On February 29th, 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a rally at Radford University’s Dedmon Center. This is a letter to Mr. Trump following my experience of going to the rally.
Dear Mr. Trump,
When I heard the news that you were coming to our beautiful campus, I was extremely frustrated and disappointed. To be honest, I really just wanted Bernie Sanders to come to our little town.
Although I was angry that the one candidate I absolutely can’t stand was going to be holding a rally here, I wanted to go to the rally for the experience. After all, the closest I’ve ever gotten to a presidential candidate was in 2004 when George W. Bush and his caravan drove through Niceville, Florida. I was very young, only in elementary school. My parents took me to see his campaign bus drive through our town and I, obviously, had no idea what politics even were.
As I’ve grown, I’ve begun to identify closely with the democratic party, mostly because they’re the party that truly acknowledges social justice issues. So, of course, I would have preferred a democratic candidate stopping by my university.
But, alas, I wanted to attend the rally as I’ve seen many videos from your rallies in which protestors were both escorted and dragged out of the buildings. I also wanted to witness history. Hopefully many years from now we’ll look back and be amazed that you were even a candidate.
After a talk with my republican father, I decided to go into the rally with as open of a mind as I could muster. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket in time, which I didn’t even have to use because I was granted a press pass.
Walking down to the basketball stadium where your rally was to take place, my stomach began to turn. I overheard whispers of hate by your supporters. One supporter expressed his amazement that there were any minorities attending the rally, and he continued to speculate that they were only present to “cause trouble.”
As the rally began, your first speakers were very aggressive. The female speaker was by far one of the most eye-roll inducing. She brought her children up on the stage with her. One thing in particular that stood out to me was when she said, “look at all this diversity,” as she scanned the crowd. Ironically, the crowd was mostly made up of old white folks.
I noticed during the rally, a man wearing an airbrushed shirt with a caricature drawing of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary clinton. The two women were on their knees beside the president. The drawing of Obama was very similar to that of caricatures drawn in the times of Jim Crow, depicting black folks with large teeth and lips.
I continued to try to keep in mind that these were only your followers and not necessarily representative of your ideals. However, as you began speaking I realized that these followers of yours and their obviously racist ideals were largely inspired by you.
Early on in your rally, a young girl in the crowd stood up, shouted at you and ripped apart one of your paper signs. As she was walking down the bleachers to be escorted out of the building, you had the gall to ask, “are you from Mexico?” This just showed me your ignorance. In the wise, paraphrased, words of Gretchen Weiners, you can’t just ask someone if they’re from Mexico.
Moments after you said, “get her out of here,” about the first protester, a group of black Radford students stood up in silent protest and held each other’s hands in the air. As you pointed them out, the rest of the crowd quickly turned on the peaceful protestors. At this time, the protesters began to chant, “no hate!” As they left the building hand-in-hand, you made a point to say, “you’re only going to hear this once; all lives matter. All lives matter.”
The issue I take with the “All Lives Matter” movement is that it ignores one of the biggest issues our country has ever faced, and has faced for hundreds of years: racial inequality. To get through your thick skull the issue with “All Lives Matter,” I’d like to share with you an analogy.
Imagine there are four people sitting at a table. Three people at the table have a full plate, while Bob, the fourth person, has no food and is starving. Bob looks around and sees that everyone has food, while his plate is empty. Bob speaks up and says, “I deserve food too,” but before he can get the words out, everyone at the table shouts, “everyone deserves food!” While it’s true that everyone deserves food and that all lives really do matter, we can’t put a blanket over the issues we have and ignore them.
As the rally went on, a few other groups were escorted out of the building for heckling you. Fortunately there wasn’t any violence, besides a Time reporter who was choke slammed by a secret service agent.
Overall, no important issues were really discussed at the rally. Sure, you talked about your “Trump Wall” that you will never put between us and Mexico, and you promised Radford’s students “great jobs.” However, you never once laid out a real plan.
Just as many politicians do, you made promises with no plan to back it up. You simply said what the crowd wanted to hear, while also condemning other politicians and the press.
I truly wanted to walk away from that rally feeling some sense of security. I was hoping that you’d say something that would make me think, “this guy isn’t as crazy as I thought, maybe our country won’t be demolished if he becomes president.” Instead, I walked away feeling more fear than ever.
You see, Mr. Trump, it’s not you I’m afraid of. I would never be afraid of a small-minded little man like you. However, what you inspire in people is truly terrifying. When you have a rally, your best and brightest aren’t the ones who make up most of the crowd. Most of the crowd were old white folks whose idea of “make America great again” is going back to those Jim Crow times. To see the hate you brew up in large crowds and the anger in their eyes is what I’m really terrified of, and what kind of movements will be stirred up, should you be elected.
I apologize, Mr. Trump that I couldn’t walk away from your rally with anything positive to say about you. In my eyes, you’re nothing but a privileged white billionaire who can’t relate to the American people, aside from the racists who think you have “balls.” Nothing good can come out of you being elected.
You preach that you hate fear-mongers but you’re the epitome of a fear-monger. You use the already fearful to your advantage by telling them that illegal Mexican immigrants are coming to steal their jobs. Did you know, Mr. Trump, that there are more Mexican immigrants leaving the United States that are coming in?
Mr. Trump, if you are elected I hope that all the obviously racist things you’ve said turn out to be a part of a joke. I hope that your fear-mongering tactics and your lack of plans turn out to be a facade and that you’re actually, somewhere deep in your overly-tanned body, a decent human being.
A pissed off left-winger.