I was a Trump supporter. I still am.
If a pollster had bothered to call me up and ask me about it, I would’ve denied it. I would’ve vehemently rejected everything Trump stands for.
But I would’ve been lying.
I grew up in the midwest on the northern edge of rural America.
This is where I came from. It’s where Trump supporters come from.
My patch of America was so overwhelmingly white, people of color might as well have not existed.
So when my parents — lone liberals in a sea of corn and down-home conservatism — talked about the plight of minorities, the struggle for equal rights, it was always in the abstract. Who needs equality, when everyone is the same? When everyone is like me — a Trump supporter.
Trump supporters aren’t racist. Not the majority anyway. We just don’t know any people of color. And when you grow up in a town where pretty much everyone is white, considering the inequality of minorities is mostly an academic exercise — devoid of real world applications.
While we Trump supporters may not have much experience with other races, we do know racists.
Most of the time, they are viewed with derision. Their words are treated like a fart in church, uncouth but ignored for the sake of the sermon. They are often family and so they are given a pass. In fact, I think I had more experience with casual racists in my formative years than I did with people of color. And when you grow up with bigots, work with bigots, and eat dinner with bigots, you learn to tolerate them. You keep silent in a misguided attempt at maintaining a veneer of civility. Since there are no people of color to harass, their bigotry becomes merely a peculiarity, a mannerism no more harmful than believing in UFOs or the Illuminati.
And when my parents advocated for minorities, they might as well have been advocating for someone from another planet as far as us Trump supporters were concerned.
When I was an adult, I moved to the city. The constant traffic noise, the police sirens, and the footsteps in the apartment above me all gave substance to people I would never know but couldn’t ignore. They were more than an abstraction or an academic exercise. They were real.
And their existence was never more apparent than when I returned home to visit. I lay in my old bed, unable to sleep, because of the astonishing silence of rural America. As if any evidence of anyone other than myself had somehow been scooped out of the night, leaving behind nothing but a gaping void.
We Trump supporters have been called the silent majority and this moniker is apt. The majority of us have been silent in the face of overt bigotry at one time or another. We have allowed it to course through our communities unchecked. We might loudly denounce racism, but we will remain silent in the face of actual racists, and through our inaction, deny people the same opportunities as ourselves merely because we will never know them.
Even though I left my fellow Trump supporters behind, this part of America will always be deeply embedded in who I am. I voted for Hillary Clinton but the Trump supporter in me is still there. He still exists. You will have to listen closely because the only indication of his presence will be an astonishing silence.