About an hour after Donald Trump ended his speech Thursday 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 declared George Zimmerman not guilty a few years ago.
Asking the obvious question, she gave me a response I will likely not forget soon. She thought she had 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 Thursday 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 possibly turn into stone.
But the tone of the speech is not the reason that my wife, or Van Jones and Ann Navarro of CNN were 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. And his speech was nearly universal in its attacks on folks with melanin.
While he dived 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 reign in each of these populations swiftly, as soon as he entered office.
Maybe that’s not the speech the "real" America heard Thursday night. But for many people of color in America, individuals who watched last night, this is exactly the speech we heard. Many of us were hoping to hear anything that would lead us to think that Trump’s racism and xenophobia were acts. Instead, we found out, to quote the late, great Dennis Green, that Donald Trump is who we thought he was. And we were left without a single grain of shit left in our bodies.
Why? Because this is no longer funny. It’s no longer a joke. Donald Trump, who rose to power by tapping into White rage, doubled-down on the rage in his acceptance speech. If he wins, his address left us with no other conclusion that such rage would 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 the next morning, the same expression from the night before was still on her face.
“I’m still disturbed,” she said.
We all should be.
Dr. Letrell Crittenden is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Robert Morris University, and a board member of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. He studies and writes on issues related to diversity and inclusion with the media industry, and community journalism.