My father was a racist, a sexist and a xenophobic. When he disagreed with people's opinions, he would hurl insults at them. I remember his racial slurs, insults about people's weight and appearance, and slights about their intellect. He regularly mocked my mother. He made sexist and sexual comments about women that embarrassed our family. He would watch All in the Family and admired Archie Bunker -- Norman Lear's caricature of the American racist, sexist bully.
For weeks I have tried to figure out whom Donald Trump reminds me of and wondered where I have heard such visceral and hateful comments hurled at others nearly every day with no regret or remorse. Donald Trump is exactly like my father -- with one exception. Donald Trump is rich and educated; my father was poor and uneducated. My father would have loved Trump and over the course of most of his life would have voted for him. He would have believed that Trump cared about "the little people" and would bring them wealth.
It's hard for us to understand how someone poor and uneducated can be swindled into voting for someone who has never understood poverty or the lack of access to education. However, I understand Trump's appeal. Donald Trump is a mastermind at selling the American dream to those who have little or nothing.
"Donald Trump is a mastermind at selling the American dream to those who have little or nothing."
Trump has captured the anger of those who want to maintain White supremacy in the United States. They see the country changing -- the election of a Black president, the legalization of gay marriage, the increase in women leaders and as such women's rights, the changing racial and ethnic demographics -- and they fear their strong hold on opportunity and privilege is fading.
My father craved the American dream. Although he claimed to be deeply religious, he spewed out hatred toward those he thought kept him from achieving it. My father would have related to Trump's willingness to say the things that hateful sexists and racists want to say but often cannot because they will be publicly shamed.
Instead of wanting opportunity for all those in our nation and understanding how we are all interconnected and that our success and vitality as a whole makes us stronger, Trump supporters see the success of people of color, women, new immigrants and the LGBTQ community as taking away from their success.
I'm not a cynic and I still believe there are ways to change the minds of Trump supporters. I worked for nearly 15 years to change the mind of my father by exposing him to people from all backgrounds and perspectives. I fought back against him for years until he finally admitted that his anger stemmed from his own lack of accomplishments and not anything that people of color, women or the LGBTQ community had done. It is only through conversation, education, coalitions, and one-on-one interaction that we can change the minds of those who choose to blame others for their own shortcomings.
Our economic, political and social systems are set up to bolster a select few -- namely the rich and well educated -- and until people of color and low-income Whites band together and use their voices and vote to encourage those who stand for true justice and represent the views of the masses to run for office, nothing will change.
"Please don't let someone like Donald Trump -- a man who represents the worst of the United States -- represent us to the world. We are better than that. "
All too often, we sit back and watch the circus that has become American politics, escaping with our binge television watching or latest trend. We let fools make decisions about our lives, education and healthcare, and about our children. We can choose to sit in silence and watch the parade of clowns or we can get up, speak up, vote, run for public office, use all the tools available to us, and ensure that we live in a nation that values everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, and ability.
Please don't let someone like Donald Trump -- a man who represents the worst of the United States (hatred, xenophobia, sexism, racism, unsavory business practices, reality TV, and bullying) -- represent us to the world. We are better than that.
Even my father realized that he had the ability to be a better man near the end of his life. Although it took years, he let go of much of his anger, his racism, his homophobia, and his sexism. I am comforted by the hope that he gave me and his realization that, like his victims, his hatred also damaged him. My father, rather ironically, became the reason why I fight for justice and opportunity for others on a daily basis. Perhaps Trump's hatred and your visceral reaction to it can inspire you to fight for justice for others as well.