On the Friday after the Nov. 8 election, in which Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump defeated Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College to become the country’s president-elect, Glen Gray — a West Side auto body mechanic — took a break from his work to process the results.
“He’s a racist,” said Gray, 54, an immigrant who came to Chicago from Kingston, Jamaica more than 20 years ago. “He is and that’s f—ed up.”
Gray was among around a dozen West Side residents and visitors, some of them immigrants and children of immigrants, who, when interviewed last week, expressed a solemn mixture of disbelief, anger, frustration and fear at Trump’s surprising election night victory.
Heading into Election Day, most public polling showed Clinton at least two points ahead nationally and with a comfortable lead in the Electoral College, but Trump rode a surge of momentum to win Democratic-leaning states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which were part of Clinton’s so-called electoral firewall.
Although some votes have yet to be counted, Trump garnered more than 20 more electoral votes above the 270-vote threshold needed to win the presidency. Clinton, who garnered only 228 electoral votes, seems poised to nonetheless win the popular vote.
The night marked the end of a presidential campaign that was widely considered to be among the most toxic in American history — one punctuated by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and his vulgar generalizations of numerous ethnic and religious minorities, including Latinos, Muslims and African Americans.
Trump’s campaign was also marked by numerous promises, such as his vows to deport millions of illegal immigrants as soon as he takes office and to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, that were fodder for the candidate’s nativist base.
In the hours and days after his election, millions of Americans have taken to the streets of cities like New York and Chicago to protest Trump’s win and to counter the increasing incidents of racism and xenophobia that have been reported since Trump became president-elect.
Yong You Woon, an 18-year-old international student from Malaysia, where Islam is the official state religion, was on the West Side visiting the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central, with his friend Laavanya Hunt, 19, who’s also from Malaysia.
“I’m not even American and I was devastated that Trump won,” Woon said. “I’m part-Japanese as well, so I was worried about future relations between Japan and the U.S., which have been brought up by other presidents. I’m not sure what Trump is going to do about that, so I’m concerned.”
“It was quite shocking to us,” said Hunt of the election. “I’ve met so many people in this country and none of them like Trump or share the same values as Trump. I’m a bit scared. I’m a person of color, an immigrant, so I’m worried about my Visa and about living here. I’m scared for my Muslim friends who want to come here and who are already living here.”
Sisters Asha and Anjali Misra, who were also visiting the conservatory, said their parents are immigrants. Asha, 30, works in early childhood education and lives in Lincoln Square. The sisters said the process of acclimating themselves to a Trump presidency is like going through Elisabeth Kugler-Ross’s five stages of grief.
“I’ve gone from feeling really angry and sad to a lot of despair and rage, and then to action,” said Asha. As a woman, there’s a feeling of being considered garbage, basically. That’s where I’m at right now. It feels like someone died.”
Asha said that she fears the message that a Trump presidency might send to young children who might be observing his ascent from litigious real estate tycoon to reality TV star to president.
“Our parents are immigrants,” Asha said. “I saw and grew up with the struggle they had and somehow I’m able to see beyond that and what the greater impact of telling men, ‘You can exist with impunity and can be violent, aggressive and hateful and still get everything you want — power, fame, money.'”
Anjali, who was in Chicago visiting from Wisconsin, said that Trump’s election confirmed some of her suspicions about her fellow Americans.
“Before, I felt that we were already a divided country in terms of social justice issues and misogyny and racism,” Anjali said. “Now, all those ideas I may have about some people are now confirmed. It’s never felt so bad to be right.”
West Side resident Lavonte Walton, 18, said that Trump was rewarded for behavior that, when exhibited by African Americans like himself, is often castigated by the president-elect’s supporters.
“He says stupid stuff, talking about building a wall and [Mexico] got to pay for it or when he told that little girl that he would be dating her in 10 years,” said Walton, referencing a 1992 recorded conversation of Trump, who quipped of an adolescent girl who was passing him, ‘I’ll be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?'”
“He’s a pedophile and a gangbanger and I look at him like a white gangster,” Walton said. “For real.”
Thaddeus Preston, 30, was walking with two friends to the Green Line station near the conservatory when he stopped to give his take on the election.
“I don’t like it one bit,” said Preston. “He ain’t supposed to be in there. He has no experience. I think he’s going to get out of there early.”
Preston wasn’t alone in his suspicion that the new president wouldn’t last a full term.
“He might just make a mistake so they have to throw him out,” said Gray, the auto body mechanic. “Trust me, the same people who vote for him will have to vote him out. Just watch.”
“I think he’s going to step down,” said Curtis Mitchell, 32. “He also might surprise everybody, though. He might do what he’s supposed to do and make things better.”
In the meantime, though, Asha Misra said that Trump’s victory has given her newfound resolve to continue her work in education and various social justice issues.
“I was already committed to that work and already in it, but now, more than ever, it has galvanized me,” she said.