Dear Mr. Trump,
Tonight you came to my neighborhood, but you don’t know that.
Tonight you held a rally at a huge events center only blocks from my house, but the roads here are carefully designed—as they are in so many cities—so that you don’t have to see where I live.
Tonight you were ushered into the Greensboro Coliseum, so you didn’t see who was outside.
Tonight you passed close to my house, but you didn’t see my 70-year-old neighbor’s roof that is falling in under the weight of 20 years of homeownership, the last eight years making do on Social Security payments. You didn’t see the furniture and toys down the block piled up on the curb and eviction notices indicating another family has had to leave their home and go into shelters. You didn’t see the father across the street who has knocked on my door at 10:20 every night for the past two weeks so I can jump his truck in time for him to get to the night shift. He says he only needs three more paychecks before he can get a new battery.
Tonight you were ushered into the Greensboro Coliseum, so you didn’t see who was outside. You don’t know that your supporters yelled at my elementary aged child that he was a faggot, screamed that Mexicans should be put into slavery, and warned me to go home or get raped. You don’t know that a woman stood boldly holding a sign that read “I am voting Trump and I don’t give a fuck about your feelings.”
You were busy talking inside, so you don’t know that there were pastors and grandmothers and Queer folk and children and professors who stood together outside, strangers to each other mostly, flanked by scores of police officers blocking their path and blocking them from your view. You don’t know that these people have been brought together, regardless of all the differences among them, because they have an instinct for compassion and community. You don’t know that there were 200 young Black and White and Brown people outside who have a plan for a better future.
And tonight, when you were whisked out of the arena, flanked by your security detail, you don’t know that I walked home with my 9-year-old son, holding my keys the way my mother taught me: sticking out like a weapon between my fingers. You probably went out to eat a big meal, so you don’t know that the young couple next door to me were laying out all their bills on the kitchen table, deciding which ones to pay this month and how to buy enough food for their 4-year-old with what is left over. You probably went right to sleep in your hotel room, so you don’t know that my friend who made up that hotel bed this morning is sleeping in her car in the Walmart parking lot tonight.
Mr. Trump, tomorrow, when you leave my town, this sleepy southern place born of grit and gravel, you will drive past my neighborhood again as you resume your campaign of hate and fear, the campaign you say will “make American great again.” But because there was so much you missed when you visited my town, you won’t know that actually we are the ones who will make America great again.
We are the ones who will make America great again.
You won’t know that the family two doors up the street is celebrating La Presentación del Niño and that they have made food for the entire block and that little Stephanie is on the trampoline with my son and teaching him Spanish. You won’t know that the pastor of the Presbyterian Church and a ragtag crew of neighborhood folks have put together a memorial service for an elderly Vietnamese woman that nobody knew except as “the woman who walked the dog in the wool sweater.” You won’t know that a school teacher has taken two more children into her home because they lost theirs. You won’t know that the neighborhood mosque has announced that it will be showing movies indoors during the hottest part of the day this summer so kids without air conditioning can cool off. You won’t meet the local school teachers spending their summer vacation organizing and pressing for change so they can teach the way children deserve to learn. You won’t see the pieced-together Thursday night neighborhood market, where friends buy, sell, and trade eggs, jewelry, and as soon as the long days of summer get here the reddest and ripest tomatoes in the South. You won’t meet the young black mother and get to taste her impossibly thick macaroni and cheese that she sells in part to fund her homeless ministry, nor will you be able to meet the African woman who sells this gingerade that trickles down your throat, cold and hot all at once, and makes your heart come alive.
If you come to this city again, I invite you to step away from your narrative, to take a detour on your way to the coliseum.
Get lost in my neighborhood. We are poor, we are gay, we are survivors, we are single parents, we are dropouts, and we are graduates. We are immigrants, we are children of God, children of Allah, atheists and agnostics. We are Trans, and we are Queer, and we are of every color imaginable. We are housed and houseless, we are employed and unemployed, we are felons and teachers and social workers and truck drivers and restaurant workers and parents. We are citizens and we are without citizenship, and we are here. We are making America great.