Before I came to the University of Michigan, I was aware that my political beliefs differed from those held by the majority of my peers. I was comforted, however, in the promise that my school promoted diversity of thought and self discovery in a safe environment where all students could be respected as individuals. Yet throughout my two and a half semesters here, I quickly grasped the idea that even though the school promoted diversity of thought, my strand of viewpoints were not welcome.
‘What happened to me actually surprised me.’
It was a bright summer wednesday here in Ann Arbor, and just as any college student, I was running low on clean laundry. I only had two classes that day, so I decided to take a social risk for two reasons, lack of laundry being the obvious one, and a social test of my well known liberal campus. On that bright summer day, I wore a white t-shirt with “Trump Pence” written on the front, and “Make America Great Again” written on the back.
Given that this is the same school that provided therapy dogs, and a candlelight vigil after the presidential election of 2016, I was more than prepared for some people on campus to give me weird looks. What happened to me actually surprised me.
I had two classes that day: one which was approximately half a mile from my apartment, and one that was closer to a mile away. So at 9:45, I began the trek to my 10:00 class. The first walk was the worst one, probably because I was so surprised at all the remarks. Within my 7 minute walk to class, I heard not one, not two, but several people exclaim to me “F*** you,” and one person spiced it up a bit saying “Go f*** yourself.” I got to my class, took my seat, and lecture began. I received plenty of weird looks throughout the hour and a half of that class. It was a small lecture made of about twenty people and very based off of group work, so I felt that although deep down some of my classmates had a loathing for me in that moment, they did not say anything to risk hostility if we were to work together at any point throughout the semester.
The class ended, and I began my walk back to my apartment. This time there were more people outside, and as expected I received more pleasant comments on my shirt. Several students called me “bigot,” and the unique one that stands out to me was that one girl stepped in front of me to stop me from walking, and told me “I hope you get fu***** deported,” which quite shocked me to say the least. See I am a child of two foreign immigrants. My parents both came to America from Egypt. It is the cliche “American Dream” where they both worked in fast food and worked their way up to raise two children in a nice neighborhood and sent me to a very prestigious University. You get the idea, I am a man of color, wearing a Trump shirt.
Instead of heading to a safe space, or seeking counseling for my abuse on campus I just experienced so early in the morning, I went back to my apartment to heat up some pizza rolls before I had to leave for my next class. While preparing for my next class, I packed another shirt with me in my backpack. I will admit, it was at the top of my hamper for dirty laundry, but if something were to happen to my white shirt, I would hope to have a spare shirt with me.
I left for my next class half an hour before it started so I could meet with a friend to walk to class, for the class was a little farther. See as the morning progressed, I was uploading updates on the comments I would receive on my snapchat story. So when I met up with my friend, he saw my shirt, laughed, and wittingly said “walk ten feet in front of me, I want to see what people say and I don’t want to be seen with you.” On this walk, there were fewer people, so I received the expected looks of disgust, and only one remark of a person saying “you have got a lot of guts wearing that guy.” When my friend and I reached the lecture hall for our class, he REFUSED to sit next to me, simply to avoid being affiliated with what the campus racist. While the students leaked in, I felt the glares, the snickers of others, and to be quite frank, it made me giggle because I couldn’t believe it was real.
I walked home, received the expected comments, took off my shirt, and decided it was time to do laundry. While waiting, I had numerous friends contact me on social media based platforms, as well as text me, from different schools asking me if the story I put on my snapchat story was real. As one would expect, they were in awe that I confirmed everything.
I knew what I was getting myself into, but it still amazes me that because I had different thoughts than the norm on campus, I was nearly exiled. Especially for a school that promotes diversity, I could only laugh that political diversity was not accepted.
And to answer the dying, burning question, I plan on wearing that shirt again, and even maybe throwing on my “MAGA” red cap to spice things up.
Authored by Thomas Essak
H/T Turning Point News via Raging Freedom