One of my best friends teaches English at a community college located in one of the Rust Belt-like towns along the Connecticut River, where good-paying industrial jobs long ago vanished overseas. Her students are working class and poor strivers. Many are immigrants. These several dozen students are white, black and brown. Most of them are the first in their families to receive any amount of post-high school education.
She and I spoke on one of the days following Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton. What she told me was almost unbelievable — except in this moment when it is all too true.
My friend explained that most of her students were uninterested in politics until they realized what #Donald Trump and his policies would do to people like them. Now they are terrified and scared. But there is one student in her class who was happy. He is white and working class. My friend told me how he sits in the corner of the room with apparent contempt on his face whenever the class discusses racism or sexism. During one of the days after Trump’s election he demanded to talk in class about the outcome. But the class was doing something else and my friend asked him to be quiet. This angered him.
He stood up, taking off his belt and then putting it on her desk. Smiling, with a mix of threat and joy, he announced that “We won!” His point was made: This is “his” country — and by extension (at least in his mind) his classroom — now and again. For this angry young white man, America’s natural order of things had been restored with the election of Donald Trump.
There have been many such instances in the days and weeks after Election Day. Unfortunately, a good number have escalated from mere words to serious threats and acts of physical violence. For example, an 8-year-old black child had his arm broken as he tried to defend his 4-year-old sister from white children who taunted and assaulted them.