It’s been almost a year now since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States. Since that time I’ve taught several classes at my university. My students, who range from freshmen to senior classmen, often brought up the Trump Administration during class discussions. One of the classes I taught this past fall semester was called Discover Civics. This is a course about government, citizenship and engagement in the political process. During the class I often taught a theory called the sociological imagination.
The simplest definition of the sociological imagination is a person’s ability to see how global and or national events can or have affected their lives. For instance: when 9/11 occurred, I was in high school. Once this catastrophic event hit the media, in my subsequent classes we talked about or watched what took place. So, the ability and practice to see the connection between my life and what is happening on the national level is the sociological imagination.
To use this theory or frame, I have seen and experienced how the Trump Administration has affected my life. In this piece I will cover 5 ways this administration has impacted me. They are:
· Fear of deportation of my family and friends
· Fear of being hurt because of my race
· Fewer business opportunities
· The life of my friend who is an Army officer
· Fear of not having a cleaner environment
I identify as a Haitian African American. A lot of my family members and friends have Haitian roots. Haiti’s own roots and history is very much connected to the formation of the United States. I’d like to give you a history lesson but that would be for another time. I want to focus on the fear and the constant flinching I live with because of 45’s (President Trump) rhetoric about people of color who have ethnic roots outside of the States. One of the problems/issues with this is that we have little control to no autonomy over what happens to our loved ones and to ourselves. Breaking up or separating families of color isn’t new in the US; rather, it is the status quo. Consequently, in the back of my mind I’m waiting on that phone call informing me that loved ones were detained and taken away. This is probably one of the reasons I don’t call my family as much anymore. Maybe if I bury my head in the sand it won’t happen, or at least I won’t know about it. But this isn’t realistic. It’s just a bad coping mechanism.
The second fear I now have is for my own safety. Racially charged events were on the rise in the early part of 2017. I am keenly aware that because of my skin color I can be attacked. I knew this before 45, but what feels different now is that I feel like a walking target. The soreness of carrying my brown skin has been ever more painful. I love being a black man, I just don’t know how much longer I’ll be an alive one. And this fear is escalated partly because I travel a lot for work and there are times when I’m the only or one of the few people of color in a space.
I own a consulting firm and we do work around organizational and community development. Our clients are educational institutions, nonprofits and government agencies. What makes our firm different is that we take a social justice approach in order to make organizations, institutions and communities equitable for all individuals. As government contractors this type of work is hard to find. Though the former administration valued it, this work is not a priority in the current administration. As a business we are now trying to pivot to remain relevant in the government space. A part of this is the nature of doing business, but if the reasons why you are in business are not valued, then do you have a business at all?
The fourth way Trump has impacted me incites another type of fear I must live with. One of my best friends, Joe, is a lieutenant in the US Army. We were college roommates and played football together. He was a wide receiver and I a defensive back. During our one-on-one drills I dominated. I don’t remember him catching anything when I defended him. I’m sure he’d say something different, but I’m the author of this piece (lol). This past summer Joe was deployed. I’ve had friends deployed before, like my dude Travis (who was deployed during the Bush Administration, but that’s another story) and other friends from the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps who decided to go into the armed forces after high school. Unlike now, I felt like the Obama Administration believed more in diplomacy than going around picking fights. I’m not saying the Obama Administration was perfect, (because it had a number of flaws) but President Obama wasn’t picking fights with North Korea.
I’m afraid my friend won’t come back home. What would happen to his wife and kids? Trump’s rhetoric around handling international issues has been horrific. I have so much anxiety around this and I’ve started to prepare myself for the worst. So much so that I haven’t been in much contact with Joe. I guess my subconscious was preparing me for the worst and to learn to live a life without him. This isn’t fair to Joe, myself, or our friendship. My lack of contact pained him and now I am working to rectify my selfishness.
The fifth way 45 is affecting my life has yet to be seen. Trump’s denial of climate change will have ramifications that will impact our grandchildren. We don’t know the long term effects of his administration dropping climate change as a national strategy. What we do know is that communities of color, no matter their socioeconomic status, experience more pollution than white communities. I live in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It has been considered one of the most affluent black communities in the US. However, we are facing our own battles concerning corporations polluting our natural resources. Environmental sustainability isn’t just about a cleaner world — — it is an act of justice.
Last year I published a book about power and potential. The title is No Entry: Examining the Powers that Undermine Our Full Potential. The premise is that those with more power can delay, stifle, or even increase the potential of those with less power. I don’t think Trump has my potential in mind when he says a lot of the things he says. He spews so much negativity and hate. I don’t think hate increases our potential as a country or even “makes America great again.” Then again, if the constant oppression of women and people of color is what makes America great again, then we’re right on track. I can’t be the only person feeling the way I do. And I can’t keep feeling like this alone. I urge you to support me. I urge us to support each other. Hate spreads like a virus when good people do nothing. And many of us don’t know what to do.
I try to teach my students that the best ways to engage in the political process is by working on something that falls in line with your passions, skills, talents and gifts. I encourage you to do the same and do it with others. Collectively we have the power to change the national agenda. Doing this betters our lives, and I think that is something we all deserve.