|Vol. 11 No. 9
APRIL 28, 2016
Natural Man-Made Disaster
I remember rolling my eyes last year when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination to be their presidential
candidate in 2016. While many of us dismissed his candidacy as little more than a publicity stunt where his resorts and other holdings would
financially benefit from his increased publicity before he bowed out of the race, he caught onto a thread of frustration and anger within a largely
White constituency that was threatened by the globalization of the economy and the browning of America. It was a constituency that met on the
other end of a cylindrical political spectrum with the far left of the Democratic Party, a place where Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialism
With the fear and loathing and vulnerability that many Americans are feeling with the exercise of centralized power, something that is becoming
more and more centralized, it is no wonder that the candidacies of Trump and Sanders have found traction. Trump’s has found traction through
the use of race and culture as a way to organize his political power, something that the Republican Party has done since Richard Nixon’s
Southern Strategy in 1968 and has done ever since then. Does everyone remember Willie Horton and how George H.W. Bush rode those
images to victory in 1988?
Usually, the Republican Party has used code words to create this racially-tinged power in its efforts to seize political power. The Wisconsin
Republican Party has used stereotypes of African Americans living in Milwaukee — and area decimated by the flight of manufacturing jobs
overseas — to seize and maintain political power for the past eight years. But again code words like voting fraud and economic dependency
have been used to appeal to those guttural racial feelings and give Republicans the power.
But plain-speaking Donald Trump who refuses to bow to “political correctness” — in other words openly uses stereotypes to strike fear in the
electorate — has attracted the political backing of this force within the Republican constituency. And his ranting against immigrants, Muslims
and other people easily susceptible to stereotypes are like a storm that is gathering in the Southwest of the United States. We know that this
racially-inspired activism can come our way, driven by individuals who have been given permission to act on their racially and culturally-
driven biases in order to relieve the fear and loathing that they are feeling about the changes occurring in America, in order to feel “great
And so like First Responders, officials at the University of Wisconsin need to be observant of this phenomenon and know that it will possibly
be coming their way. Just like a storm, this racially-tinged storm may dissipate before it reaches the borders of the University of Wisconsin-
Madison, but it could also turn into a Category Four hurricane of destruction, leaving victims — members of underrepresented groups like
students of color and religious minorities like Muslims — in its path. And leave no doubt about it, students of color and others are severely and
negatively affected by this occurrence.
I remember when I was a student at Alcorn State University, an HBCU, in Lorman, Mississippi from 1975-1977. I was one of about five Euro-
American students on campus. I remember when the groundbreaking miniseries Roots was shown on television in 1977. The miniseries hit a
raw nerve at Alcorn, expressing something that the African American students and staff had been feeling for generations. And it isolated me as
a student for about two weeks. I was hoping that people were looking at me like the one sympathetic White character in the miniseries, but
feared that people were looking at me like the overseer. It took two weeks for my relationships to return to normal, for people to see Jon
I reminisce about this to say that things that happen on the national stage impact us on a local level. And the people who are different —
students of color and religious minorities — will be negatively impacted.
And so, like First Responders, officials at the University of Wisconsin needed to be prepared for the impact of Donald Trump’s racialism to hit
the University of Wisconsin campus. Maybe it would dissipate before it got here. We can only pray. But as an institution, UW-Madison needs a
disaster relief plan to mitigate the impact if the racial animosity picks up steam as it hits the UW-Madison campus.
And it did hit the campus this past semester with several reported incidents and who knows how many unreported incidents. And UW officials
can’t just plan to build up the dykes to prevent future disasters; it needs to have a disaster plan to mitigate the current racial storm and most
importantly, take actions so that the students of color and other underrepresented groups feel safe on campus. The university needs to continue
to monitor and implement different layers of its plan depending on the severity of the racial and cultural storm. It needs to make people feel
safe. It needs to mitigate the impact as best it can. And it needs to build up the resistance of the institution to any future occurrences.
And make no mistake about it. Another Donald Trump will come along to centralize their political power through racialism and racism and
another “natural” disaster will come UW-Madison’s way. And just like New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, UW-Madison had better
know that it will again come its way and it had better be ready to protect its students of color and other underrepresented groups from its
I hate to say it, but it will come again.