When I walked into Donald Trump’s rally I didn’t know what to expect.
Like many others, I used my smartphone to take photos, videos and post on social media during the event, held in Bangor, Maine. Unlike nearly all the others I was there to cover the event as a journalist.
Feeling extremely uncomfortable, not because attendees were violent but because of the actions I’ve seen in the media, I felt the eyes of Trump supporters follow me as though someone was going to out me as a protester with intent on disrupting the rally, when, of course, in reality, that wasn’t the case.
Some of my tweets from the rally:
The narrative for any black person at a Trump rally is probably similar ― and not just black people, Muslims, Hispanics, any person of color. There is both a danger and an ignorance directed toward us. We are estranged. We don’t belong. We are the problem.
As I entered Cross Insurance Center where the event was held, I scanned the venue for signs of other black people in the audience wondering how they felt; all I saw were black people selling Trump merchandise outside, with the exception of a young African-American woman I spotted during Trump’s speech.
I worked my way inside the venue and began introducing myself to Trump supporters, some of whom expressed concern for my safety and said to be careful.
At one point, I overheard a man say to his friend, “Black Lives Matter movement came to crash the event. They won’t get far.” Quickly, I looked around to see if there were in fact BLM attendees before realizing the man was referring to me and my sister.
Prior to Trump coming on stage, I lost my sister in the crowd and panic overcame me. She wasn’t answering my messages or calls, and without delay I said to myself, “Oh my god, they have her,” and feared the worst. But who were “they?” This wasn’t the apocalypse where I had to fear zombies. These were people. Eventually, I found my sister who had thrust herself in the center.
I handled myself professionally, even when the crowd chanted “LOCK HER UP!” referring to Hillary Clinton. Contrary to mainstream media’s depiction of Trump rallies as being full of violence, which has sometimes shown to be true, in the end I was treated not like an alien, but instead became accepted by those who did not decline to speak to me.
In a state that has been ranked the whitest in the country — in fact, at least 96.9percent of Maine’s population is white — I was relieved to see that a place that I’ve called home for over 17 years left me unscathed.
So what does my experience with Trump supporters say about their attacks on minorities after a slew of publicized incidents? That, I can’t say.