By the time the sun rises on November 9, America will likely know whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president. But many of us will still be reckoning with some ugly realities about this country, and just how (un-) welcome we are here.
During this campaign, the Republican presidential nominee dispensed with “polite” dog whistles in favor of bolder bigotry. Donald J. Trump describes African America as an inner-city hellscape and “the blacks” as uneducated and unemployed. He spreads messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis on social media. He derides Mexican immigrants as criminals and Muslims as terrorists. He mocks journalists with disabilities like a schoolyard bully. He grabs women “by the pussy” and brags about it.
And it isn’t all bluster and bullshit; his policies and behavior back up his tough talk. In the 1970s, the candidate and his father were sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent to black people in violation of the Fair Housing Act. More recently, Trump has supported Stop and Frisk, a policing tactic ruled unconstitutional for unequally targeting black and brown men. He wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out and a database to track Muslims who get in. In recent weeks, a parade of women have come forward to share stories of alleged sexual harassment by the candidate.
Still, as of today, according to FiveThirtyEight, Donald Trump can expect to receive 45 percent of the popular vote. The American National Election Pilot Study revealed that the nearly half of American voters aligning with Trump have less favorable views of African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, feminists, and other groups, and are also more strongly motivated by race and racial identity.
“I am scared shitless,” one friend confided over Sunday brunch this week. She is a black woman, like I am. Like me, she lives in a deep red state. Trump/Pence signs dot my neighborhood. In fact, a man was handing them out in front of the county courthouse a few weeks ago when I went there to vote early. As I passed with my husband, a navy SUV slowed and a blond-headed boy in the passenger seat eagerly asked for one. Last week, on my commute home from work, groups with Trump banners and American flags hooted and hollered from each overpass along a five-mile stretch of the expressway.
It is chilling: The realization that so many of my fellow Americans, my neighbors, either cheerfully agree with Donald Trump’s contemptible opinion of me, as a woman and an African-American, or at least are willing to overlook it. It is not as if I ever thought American racism and sexism were dead. I have witnessed far too much of them. I simply thought they were less naked, that they had different limits. I never dreamed that half of American voters could shrug after hearing a man laugh about forcing himself on women or seeing a Klan-endorsed candidate post and delete tweets from a user named White Genocide™. In 2016.
Twenty-four hours from Election Day, polls show a race close enough to call into doubt America’s professed belief in melting pots and equality. Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign rooted in the country’s worst sins. The media loved it. Plenty of voters did, too. That should be a reminder to women, to people of color, and others that our freedom, rights, and well-being are not nearly as secure as we might imagine. No matter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, it won’t be truly over for us. Many of us will feel less safe, less welcome, and will struggle to find trust or connection with fellow citizens who so roundly rejected our humanity.