What you EXPECT is not to get roughed up, Thomas Fox, regardless of why you’re there.
The question (in the screenshot above) was posed by (what appears to be) a young person named Thomas Fox in a YouTube comment section showing the young woman, Shiya Nwanguma, being shoved and cursed at during a Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m not sure which is worse: that a young person like Thomas Fox just accepts that shoving Shiya, who is a 19 year old University of Louisville student, during a crowded rally is acceptable and even expected, or that the YouTube video where I read his comment is seemingly proud (?) that a senior citizen veteran is one of the “shovers.” If that old guy with the white shirt (UPDATE: Korean War Veteran Al Bamberger from Indiana) was my father, husband, grandfather, or neighbor, I’d be mortified and disgusted. Definitely not proud.
Both ends of the age spectrum are deeply troubling. This type of thing keeps happening at Trump rallies. We the people need to be (a lot) more upset about it, because it’s not going to get better as Trump becomes more entrenched, and potentially so insulated from the chaos he is causing that he fails to speak out against it. The overt racism and hatred being spewed by Trump supporters, whose seeds have been sown within and throughout the GOP, are abhorrent to me as a mother, a woman, an American, and most importantly, as a human being.
As I’ve written before, we are all, every single one of us, from Africa. We are all related (to each other), we are all the same. Not metaphorically speaking, either. Literally. I suggest that for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, they click this link and watch this short video which talks about all of us being cousins. The bottom line is that if (imagine this for a moment) evil aliens from outer space began to attack our planet and tried to kill us off (which we sort of deserve) so they could have the Earth’s resources, wouldn’t we, all of a damn sudden, feel pretty much united as a species? Wouldn’t external, artificial differences, like religion, politics, ethnicity, education, skin color, etc., all of a sudden fall away? The answer is that they should.
Unless you believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old (in which case, you’re probably not reading these words anyway), you simply must understand that we are all not only from Africa, but we are all stardust. Again, literally. Scientists have also come to know that the stuff in your left hand probably comes from a different exploding supernova than the stardust in your right hand. In fact, we are all made up of basically the same stuff (because it’s strewn throughout the universe), all living (respirating) things are – with some of it arranged differently along different parts of our DNA (massive oversimplification, but you get my point). We all have the same evolutionary history. Here’s a YouTube video, which is only about 2 minutes long, which blasts through 3.8 billion years of evolution.
Back to Trump.
I suspect that deep down, Donald Trump finds racism abhorrent and unseemly. When reports surfaced that Trump’s own father, Fred Trump, had been arrested in 1927 during a brawl that erupted in New York during a KKK parade (link here), Donald Trump said the whole thing was rubbish, that it did not happen, that it would never have happened. But it did. No one’s surprised that he’s lying. He can’t even get the facts straight from what happened on September 11th, so it’s almost as if no one expects him to tell the truth anyway.
In response to Thomas Fox’ statement at the beginning of this post in which he not only implied, but flatly stated, that Shiya should have expected to be attacked when attending Trump’s Louisville campaign rally, the gentlest thing I can say is that he’s not even in the country code of being right. And in some ways, I was once “Shiya.” I’ve mentioned this here, but I’ll do so again.
I attended a Louis Farrakhan rally at the LA Forum in Inglewood when I was in college. It was 1985. I was an undergraduate student at USC studying political science and international relations. There were a lot of stories in the press about Farrakhan’s upcoming speech because it was expected to be controversial. Farrakhan is an extremely powerful orator. I wanted to hear him and since it was only a short drive from campus, I went.
Here is a YouTube video of the event, and if you think Donald Trump inspires a passionate response, he’s got nothing on Farrakhan:
There were roughly 15,000 people there. I definitely stood out as the only blue-eyed blonde person at the Forum that night. My boyfriend at the time, Jeff, decided to go with me. As we lined up outside the Forum to enter the building, they split us up and separated the men from the women (we didn’t know this was going to happen beforehand) according to the teachings of the Nation of Islam (Farrakhan was, and is, the leader). If you’re unfamiliar with the Nation of Islam, you’ve probably heard of Malcolm X – he was part of the senior leadership of the Nation of Islam until he broke away to become Sunni Muslim. Here is a Wikipedia page about the Nation of Islam, if you’re interested in learning more.
