By Jared I. Boone
Like many students on campus this past Tuesday night, I anxiously sat on my couch watching the election results pour in from across the country. In the company of friends, I predicted that the race between Secretary Clinton and Donald would be far closer than the political pundits predicted. However, as polls began to close in several key states, it became apparent to me that Donald had not only exceeded expectations but also that he actually had a chance to win.
To say that I am disappointed in the outcome of this election is a massive understatement. In the year 2016, just eight years after the election of the nation’s first black president, I genuinely believed that a campaign in which the Republican Party’s nominee denigrated Mexican immigrants, proposed a ban on “Muslim” immigrants entering the country, and was accused of sexual assault by at least 12 women could not have possibly achieved the highest office in the land. Nonetheless, last night I was proven wrong. America chose to allow hate to trump love, all in the name of bringing America back to an arbitrary form of “greatness.”
As an African American male, Donald’s call to “Make America Great Again” offends me on many levels. Taking his call at face value, one can understand how such a phrase can serve as a rallying cry for millions of Americans as we seek to fully rebound from the Great Recession and to protect our citizens from the threat of terrorism both at home and abroad. However, Donald’s cry is truly not about patriotism. In fact, I believe it is a clear dog whistle intended to incite fear in a specific group of citizens who believe that an increasingly more inclusive and drastically less white America is leaving them behind. In essence, I would argue that the perceived threat to white supremacy in American society has fueled Donald’s campaign and has ultimately won him the Presidency.
Nevertheless, let’s not fool ourselves. While I am sure many students at Holy Cross have respectfully disavowed Donald and his rhetoric, there are also students here who chose to look past his demagoguery and to embrace the so-called patriotism he espouses at campaign rallies in the name of loyalty to the Republican Party and/or in opposition of Secretary Clinton. I find this to be both deeply troubling and offensive, if not deplorable. As a student at Holy Cross, a Jesuit liberal arts college that seeks to build a community “marked by freedom, mutual respect, and civility,” I respect the right of my peers to vote for whomever they please. However, I consider a vote for Donald to be a direct insult to my humanity and citizenship, not to mention that of our Latino, LGBTQIA, Muslim, and female peers at the College.
To put things into perspective, this past February, David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was quoted as saying a vote against Donald can be considered “treason to your heritage.” On Wednesday morning, Duke tweeted “This is one of the most exciting nights of my life, make no mistake about it, our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!” Across the nation, the leaders of the Klan and many of its members have removed the white sheets from their heads and are now boldly donning “Make America Great Again” hats instead. Walking around campus on Wednesday, seeing my peers wearing the same hats, I could not help but to see the similarity between the two. In all, I would argue that a vote for Donald cannot be mutually exclusive from the relationship between his white supremacist rhetoric and the support he received from the former Grand Wizard of the KKK.
Although none of my friends have confessed to me that they voted for Donald, I can’t help but wonder how many people I know who quietly support his candidacy and yet nominally disavow his capability to be a leader for all Americans. This experience, while I hope for it to have far less potential for violence and psychological trauma, is similar in some ways to that of African Americans who lived their daily lives not knowing the difference between the bus driver during the day and the klansmen who terrorized them at night. I believe that Donald has pulled the band-aid off of the wound that is American “race-relations” and has exposed once-suppressed prejudices and emotions.
In spite of it all, I still choose to remain hopeful for this country and the future of our democracy. While, in many ways, this election has brought out the worst in our political discourse, it has also provided us with an opportunity to heal the wounds that divide us so deeply. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that if there is any generation capable of transforming our politics, it is ours.