brown person who learnt English on the plane.

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People protest on the University of Connecticut campus against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President on Wednesday, 9 November 2016. (Photo: AP)

As a foreign (read: brown) student and research assistant on a predominantly white campus, my first brush with Trump’s America happened very early. My assistantship coordinator would constantly single me out and direct hurtful and hateful comments at me. The sheer disrespect for my culture, skin colour, education, and feelings blew me away. My fully funded scholarship, besides an assistantship, did not deter her from constantly portraying me as a stupid brown person who may have learnt her English on the plane.

When I first heard Donald Trump speak on television, this discrimination flashed through my mind. It’s been eight years and that’s a long time but the experience refuses to leave my mind.

It is not Trump’s foreign policy or the lack of it, nor his economic plans for the country, and not even his politics that is the problem. It is his bigotry. It is the mind of a man who at every stage of his life and campaign insulted human beings because they were female, fat, Muslim, black, Jewish, latino or queer.

I am afraid of the leadership he has already given and will continue to give to this poisonous idea of segregation. His core strategy for this election has been fear. He effortlessly made it mainstream to call people names, insult them and behave like he had every right to do so. People who saw the world like my assistantship coordinator did would have been energised and relieved to have a representative who led them from the front.

Donald Trump did not create this idea of discrimination or segregation; it was always there. But now he has given wings to it. He has demonstrated that it is acceptable to be openly racist, and misogynist.

A day after the election, several cities across America got a glimpse of that fear. Universities and schools bore the brunt of it. Students of Royal Oak Middle School in Michigan reportedly chanted, “ Build the Wall. Build the Wall” to intimidate their latino peers. In New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, Muslim students found ‘Trump’ scrawled on the door of their prayer room.

(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)
(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)


(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)
(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)


(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)
(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)


(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)
(Screengrab: Tejeswi Pratima Dodda)

But just like I had a graduate director who stood up for me, apologised to me and gave a piece of his mind to my assistantship coordinator for her ignorance and racism, there is also an America that resists this bigotry. An America that wants to stand up to it. Students across high schools walked out of their classrooms shouting slogans of ‘Not my President’. College campuses held demonstrations showing solidarity with immigrants.

People on Broadway on 9 November 2016, in downtown San Diego, during a protest in opposition of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory. (Photo: AP)
People on Broadway on 9 November 2016, in downtown San Diego, during a protest in opposition of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory. (Photo: AP)

People in the streets from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and New York held protest marches demanding justice and acceptance. Some were peaceful, while others turned violent.

A few thousand protesters march through Library Mall from UW-Madison’s Bascom Hall to the State Capitol, protesting President-elect Donald Trump on 10 Nov 2016, in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo: AP)
A few thousand protesters march through Library Mall from UW-Madison’s Bascom Hall to the State Capitol, protesting President-elect Donald Trump on 10 Nov 2016, in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo: AP)

Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous poem from the Nazi era about indifference and the cowardice of people is a great reminder that it’s time to wake up and not look the other way anymore.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

(Tejeswi Pratima Dodda is a communications professional. She is passionate about social justice, gender and conflict.This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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