The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 19th

Column: After Trump's rally, North Carolina has a choice to make

Never will I understand the cognitive dissonance in those who tell minorities critical of America to “go back to where they came from” while actively supporting a president who campaigns on the idea that their beloved country is heading toward a state of despair and doom — a state that only a borderline-autocratic ruler can repair (Make America Great Again, anyone?).

Yet this cognitive dissonance was on full display in Greenville, North Carolina on Wednesday at Trump’s first campaign stop, when the crowd began chanting “send her back” in reference to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar from Minnesota.  

Trump let the chant continue for 13 seconds before speaking over them. 

Surely, we’ve all questioned Trump’s brain capacity, but needing a whole 13 seconds to process the clearly xenophobic chant of his die-hard supporters? Even I had higher hopes for his intellect. 

“Go back to where you came from” and “if you don’t like it then leave” is rhetoric I am all too familiar with. It’s rhetoric that every minority in America is all too familiar with. It doesn’t matter that people who look like me have gone on to become gifted writers and artists, serve in the armed forces and Congress.

 It is our skin tone, religion, ethnic background that will prevent us from truly becoming Americans. After Wednesday, what minorities have always known has been confirmed by a political platform: this country belongs to white people and white people only. 

Patriotism cannot be defined by hate. Patriotism also cannot be defined by support for Israel, a foreign country whose unquestioning loyalty is now a measurement for how American one is (as evidenced by U.S. Rep. Mark Walker’s “condemnation” of the chants.) 

North Carolina will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a place that I associate with enlightenment and diversity of thought, thanks to its flagship university I attend. It’s the state whose residents of all different backgrounds have become my forever friends, where I matured and found my voice. 

Yet the North Carolina I’ve chosen to celebrate is so, so different than the vitriolic hatred displayed at that rally on Wednesday. 

Like the state, my feelings toward UNC are equally as mixed. Can I truly be proud to be part of an institution that casts aside the well-being of its most vulnerable students for inanimate statues and armed Confederate protestors ready to “kill” for their beliefs?

Throughout last year I saw the tensions on campus rise, slowly at first, and then faster and faster until I was terrified to walk through Polk Place alone after a late shift at the DTH. The hate mail and comments calling me a “radical Islamic terrorist” and to leave UNC if I hated it so much increased as well. There’s no doubt in my mind the emboldened racism in North Carolina is directly tied to the emboldened racism excreting out of the Oval Office. 

North Carolina is soon to become a major battleground state in the 2020 election. Chapel Hill is to become a battleground in itself — the racist attitudes of the slavery and Jim Crow-eras at odds with the ideals of higher-learning and tolerance we so proudly tout. 

North Carolina has a choice to make next year, as does Chapel Hill — to follow the footsteps of bigotry or to forge a new path, one that restores the soul of this nation. 

Ilhan Omar — Black, Muslim, refugee and 100 percent American — tweeted a line from a Maya Angelou poem in response to the Greenville rally. 

“You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

As an article in the News & Observer wonderfully pointed out, Maya Angelou resided in our state for over thirty years, over in Winston-Salem. In a way, I’m glad she isn’t here to see what her final home has stooped down to. It would have surely disappointed her. 

It disappoints me, too. But despite all the hate, the dehumanization of people who look and pray like me, I still love America. Like Omar, I love America so much I want it to be the best version of itself, one that treats all of its people with respect and dignity. And I still have hope we will rise.

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