Guest Blog: Talking to Trump Supporters Following the Election
November 14, 2016
It’s been two days since the news of the election shook up America. And as I read that sentence again, without context, it may seem like the start of a tale filled with over reaction, however this time it’s not.
I sat up late on Tuesday night, into the hours of Wednesday morning and had trouble comprehending what I was seeing. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this man who has spoken out with such hatred and vitriol was about to be elected as our president of the United States. So I decide not to accept that reality for the night and go to bed.
Yesterday morning I woke up and I cried. I cried because I’m so scared of what this means for us as a nation and for me personally. The first thing I thought of is my trip to Wichita next week, where I’ll be surrounded by men for three days who all supported Trump. On each of these trips, I’m sexually harassed. Whether it’s from the guy who tried to rip my shirt off- that had a hole in the back I didn’t see – or the guy who propositioned me for a threesome with his girlfriend, or the guy who told me he only pays attention to me because my dress shows off my figure…I’m constantly surrounded by this behavior.
When I first started, I brushed it off. I said these men are harmless; they’re small town thinkers, or they don’t get out much. What I didn’t realize was that they aren’t harmless; their thoughts are reflections of deep-seated misogyny and the belief that women are objects. I can see that clearly now, as I see their elation in our President-elect and how they talk about his female opponent, Hillary Clinton.
My thoughts are all over the place with this: I’m hurt, I’m disappointed, I’m sad. I can’t believe we, as Americans, have let each other down. When I left for the airport yesterday morning, I was playing “The Sound of Silence,” and it was so fitting as the rain was coming down on my cab and I drove past so many people whose lives can potentially be flipped upside down in a few months.
I got on my flight still upset and just happened to sit next to none other than two of Trump’s district delegates…and they are PSYCHED. What a huge celebration for them, they won! White supremacy can continue to live on, oh happy day. So I decided to interject in their giddy talk and ask them about their candidate. Ask them what makes him so great to them, ask them how hard their lives truly were being white upper class males…
And we talked and talked and talked. I shared my thoughts and concerns, and asked them, as men who supposedly love their wives and daughters, how could they possibly vote for this man. I asked them when women’s reproductive rights are taken away, what are they going to do if their daughters, or wives or mothers are raped? I asked them if their daughters worked hard and if they believed they should be treated and paid the same as the men they worked with…of course they said yes, why wouldn’t they want their daughter to succeed. Then, slowly but surely, they started to understand what I was getting at….and they started bring up their candidate and how he isn’t the person he’s been portrayed as in the media and that none of the things he said were true. And I think what was really happening is that these men started to realize that some of the people they love may suffer from a decision they made solely based on their own interests…and it felt like progress..
It was at that exact moment I realized how sadly misinformed our society is. These men, both with incredible collegiate education backgrounds, were uneducated about the experiences of other people. They have lived in their white male bubble their entire life, they don’t understand why people would complain about not having money, or that they can’t get their welfare check, and on and on. And it’s because those things don’t exist in their reality. They have never faced discrimination, sexism, or other types of hardships, so it’s easy from that perspective to look at those people who have and say “Well I would just pick myself up by my bootstraps and deal with it.” Those sentences are easy to say when you have everything and nothing can touch you.
I then spent a day in Fresno with a woman from Texas who voted for Trump. And I listened to her. I wanted to know what was going on in her life that she, as a woman, felt compelled to listen to this man. And as she was speaking, it hit me again; the people who voted for him don’t even understand what they’ve done. They don’t understand life outside their bubble and it may be no fault to them. I know a lot of people who don’t understand the importance of interacting with those who are different than themselves and the importance of seeing other perspectives…this was something taught to me by my parents and instilled in me when I was very young.
I have had a lot of conversations with Trump supporters over the past few days and it has been eye-opening. I will never support the things this man stands for and I do think that there has always been an strong undertone of racism and sexism waiting to rear its ugly head and Trump has given that its day in the sun. However, I’ve realized after talking with this small group of people that they don’t understand, because they haven’t seen perspectives outside of those who are exactly like them. But most importantly, I learned that this is easy to persuade and change. After speaking with thie woman, telling her that the problem with our society is that people don’t realize the impact their vote has on other people, and we have a responsibility as Americans to look out for other people and not just ourselves…she started to get it.
As upset and disappointed as I am about the election outcome, I’m starting to see hope. I’m starting to see hope in the fact that I have access to people I can have these conversations with. Even if it’s one out of every fifty people I speak with, I have the opportunity to invite them to open their eyes and hopefully show them a perspective they would have never thought of on their own, and in their own communities. If anything, these past few days have lit a fire underneath me, showing me that my voice is just as powerful as theirs and I have the chance to make a real difference.
As Gloria Vanderbilt said “I have inside of me this image of a shining rock hard diamond, and no matter what happens to me…nothing can get at or crack.”
My diamond will continue to shine, and I will make it shine into others.
I am going to continue to speak the Nasty Women gospel of peace, love, equality and acceptance.
Kate Lewicki is a friend of NETWORK and a “Nasty Woman Prophet.”