In the weeks since Donald Trump won the presidential election, it's been easy to forget in the midst of startling news about his cabinet appointments and diplomatic flops that backlash against minorities has increased steadily as well. It hasn't, however, been far from the minds of Josie Ramon and Isabelle Castilla — two Latina students at Royal Oak Middle School outside of Detroit, Michigan, who filmed their classmates chanting "Build a wall!" the day after Trump won the election. Trump's "wall" hurt these 12-year-old girls profoundly, and their fellow students' support of it has troubled them, their parents, and their community since Nov. 9.
In an interview with CNN, Ramon, who filmed the now-viral "build a wall" video and Castilla, her best friend, spoke about the incident and the fallout from it. A tearful Ramon, who said she'd witnessed racism at their mostly-white school before, said she filmed her classmates to have evidence, but was afraid while doing so. The video went viral after she sent it to her mother, who shared it with some other parents who then shared it on Facebook.
Ramon, who is Mexican-American, became the subject of backlash with some of her fellow students and their parents saying she should have been suspended or expelled for sharing the video. She said she was shunned by many in the school, and the ostracizing led her to withdraw from Royal Oak Middle and begin attending private school. Castilla's mom, along with other parents, has been working in the community and within the school system to ensure their children's safety, but the slow-moving process of diversity training and inclusive curriculum won't be able to reverse the pain experienced by minority kids in their suburban community.
After Trump was elected, 7th graders chanted "build a wall" at Latino students. We hear from those who were targeted https://t.co/5ZisLowZlA— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) December 28, 2016
The "build a wall" incident at Royal Oak Middle was followed soon after by another startling act of racism when a noose was found in a boy's bathroom at the same school about a week later. The student who fashioned and planted it was expelled, but not before a wave of fear rocked the school and its students. "At Royal Oak Schools, we will not tolerate intimidation, threats, harassment or bullying," the school said in a statement, adding, "We will also have additional counselors and social workers to support students affected by this incident. We will be deploying an additional school safety officer to our middle school, as well."
Though the Royal Oak video was perhaps the most viral example of student harassment inspired by Trump's rhetoric, it's far from the only one. An uptick in public incidents of bigotry in schools linked to the "Trump Effect" was already on the rise before the election, and similar acts of hatred have increased exponentially since Nov. 9. The impact on American kids has been clear: not only has an overgrown schoolyard bully been elected president, but students within his cross-hairs — be they female, Muslim, Latino, queer or any other of the myriad groups targeted by Trump's hateful campaign talk — have lost any semblance of security in an increasingly divisive and divided nation.
The meteoric rise in bigoted bullying in schools that's dogged Trump's trajectory from wild card candidate to president-elect doesn't just point to the twisted mindsets of those who helped his rise to power — it's also a chilling reminder of just how many people who had no say in his election are being hurt because of it. For these two girls in Royal Oak, it meant having to live in fear of their classmates. There's no telling what it will mean for the millions of other American kids who will suffer similar (or worse) situations under the incoming administration.