The exchange lasted just a few seconds, too quick for Natasha Nkhama to register anger, fear or rage.
The morning after Donald Trump won the presidential election, the Baylor University sophomore was walking to her 10 a.m. neuroscience class when another student bumped into her.
“He sort of shoved me off the sidewalk and he said . . . ‘no n—–s allowed on the sidewalk,'” Nkhama recounted on social media. “And I was just shocked.”
Another male student came to her defense, saying the behavior wasn’t okay, Nkhama recalled. But the blond student who used the racial slur called out a line from Trump’s campaign slogan, Nkhama said, declaring: “I’m just trying to make America great again.”
Nkhama steamed about it all through her neuroscience class.
The psychology major was born in Lusaka, Zambia, but moved to Texas when she was 3 years old. She grew up in Dallas County, which Hillary Clinton won easily, though the state’s 38 electoral votes went to to Trump. Baylor is in Waco, county seat of McLennan County, where Trump won more than 60 percent of the vote.
Nkhama said she’d never experienced racial prejudice before at Baylor, where the student population is eight percent black and 65 percent white. But she had read about similar incidents involving minorities during Trump’s campaign and feared it would get worse after he won.
“I have friends and family that believe that racism doesn’t exist, that it’s something that happened in the 1900s,” she told The Washington Post on Monday. “This is something that happened to someone that you know. Racism is still happening right now, even if you’re not the one who’s personally experiencing it.” That’s why she went on Facebook and posted a video talking about the incident, she said.
Later, a friend shared her video on Twitter.
Two days later, her trip to her 10 a.m. class was vastly different.
Three hundred people gathered to walk Nkhama to class — schoolmates, teachers, even school administrators. They had organized via the twitter hashtag #IWalkWithNatasha, which spread through the Baylor community. The crowd was there to keep her safe.
The people gathered erupted into applause when Nkhama appeared. Overwhelmed, she hugged a nearby friend and cried.
In a statement, Baylor University called the assault “deeply disturbing.” School officials said they had connected with Nkhama “to ensure she feels safe and supported by the Baylor community.”
“We are a caring, Christian community in which acts of violence and insensitivity have no place,” Baylor’s vice president for student life, Kevin P. Jackson, said in the statement. “As Baylor Bears, it is our responsibility to care for and treat each other with love, compassion and dignity. Any behavior short of this demands our full attention so that we can hold each other accountable while seeking to reconcile and restore damaged relationships.”
Nkhama, 19, said she has filed a report with the university but has not decided whether to file a police report.
Since Election Day, there have been scattered reports of intimidation or even physical attacks on Muslims, Hispanics and blacks. Trump’s critics says his incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail had emboldened racists.
Recently, a Muslim teacher in a Georgia high school said that someone left an anonymous note in her classroom telling her that her “headscarf isn’t allowed anymore” and that she should hang herself with it. A police officer in Michigan was suspended after driving with Confederate flag at a “Love Trumps Hate” rally.
A black church in Mississippi was set on fire and spray-painted with “Vote Trump” on the wall, and another church in Indiana was vandalized with a swastika and the words “Heil Trump,” according to The Washington Post’s Samantha Schmidt and Jasper Scherer. They wrote that three civil rights groups “have tracked a notable spike” in hate crimes since the election.
“We encourage every American to stand firm in the fight for the protection of civil rights and in opposition to racism and hate,” multiple civil rights leaders said in a joint statement on Monday.
Trump also sent a message to anyone propagating such hate in an interview that aired Sunday on “60 Minutes.” “Stop it,” the president-elect said, looking into the camera.
But Nkhama said she fears that this is just the beginning of a long, hate-fueled era. “I am scared that they will keep happening,” she said. “Not everybody will have 300 people to walk them to class or to stand behind them.”