I am Melissa Flowers, director of Residential Life. I am also living, breathing proof that not all Trump-supporters are sexists, racists and share my political affiliations during the election season. The remainder of this article might be more approachable for some if I now say I supported Bernie and eventually voted for Hillary Clinton. I hope you aren’t feeling duped by my opening sentence because I promise it is true. Just read on.
I am the daughter of Patricia and Donald Pinchback. Patricia is a Caucasian, full-blood Irish, Catholic woman. Her parents told her and her three sisters that they should find husbands, have babies and stay at home to raise them and maintain the house. This was not the path for Patricia. When her parents refused to help fund her college education “” her brothers belonged in school, they said, but she did not “” Patricia worked various jobs and saved her money, bit by bit, and eventually had enough to go to school. Upon graduation, she entered a male-dominated field. Working at a juvenile detention center for young men, Patricia supervised a team of six men. The men talked over her in meetings and made her the butt of jokes. She never felt valued or respected. “It was Hell, but it was also hilarious,” my mom recalled recently. When her colleagues spoke to her disrespectfully, she reported and documented it. If it happened again, she placed them on unpaid leave. If it happened a third time, they would be dismissed. Patricia never allowed herself to believe that she was less than anyone because she was born a woman, and she used what power she had to make change. In essence, she taught herself what her parents had not “” my mom is not a sexist.
One day a new case manager, Donald Pinchback, joined the team. Donald, an African American man, and Patricia fell in love and married during the height of the civil rights movement. My mother vividly recalls moments when her own parents and siblings were confused, disappointed and even disgusted by her decision to marry my father. She chose to marry him despite their lack of approval. She chose to raise children with him “” my mom is not racist.
My father had two daughters from a previous marriage, and his oldest daughter, Yvette, came out as a lesbian in the 1990s. When I saw my sister called a n- f-, I asked my mother why other people cared who my sister loved. “The world may never know,” my mother replied, tears forming in her eyes. My mother opened her heart and her home to help her step-daughter feel safe, loved and celebrated in the environment “” my mom is not a homophobe.
On Nov. 8, Patricia cast her vote for Donald Trump. She openly admits that he wasn’t the “perfect candidate,” but she preferred some of his policies in comparison to those of Hillary Clinton. She appreciated the proposed tax reductions, his commitment to the Second Amendment and his proposal to repeal or significantly amend Obamacare. She did not appreciate his dishonesty. She did not appreciate his bigotry. So, as promised, I am living, breathing proof that not all Trump-supporters are sexists, racists and homophobes.
For those of you who voted for Trump, I hope you know I love and support you just as I love and support my mom. For those of you who voted for Clinton or a third-party candidate, I urge you to open your mind to the possibility that there are more Patricias out there than you think. I’ve spoken with some on our campus this week. A vote for Trump was not a vote for racists and homophobes. It was a vote. And until you learn more about that person’s motivations to cast their ballot for Trump, do not make assumptions “” they will consume your thoughts with negativity and inaccuracy.
If you feel you have been the victim of or have witnessed racist, sexist or homophobic actions, tell us. Tell me. Tell Dean Tuttle. Tell President Anderson. Tell Dr. Tynes. Tell Dr. Dee. Tell TUPD. Tell an RA. Tell a friend. Tell a faculty member. Tell the Chaplain. Tell a counselor. Tell someone, because that behavior will not be tolerated on this campus. (Pro Tip: If you have nothing to report, but you just want to talk, we’re all here for you too). Call TUPD if you don’t feel safe and would like an escort to or from any spot on this campus, but as you walk through the parking lots do not live in fear that every Trump sticker was a vote for bigotry, because what you see isn’t always what you get.
Melissa Flowers is the director of Residential Life.