Voices: Reacting to Trump | ‘Trump has emboldened those who hold racist values’ USA TODAY FEATURE

Following the unexpected election of Donald Trump, the country is at a turning point. The Democratic policies that have guided the nation for so long will inevitably be replaced, and the nation will struggle to confront some its biggest issues, amid vast party divisions.

As an African American college student, there are several implications of a Trump presidency that I’m personally grappling with.

When I was 11 years old growing up in Connecticut, I watched on T.V. as President Obama, black like me, was inaugurated to the highest office in the land. Inside of me, hopes of mended race relations grew, and I believed that our country had finally come to terms with its flawed past.

As a 19 year-old, I can’t help but be disappointed and afraid that we’ve elected Donald Trump. I believe it says something troubling about our character. That as a country, there are still dangerous sentiments we harbor, which divide us.

Donald Trump’s presidency raises questions about the status of race relations in the United States. The election of Trump — a racist, bigot and xenophobe — is in spectacular juxtaposition with the election of the first African American president.

Related: #StudentsTalkTrump

Trump, who received the endorsement of leaders of racist organizations and people, including David Duke of the KKK and Rachel Pendergraft of the Knight’s Party, does not bode well for racial tensions in the country. His election has evoked intolerance, and instances of racially fueled violence have been reported.

For the minority community, Trump’s election is troubling. The last eight years showed us that success and the American dream weren’t esoteric to people who weren’t colored or gay or poor. However, Trump’s election is a harsh reminder that we as a people still have a long way to go.

I feel saddened for the members of our communities who feel disenfranchised by Trump’s election — for our Hispanic and black and gay friends and family who feel that their voices will matter less for the next four years.

Early on in Trump’s candidacy, there were signs that his campaign would be one fueled by groups of Americans who felt that Trump justified their racism. In August of 2015, following Trump’s brash comments about Mexicans, two men from Boston attacked an elderly Hispanic man, and were reported shouting “Donald Trump was right. … All these illegals need to be deported.” Trump responded by calling those attackers “passionate.”

The recent election has not only emboldened these attacks, but has made them more frequent.

In Royal Oak, Mich., the Detroit News reported that chants of “Build that wall” erupted in a middle school lunchroom. In North Carolina, it has been reported that the KKK will plan a rally to celebrate Trump’s election.

Trump’s failure to condemn the racist actions and comments of those who support him demonstrates that racial progress will take a back seat in his presidency.

Evidently, President-elect Trump has emboldened those who hold racist values. His election threatens to undo the achievement of President Obama, who eased racial tensions, and worked to hold the country together following racially motivated violent events such as the shooting in Ferguson.

I believe that a generation of American students poised to elevate America to new heights of tolerance and acceptance has been set back by the election of Trump. As racist events spread across the nation, I fear that the progress we’ve made as a people will be undone. The divides that we worked to repair over the last eight years might be torn open again when we are faced with an ideological or race issue that challenges our unity.

I believe that these next four years will be a test of our ability to defend paramount values as a country, among these that no man or woman shall be limited by their race, gender, orientation or class.

I, and many other students, are waiting to see what a Trump presidency means for our progress as a people.

Hillary Clinton said it best: “We owe him an open mind.” In the coming weeks and months, I am optimistic that the country will come together and overcome the differences that have divided us so severely.


Originally published at college.usatoday.com on November 21, 2016.

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