Anyway, we all went into this huge arena from opposite sides of the building. This was way before cell phones, so we ended up not finding each other at all during Farrakhan’s speech. Maybe I was naive (I don’t think I was), but I wasn’t afraid or concerned about being there by myself, not for one second even though Farrakhan’s speech was pretty fiery.
The thing I did feel was different, like I didn’t belong there. I knew I didn’t fit in, but never, ever did I experience anything except awe and fascination about what Farrakhan was preaching. It was extreme, to be sure, but I wanted to hear him. People at that event, from start to finish, were the nicest, kindest, most polite people I ever experienced at any event of that size, regardless of what, or where, it was. And from that perspective, I have to say that my time at the LA Forum that night was decidedly different from the hate, distrust, and abuse that many black people experience in America today.
At the end of the evening, Jeff and I found each other outside in the parking lot and talked about what Farrakhan had been saying. Jeff is of Italian descent, so he’s got dark curly hair and fairly dark skin, but he still definitely does not look black. His experience was the same as mine, and he wasn’t surprised about that, either. We ended up stopping at a fast food restaurant near the Forum. We used the restrooms, and there was a line in the ladies room. Again, I was the only white person. At that point, and only at that time, a woman in line looked at me and said, “you don’t belong here.” That was all she said. The other women in line told her to be quiet, they scolded her. That was it. I didn’t get beaten up, shot at, there was really no disrespect or injustice, but I did, at that moment, up close and next to each other in a line at Carl’s Jr., feel like I was hated by that woman. By that one person. It felt shameful. I felt ashamed. My cheeks turned bright red.
That was 31 years ago, and I not only vividly remember the ugly part of that brief moment (even though it was pretty mild) but, more importantly, the fact that the other women, who were all black, instantly stood up for me. That doesn’t say much for white America, in my opinion. Or maybe it’s just “institutional white America,” because, again, maybe I’m being naive, but I think that if the situation were color – reversed, white people would do the same for “black me” in a line waiting to use the bathroom. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic.
Was I out of my mind? I like to think I wasn’t, and I also like to think that I’d do it again, and with the same absence of fear that I had 31 years ago. I’ll tell you one thing…I’d be afraid to go to a Trump rally. Not because I’d be a target, but because if someone else were a target, I’d probably get myself killed in the process of defending them. Just look at the faces of the people surrounding Shiya and tell me you wouldn’t be scared.
So I’ve had that “gift” of being the only white person in a large gathering, neighborhood, or event (in Washington D.C. where I went to graduate school, in Los Angeles where USC is located next door to Watts, and in San Francisco where I grew up) quite a few times. I say “gift” because it’s invaluable to be able to experience, if only briefly, what others feel, and for them, it’s every day.
Shiya will be inextricably attached to videos that show her being treated badly, with the look of contempt clearly etched on all those white faces as they either shoved her, or stood by idiotically, just watching her get bullied. It’s especially disturbing to see the anger/delight/disgust toward her so clearly on display, even on a senior citizen veteran’s face.
It brings tears to my eyes for young Shiya, even as I type this. I can look at the YouTube video of the Louis Farrakhan event from 1985 and, even all these years later, still be amazed and glad that I was there, and still be moved by what I saw and felt way back then. Even though Farrakhan’s sense of racial injustice and anger wasn’t my experience, I don’t get to own it or claim it as “my issue,” and even though I did not belong there, I couldn’t help but be moved by his message. I wish I could switch memories with Shiya, who is, like I was, a young and impressionable college student with so much ahead of her. And even though I just said that we are all basically the same, that we call come from the same place, I like to think that I’m not at all similar to those people who just stood by and allowed others to treat her that way.