The Ugly American

by Myliyah Hannah

 

On a Tuesday of last semester, as I walked from class to work, I was paused by the collection of bodies outside of Old Cabell Hall. As students and adults sat on the steps, they listened to the words of one of my favorite instructors, Professor Maurice Wallace. I later learned from a GroupMe notification that he and the renowned Lady T were giving a Teach-In about the election results. I listened to him for about ten minutes before I had to part for work, but amongst the prolific things he spoke about one word stood out to me. In reference to the hatred created in Trump’s campaign, he described it as an “endorsement.”

Truly, I could not have thought of a better word.

As a Black woman, I’ve stuck to my rationale, my knowledge and my sense of self to make it through the election. I said Donald Trump was not going to become president because his demagogic rhetoric did not align with American values. I believed he would not become president because we, as a people, would not let this happen. Then I found myself awake in a reality in which he decided his chief strategist would be the alt-right Steve Bannon and the amount of racist incidents have increased at an alarming rate since he won the election.

From the start of his campaign, beginning from his announcement of running for the presidency, his strategies have relied on divisive language and fear to endorse himself as the proper candidate. He has painted himself as the man that’s going to “make America great again,” as if he walked door to door to his voters and managed to sell them a get-rich-quick scam. A businessman at heart, Trump has relied on fear tactics and a corrupt persuasiveness to earn the right’s trust and their votes. He has called Mexicans rapists, he has received support from white supremacist leaders and organizations and has worked to continue the demonization of Muslims seeking refuge from war-torn countries. Regardless of whether Trump agrees with these people or not, his usage of the ugly American fear, the fear of difference and anything that isn’t white and male, to win the election has proven that the American heart does not care about its minorities. It has proven that we are expendable.

This is the America I despise and the America I fear. Perhaps it’s melodramatic, but right after the election I was set on edge and terrified because of the color of my skin. I wondered if I would end up a target on Grounds, if someone would harass me because I’m not white or male. The election of Trump was, as Van Jones put it, a “white-lash” to the country’s political standing for the last eight years. The election of Trump is the reveal of the heart of this country, the pulling back of the caked-on makeup and gimmicks: at the heart, whiteness has reminded us that it is still entwined in every political and social system created here. Systematic hatred is the blood that keeps this country going, and Trump’s election is a reminder of how it’s never gone out of style.
The reality is this: Trump has won the presidency. He was chosen by the electoral college electors. The House and the Senate are Republican majorities. I cannot say for certain what that will mean for the future of this country during the term of his presidency, but I can say certainly that this will be a tough four years. Even so, this is my country as much as it is yours, and, with that in mind, know that you have a voice that can challenge the American ugliness. Know that you can make a difference in this country, even if that difference is informing your classmate about something they didn’t know about before. Know that you matter. Choose to endorse the good that this country has and that we have seen. Remain informed and alert and believe in the ability of your Blackness to influence and change this world.