On Jan. 15, Jordan High School students displayed a Trump sign at a basketball game against a rival team consisting mostly of minority students. This is not the first time I have seen school students using public support for President Donald Trump at a non-political platform. In 2016, soon after Trump was elected president, students at a Michigan middle school were recorded chanting, “Build the Wall.” Other incidents have also been reported in the media. More recently, visiting students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky were filmed mocking a Native American elder in Washington, D.C., when the Indigenous People’s march crossed paths with a pro-life march in which the students were participating.
Public support for President Trump means different things to different people. To his supporters this might simply be an expression of their patriotism, or their pro-life beliefs, or even a protest against the #MeToo movement.
Witnessing this public support for President Trump, however, means something completely different to people like me who did not vote for him. Trump has fostered an othering of minorities that many of us have not witnessed before. To us, seeing Trump insignia is a reminder of his cruelty toward immigrants, women, Americans of color and the environment. For many of us a Trump sign or a MAGA hat is the equivalent of a “Whites Only” sign.
I am a resident of Prior Lake — roughly 10 miles from Jordan, the town where high school students displayed a Trump sign at a basketball game. For almost four years after moving to Minnesota, I worked in rural towns like Mankato, St. Peter and Hutchinson. Seeing Trump-Pence signs on my way to work and bumper stickers in the work parking lot made me feel unwelcome. Sure enough, after the elections, I decided to move my work to the Twin Cities.
I support the right of Trump supporters to express their support for him. The meaning of what this support entails, however, needs to be understood. Supporting our president means embracing the whole package that is President Trump – racism and all. Espousing support for the president for some circumscribed reason while ignoring his racism and how it affects others is a position of privilege. It is becoming harder for his supporters to deflect accusations of being racist themselves, given Trump’s baggage of continued hateful rhetoric.
Watching school students using support for Trump as an intimidation tactic is especially painful. It shows the normalization of racism to the point where children engaging in racist behavior are unable to see their own cruelty. I hope that these students will someday look back at this incident as youthful foolishness. Trump supporters or not, people on both sides tend to forget that he will not be president forever. For some of us this might mean that better days may be ahead. For others, perhaps this is good time to think about how history might remember us.