I have to thank Mr. Trump for opening my eyes to the American ugly I didn’t want to see. I needed a wake up call. I’m not closed off in some strange, futuristic liberal world. I live in a diverse community with a mix of political and social viewpoints, and I consistently read newspapers and websites with differing ideologies. I know my American history and I know what racist people have been saying about President Obama for the last eight years. I’ve watched the videos of young black men shot by cops. And I’ve listened to the calls for racial justice on college campuses. I’ve worked on a college campus where I was the minority, and my students have spoken and written about their experiences. Throughout my life I’ve heard stories from my Jewish friends about the nasty comments they’ve endured. So yes, I understand how deeply racism and bigotry run through American culture — as much as any educated, white, Protestant person can really understand it — even if I don’t hear it in my home or my backyard.
But what I didn’t understand until this election, until I started paying closer attention to the voices of ordinary Americans, is how terrifying it is to read what some of them write on public forums, or to hear them say out loud what they really think about other Americans. The racists and bigots of America have always been out there. There have always been hideous trolls on the Internet. But now they are emboldened in a big way by the bellicose Donald Trump. He’s opened Pandora’s box, and nobody can shut it.