I don’t recall the first time I came across the term ‘Trump Effect’. I do recall being irritated by it, though. The ‘Trump Effect’ — it seems much too polite. On the other hand, I have to admit it’s an incredibly efficient use of language. You can say the ‘Trump Effect’ or you can say ‘the pernicious, aggressively belligerent, multifarious forms of bigotry and hatred and bullying that have been unleashed by the campaign and election of Donald Trump’.
As far as that goes, even the phrase ‘multifarious forms of bigotry and hatred’ is an efficient shorthand for ‘misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, anti-poor and working class, trans-hating, xenophobic, anti-science, climate-denying, white supremacist, social venom’. So basically, it’s either this:
The ‘Trump Effect’
or it’s this:
The pernicious, aggressively belligerent, misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, anti-poor and working class, trans-hating, xenophobic, anti-science, climate-denying, white supremacist, social venom and bullying that has been unleashed by the campaign and election of Donald Trump.
As somebody who makes a living with words, I’ve got to go with the Trump Effect. But whatever you call it, it’s real. It’s easy to dismiss asshats like the guy below as a sort of aberration — something outrageous you see on Facebook or YouTube but don’t expect to encounter in real life.
But you’d be making a mistake if you dismissed these fuckwits. I live in a mostly white neighborhood, in a mostly white city, in a mostly white state. I know this shit happens, but I almost never witness blatant racism in my mostly white daily life.
Then a few days before Thanksgiving I found myself in a small specialty shop that sells batteries. There were two other customers when I entered the shop: a young Latina getting a battery for her phone and a young white guy buying a battery for something or other. The white guy needed to give the clerk some information in order to get a lifetime guarantee for his battery. When asked for his name, the guy spelled out his surname.
“Busch. Like the beer. The American beer. I’m as American as the beer. Voted for Trump too.”
He looked the Latina when he said he was American as the beer. After saying he’d voted for Trump, he said “Whoops!”, made a mocking face like a boy who’d said something naughty, then laughed. The Latina just ignored him and paid for her battery. I was still standing there thinking ‘What the fuck? Did that actually just happen?‘ when she left the shop. Nobody said anything about it — not me, not the clerks. We just all stood there blinking.
Then it happened again, the Trump Effect. On Thanksgiving. Everything was prepared and timed to be on the table a short while after the guests arrived. One of the guests, a woman I’ve known for three or four years, was the first to show up. She looked around the kitchen, smiled, and said “You must have worked like a little nigger getting this ready.” Again, I did that blinking in disbelief thing. Then I said, “What did you just say?” And she laughed, sort of embarrassed. I said, “Don’t ever say that again.” And she sort of laughed again. Other guests arrived and I let it go.
I like this woman. She’s a friend. I’ve seen her take time off her job to care for a sick friend. I’ve shopped at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale with her. I’ve seen her be kind and thoughtful and giving. Now I’ve heard her say nigger and our friendship is tainted, possibly ruined. Trump didn’t make her a racist; she must have held those views before Trump arrived on the political scene. But I do believe Trump’s election allowed her to think it was okay to say nigger in the company of friends. I do believe the Trump Effect gave her tacit permission to voice views that she’d held in check before.
I suspect this is going to happen more often, but now I’m prepared for it. At least I hope I am. It’s a shame, but I have to be prepared for it. I can’t allow people I think of as friends to make racist or hateful comments around me. I can’t stay quiet when I see sexist, homophobic, or hateful behavior taking place in public places. I cannot allow this shit to be seen as acceptable or normal.
I absolutely hate that it’s become necessary for me to do this.