About an hour after Donald Trump ended his speech last night, I looked over at my wife. The look of disbelief was still on her face. It was a look I had not seen since the jury read the “Not guilty” verdict in the Trayvon Martin several years ago.
I asked the obvious question, because that’s what journalists do, and she gave me a response that I will likely not forget soon. She thought that she’d been placed squarely in the center of an Octavia Butler novel.
“It was like one of my dystopian novels come to life. I’m not exaggerating,” she said.
Pundits on social media and television last night quipped that the speech was arguably the most negative acceptance address in modern U.S. history. That’s an understatement. I’m sure many people who watched last night thought that, if they looked directly into Trump’s depiction of America, they could turn into stone.
But the tone of the speech is not the reason my wife—or Van Jones and Ana Navarro on CNN—was left so disturbed by the speech. It was because, in Trump’s representation of America, the reason this nation is not great anymore rests squarely on the shoulders of people of color. His speech was nearly universally about attacks on folks with melanin.
While he dove into other topics, Trump spent the vast majority of his speech explaining why “real” America should be terrified by the racial other. Latinos were hunting them domestically, and Muslims hunting them internationally. African Americans—or “the blacks,” in Trump language—are killing each other at historic rates in American cities. For good measure, he also let Americans know that the Chinese were ripping off the American economy.
But “real” America didn’t have to worry much longer. Trump, the law-and-order candidate, would rein in each of these populations swiftly as soon as he entered office.
Maybe that’s not the speech some of you heard last night. But for many people of color in America, this is exactly the speech we heard. Many of us were hoping to hear anything that might lead us to think that Trump’s racism and xenophobia were acts. Instead, we found out, to paraphrase the late, great Dennis Green, that Donald Trump is who we thought he was. And we were left scared without a single grain of s—t left in our bodies.
Why? Because this is no longer funny. It’s no longer a joke. Trump, who rose to power by tapping into white rage, doubled down on the rage in his acceptance speech. His address left us with no other conclusion than that, if he wins, such rage will dictate actual policy decisions in this nation.
And the potential nightmare is only a few months—and percentage points—away from reality.
Speaking of nightmares, when my wife woke up this morning, the same expression from the night before was still on her face.
“I’m still disturbed,” she said.
We all should be.
Letrell Crittenden, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of communication at Robert Morris University and a newly elected board member of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. He studies and writes about issues related to diversity and inclusion within the media industry and community journalism.