The Spectrum of Safety in Trumpland, by Katy Sperry

Northern Arizona University is located on an island of blue in an ocean of red in the state of Arizona¹. Since November 8, 2016, this island has felt much smaller to me. The day after the election I was walking to teach my 9:10 AM composition class, when I saw, for the first time on my campus, a student wearing the hat, cherry red, made in China, “Make America Great Again.” I started sobbing into the arms of a colleague I just happened to run into immediately after I saw the student.

My class was in small group workshops, and one group happened to have a large number of students of color and a student in the LGBTQ+ community. I found myself barely able to look at them, because, well because, the truth is that I am not very threatened by a Trump presidency. I am a white, cis, Christian, straight, middle class, woman. And yes, I am an artist and Trump threatens that, and yes I am a woman and Trump threatens that. But as I sat and looked at these students I saw the faces of people who were and are threatened and oppressed in ways I will never be.

Trump’s first one hundred days in office just passed. He has broken promises, supported sexual assaulters, threatened our national parks, and continues to threaten and further oppress the marginalized. But alongside these things, Trump’s behavior has emboldened a marginal group of students on my campus. Students who have always been here, replenishing themselves year after year. But, suddenly these students are no longer respectfully disagreeing with their peers, they are harassing their peers, their instructors, professors. They are threatening students and faculty. They are empowered to do this because the leader of our nation does it daily on Twitter and in interviews and in press conferences.

In the days following an election a Flagstaff resident, and presumed student, took to driving their pickup truck around NAU’s campus and downtown Flagstaff. The truck’s bed held a flagpole that flew two flags both cherry red, one read “Make America Great Again” the other has no words but thirteen white stars inside a blue “X” and is a symbol of slavery, oppression.

Students and humans can support whatever political candidates they choose, but when the candidate advocates for dropping bombs on Syrian civilians and calls Mexicans “rapists” and claims that men just have to “grab ‘em [women] by the pussy” his words are inherently threatening the safety of the people and communities around us. Supporting the man who says and does these things is inherently oppressing the people his words oppress, inherently threatening the communities he is threatening. Trump support has bulleted this blue island cherry red².

 

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¹Apache, Pima, and Santa Cruz Counties all voted blue in the 2016 election as well, but all counties in immediate proximity to Coconino County showed a vibrant hue of cherry, leaving Coconino County in a bloody sea.

²Remnants of traditional colonization and current neocolonization mean that threats and oppression are not new for the marginalized in Coconino County, specifically the Indigenous population of Flagstaff (whose stolen land we live on), they have been resisting oppression this whole time regardless of the color of the map.

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