By: Alexa Solis
Last Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a campaign rally at The Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada. Trump is known in the political realm for his somewhat racist sentiments directed specifically at Latino immigrants and a penchant for self-flattery. Unfortunately there are many Americans who are all too ready to jump aboard the Trump train, and as a reporter, it is my job to cover whatever my editor tells me to cover, in the most judicious way possible, regardless of my ethnicity.
I thought it would be easy to walk into the rally and do my job, but it wasn’t.
It’s hard enough to walk into any situation knowing you’re the odd man out, but it’s even harder to walk into a room filled with people who clearly don’t view you as an American, and they want to keep out as many of “your kind” as possible.
I wasn’t the only Latino reporter at the rally. There was a small group of us, and we stood together, steeling ourselves as we prepared to enter.
In the Waiting Room
The sound of an espresso machine filled the air and the smell of coffee wafted by as my team and I sat in the Starbucks of The Nugget biding our time until the event began. We cracked jokes about being there, but I was filled with dread and excitement. Deciding we should check in with the lines, we made our way upstairs.
It was my responsibility to report the most important moments of the rally on Twitter. As more and more attendees began to line up, the buzz in the room began to build. It was a sea of American flags, peppered with dogs and Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” baseball caps.
During all of this, my photographer got caught in a conversation with a Trump supporter who complained to her about immigration, education and Medicare. It was her tone when complaining about immigration that set my teeth on edge. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their opinion, but knowing you and countless others are on the receiving end of an undeserved hatred is uncomfortable to say the least.
That’s the funny thing about being part of the marginalized group when reporting, no matter how close you feel to the other side you have to remain neutral and refuse to engage.
A fellow reporter and I made our way to the back of the building where a group of protesters was beginning to form. Though the protesters came from many walks of life, many were Latino, and they were there to protest what they referred to as “Trump’s racist policies”.
Documenting the protesters was the hardest part of the rally, but also the most gratifying. No matter how badly I wanted to shout with them, I couldn’t. But I also realized the importance of having reporters there, covering everything that was happening. We were there, and we could amplify their voice. In fact, it was the first time in my very short time practicing journalism I truly felt how important my job is, and the importance of the people who are willing to brave the insults and hatred of others to make a point about their own humanity. Here, I felt at home.
Of course, nothing lasts forever and we had to make our way to the rally. My team and I reconvened, devised a plan and set off into the sea of people. There, as Trump recorded an interview with conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, a group of people in the crowd began to chant, “build the wall!” fervently. I froze for a second, scared that the entire room would burst into chant, but I was able to breathe a sigh of relief as it became clear the entire room was not joining in.
Though the chant was revived when Trump touched on immigration (this time it was more forceful), not everyone agreed. The rally taught me a lot about being a journalist, and not just because I’m Latino. The country is divided, that was painfully clear here, but hopefully by documenting it all we can foster positive discussion instead of the hateful and aggressive speech that demagogues like Trump have been perpetuating.