With everything going on in this country, especially over the last few days, a ball of discomfort kind of sits in your stomach at all times. You read these stories of racists, sexists, and abusers attacking Muslims, people of color, women, and the LGBT community, but you never really think about what it would be like to see it and feel it for yourself.
But when you are face to face with hatred, it changes you. Here is my story about my brush with the Trump Effect.
I am a white woman in my thirties, no religious preference, no outward afflictions that would scream to the world, “raving liberal,” and I keep to myself even when out and about in town. The Thursday after one of the most monumental and terrifying elections in history may not have been the time to go out in the South, but I’ve never been one to fold to fear.
I had a good day, excellent conversation, hugs and support for new and old friends facing the fears of an era run under tyranny and offense, and felt right where I needed to be. Not wanting to drive the two hours back home in the dark, I decided to leave in the early evening and grab some food on the way.
I drove down the highway thinking about the strategic conversations I had been involved in that day and felt comfortable knowing that the intense emotion of several days before was starting to recede and in its place was an army of people not willing to live their lives in fear.
I took an exit, as my gas light reminded me I can’t drive forever on fumes, and proceeded down a country road until the fields broke into a small community. I stopped for gas still lost in my thoughts, and parked next door at a chain fast food restaurant so that I could use the restroom and grab some food.
This was when I started to knock out the haze of revolution I was stuck and began realizing my surroundings.
I drove slowly through the parking lot, passing a large red truck with four white men sitting on the tailgate and resting against the sides of the vehicle. This didn’t cause me much alarm since I live in North Carolina and a truck full of white boys isn’t something that screams abnormal.
I got out of the car and straightened my dress and began to walk towards the door. As I stepped across the parking lot, I heard a whistle, but I ignored it and kept walking. I reached the curb when I listened to another voice call out:
“Hey don’t you hear me talking to you?”
I continued up the sidewalk and towards the door of the restaurant. Regardless of their intentions at that point, I was not interested in having this conversation. I reached for the door handle and paused as another voice rang out stating:
“Meh. Don’t you see her short haircut? She is probably one of those dykes anyways.”
Everything in my reaction made me want to turn to them and confront their ignorance, but I thought better of it, and went inside without a glance. I used the restroom, purchased some food and a milkshake, and headed back out to go to my car.
As I stepped off the curb, I looked up and saw one of the guys standing at the back of my SUV. A tinge of anxiety began to bubble up in my stomach. I walked towards him but kept my eyes towards the driver’s door.
He stopped me as I reached the edge of the car.
“Didn’t you hear me calling you? Don’t you know it’s not ladylike to ignore me?”
I turned toward him with a glare that stated I was not interested in his games. Noticing he didn’t seem to be bright enough to catch on, I sighed and asked:
“Don’t you think that my lack of response would mean that I am not in the least bit interested in talking to you?”
His chubby face twitched, and I could smell the mixture of dirt and booze emanating from his pores.
He ignorantly sputtered:
“You’re a fucking lesbian dyke.”
“Screw you,” I replied, and headed towards the driver door. I could hear him throwing more homophobic and sexist slurs my way, but I ignored them, and climbed into the car, locking the doors behind me.
I pulled out of the parking lot, noticing they had also pulled out but in a different direction, and I breathed deeply trying to calm myself down. Traffic was heavy on the Southbound side of the highway and cops were everywhere, but I was going North, and there were very few cars going my direction.
I took a drink of my milkshake and looked into the rearview mirror, and almost choked when I realized that the same red truck was behind me; so close I could see the driver’s expression in my rear-view mirror.
They swerved in and out, over and over again, and then pulled up next to me, keeping my pace.
I kept my eyes ahead, but could see someone in my peripheral, and I got nervous. I gripped the steering wheel and looked over at the truck. The same douche bag from before was kneeling in the seat, window down, exposing himself to me and laughing hysterically.
Almost without thought, I hit the roll down button on my window, grabbed my milkshake, and thrust it as hard as I could into the open window, and watched an explosion of Birthday Cake Milkshake. At that moment, blue lights went on in my mirror.
Although I just did something illegal, I felt relieved to see them.
The truck pulled up a ways in front of me and the police officer pulled in behind me. He came to my window and looked at me with irritation. He wanted to know what the hell was going on. I quickly told him the story, trying to get it out before the boys were approached. As I finished with the milkshake, I could see the officer begin to clench his teeth, and I looked forward out of my windshield, and gasped as the man barreled towards us.
I pointed forward at him. The officer, a young Black man, pulled his taser out and pointed it at the man yelling:
“Sir, you need to stop, turn around, and go back to your car. I will be there in a second.”
Several other cops had pulled up, and one larger, older man walked forward ahead of us and stuck his arm out, catching the guy in his chest. The officer at my window was breathing heavier, and he steadily pointed his taser at him. The angry man looked at us both and stated:
“Fuck you, Nigger! I will kill that fag and your black ass!”
My mouth dropped open, as the cop holding the guy back swept his legs out from under him, took him to the ground, and handcuffed him.
I sat in my car dumbfounded as I watched the police arrest all four men. The original officer asked me to follow him to the station, so I did, passing the cars where the people sat angrily in the back, handcuffed. Immediately after the lights faded and I was alone, driving fear hit my stomach, and I realized I was in a desperate situation.
To not drag on this story, the officer took me in to see his boss where I explained everything that happened.
This police officer was an older white man with a gray speckled mustache and tired eyes. He told me the boys were going to jail regardless, but asked me if I wanted to press charges.
I asked him if they would know my name and he nodded yes. I replied:
“No. Have you seen the world the last few days? I am scared.”
The officer shook his head, patted me on the shoulder, threw my paper in the garbage and walked me out the back door. He told me to be safe, and walked back inside. I wasn’t sure if that was necessarily the legal way to handle that, but I wasn’t going to wait around and see, so I jumped in the car and made my way back to the highway.
I drove home moving from scared to emotionally overwhelmed, and then back to quiet. The hate behind that man’s eyes was unbelievable. What made it even more unreal was the backdrop as he stood angrily on the side of the road.
His truck sat behind him, a huge Trump/Pence sign plastered in his window.
His hatred has always been there, but now he had fuel and boldness to push him over the edge.
Our country is in trouble, and Trump fans are blind to it. They’re only blaming Liberals for the protesting they are doing, and not seeing the hatred happening as well which only ads to the Trump Effect.
There is no doubt in my mind that in the coming days we will be faced with even more heinous instances of hate but it is important that we stand strong together, harness our bravery, and radiate our own sense of bold. Remember that you are not alone in this and when you feel scared, turn it into something more powerful, progress.
Featured Image Via Twitter