‘You get called racist, sexist, misogynist’: What it’s like supporting Donald Trump at Yale right now
One student told him to ‘fuck off’
Since he started supporting Donald Trump, Yale student Karl Notturno has been called a racist, a sexist and a misogynist. He’s been a vocal and unapologetic Trump fan for the last year and has been told to “fuck off” by a classmate for his political beliefs.
This week, the backlash for supporting the President on America’s notoriously liberal campus has continued to rise – here Karl spoke to us about what it’s like being one of the only Trump supporters at Yale.
After last weekend, it must be quite a rough time for a Trump supporter. There’s been a lot of backlash towards him after the executive order. How are people at Yale treating you?
It’s crazy here. They had a vigil. They had the word “solidarity” projected onto Sterling College. We’ve gotten emails from the president and the dean talking about how they’re working hard to see students who could potentially be affected – and that’s a good thing. But the part that’s a bit iffy is when they say “these actions run counter to the values of the college.”
There’s a general sense of people who I know who are Trump supporters looking around and saying: “Not this again, come on.” You want to feel sorry, sympathize, empathize. Because there are some people who feel very scared right now. But in many ways it is also very irritating, the reason they’re scared is because they’ve been lied to by the media for a good year. I know a lot of these people, I’ve tried to talk to them and give the other side. Because if they talked to Trump supporters, they’d get a very different image of a Trump supporter than what the media might lead them to believe. I wish Trump supporters were more vocal in person, because most of them are very nice people. That could help assuage some of the fears these people have.
Why aren’t Trump supporters happy to speak out at Yale?
The entire thing is social ostracization. Depending on what you value on campus, and what you value in terms of career, you can pay a huge cost for being vocal. You lose a lot of friends, in many cases. A whole section of the campus immediately turns against you. Most people don’t follow politics really closely. So it’s very easy to get shouted down, especially when your candidate has been described in the media as racist, sexist, and so on. The amount of soundbites, most of them out of context of course, that someone can point to and say “Oh well look, he said ‘Grab em by the pussy'” or whatever, and that’s sexual assault.
It’s not the nicest thing but if you listen through the entire tape you hear he says: “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” Which seems to a) means consent and b) seems to me the definition of a groupie. And groupies are not a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for a very long time.
So you have to then litigate every one of those points. The burden of proof is on you. And you have to be completely versed in it. You have to know the policies backwards and forwards. I’ve actually had to not really comment on the immigration thing for the past few days because I literally haven’t had time to read through all the executive orders, so that I can argue with people if I need to.
How do Yale students get angry with you?
It happens on Facebook, it happens in real life. In real life it’s much more muted because it’s a lot harder to get angry at a human being. But people do. I’ve been in face to face political arguments with people.
Most of the interactions in person end up being pretty civil. But there was a person in class last year, I seemed to have a good rapport with him. I saw him in the dining hall and I stopped to say hi, and he turned to me and said: “Fuck off.” This is someone who I thought I had a decent rapport with, who I thought he was mildly conservative, I’m not sure. And I thought he was joking. I said: “Are you serious?” and he said: “Yeah, you’re racist. Fuck off.” Maybe he had a bad day or something.
What things do Yale students call you?
You get called racist, sexist, misogynist. A lot of people who don’t know you start jumping in. It’s easier to throw things at people online. And even when you do know them! Just recently, someone threatened to unfriend me. They said: “If you don’t concede that what Trump is doing is evil, I will unfriend you.” And they said it like a threat.
I reached out to them and said let’s grab brunch. I wanted to hear his complaints. And he said: “Once you change your actions and repent, then we’ll talk.” The beautiful thing is that was after the election. Trump’s going to be in power for the next four years, so the power dynamic is a little bit changed. You don’t feel like you have to keep campaigning, and you can let things go.
Do you find it difficult when people call you a racist, sexist, and misogynist?
There was a moment last year when I realized, hey look, if you want to call me racist then I guess I’m racist. I think they’re doing themselves a disservice. Because there’s a lot of real racism in the world. The people who kill other people because of the color of their skin, because of where they’re from. And you’re doing a huge disservice to those people when you call me racist. But if that’s what you want to do, fine. I will use your language. I wouldn’t call myself racist. But if you really want to call me racist, OK fine.
I think you have to have a pretty good sense of self and a pretty good sense of who you are and what you want to deal with that. I think that’s why a lot of people aren’t willing to publicly go through it, because in many cases, that’s not pleasant for them. They don’t want to do it. And the unfortunate thing is if you want to be a leader in any way, you have to able to withstand all of this. If you look at the types of people in entertainment and politics that we’ve had over the past 20 years or so, these are the people who’ve been the followers. Because any time that the media or anyone at all has said “Oh my god that was racist” they would immediately acquiesce and say “Oh yes that was racist, I’m so sorry.” That has to stop. It makes me feel better whenever I feel upset because someone called me racist, but there are senators and congressmen who would literally go on an apology tour.
Conversation edited for length and clarity.