Samar Badwan, a Greenville resident, watched that day as 8,000 neighbors and fellow citizens jammed a local basketball arena to serenade the president with chants of “Send her back,” a response to Trump’s insistence that a Muslim, Somali American congresswoman should “go back” to the land of her birth.
“As we say in the South, he’s stirring the pot,” Badwan remembers thinking. “And that’s a very dangerous game. People are listening.”…
But to immigrants, refugees and others who don’t fit neatly into some people’s ideas of what an American should look like, the appearance has spawned fears that the president’s words could be used as a pretext for violence. And the crowd’s chant has prompted painful reflection: Was the hostility on display at the rally new for Greenville? Or was it here all along, just waiting to be activated?
Heidi Serrano, who was born in Guatemala but has lived in Greenville her entire adult life, has reluctantly concluded the latter. And now she wonders if some of her neighbors and co-workers truly want her here.
“Trump has allowed people to say what’s in their hearts,” said Serrano, 39. “That’s been the hardest part for me. You think you know somebody.”