It’s been a month since President-elect Donald Trump secured his seat in the White House, and the public reaction to his election night win has been as varied, and as visceral, as anticipated.
A number of protests broke out nationwide following Trump’s victory, with angry protesters taking over streets in major cities like Chicago, New York and Detroit. Similar, but smaller-scale protests took place in Tulsa, as well, though Tulsa County was among the 77 counties in Oklahoma that overwhelming voted for Trump.
And while Trump’s supporters preached calm, and patience, and urged those critical of the president-elect to give him time, many minorities across the nation complained about an increase in hate acts perpetrated on them by people they said were Trump adherents.
So as everyone prepares for Trump’s inauguration, some local Tulsans have found a way to make themselves feel better after their election night disappointment.
Long before Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state’s supporters formed a “secret” Facebook group, dubbed “Pantsuit Nation” after Clinton’s fashion choices. The group, which was closed (meaning you had to request to join,) didn’t stay secret for long. Members began adding their friends, who added their friends, and before long more than three million people were included.
With a group that unwieldy, many people began to form their own spinoff groups, which is how “Oklahoma Pantsuit Nation” was born. With a membership of just fewer than 9,000 people, the topics there tend to range more close to home for Clinton’s Oklahoma supporters.
Like the mood on the main page, the mood on Oklahoma Pantsuit Nation was extremely positive prior to Trump’s victory, with Oklahomans passing on their excitement to see the first female president elected. After the election, obviously, the mood soured and darkened. Rather than the unbounded optimism of pre-election night, the idea of a Trump presidency filled the group’s members with dread, and a desire to find a way to cope.
Which gave Laura Banks an idea.
“The day after Election Day we went to Calavares; it’s an immigrant-owned Mexican restaurant,” Banks said. “It was just like, what can we do to support people who are going to be affected more by this presidency? Going there kind of made me feel like there was something that I could do, that I had some control over the situation.”
So she made a post on Oklahoma’s Pantsuit Nation site asking for progressive-owned restaurants in Tulsa. The response was tremendous, with dozens of people offering suggestions like Laffa (Medi-Eastern restaurant in the Brady District), or Sisserou’s (a downtown Caribbean restaurant), or Doc’s Wine and Food (French Quarter-themed food in Brookside).
Banks admitted she’s been angry and upset since election night, but identifying restaurants with like-minded owners has helped her channel those emotions in a more positive way.
“I think I’m always looking for ways to support people I care about and who need my support,” Banks said.
Don’t stop there
Amanda Simonelli had seen the difficulties immigrant families face long before Trump’s campaign rhetoric led to stirred up passions. Simonelli is close friends with the Jabaras, a Lebanese family from Tulsa that found itself involved in a high-profile hate crime earlier this year.
Khalid Jabara was shot to death in August outside his parents’ home. Police have said the family’s neighbor, Vernon Stanley Majors, killed Jabara following a disturbance there. Court records show Majors had a history of tormenting the family — who operate a catering business — and events apparently came to a head that night.
“It’s nice to see people wanting to reach out and support progressive businesses,” Simonelli said. “With the state of everything in our state, education where it is, budget cuts, huge disparity in race relations, hate crimes we’ve had in our own city with our friends, it’s a really difficult and tenuous environment as it is.”
Simonelli, like Banks, said she believes that thread on Facebook helped people realize that things weren’t totally out of their control.
“So many people have been speaking out about the election, and they don’t know how to get involved on a larger level,” she said. “So I think it’s like the only thing a lot of people know how to do right now.
“I was glad to see that discussion, but I wish it was broader. It’s effective, I think, especially here in Oklahoma where it’s so red and maybe people feel like their vote doesn’t count, to kind of vote with their dollars.”
But at the same time, Simonelli said, she doesn’t want to see the efforts to support minority groups end there.
“I think what really drove it home for me was this panel on race relations at All Souls (Unitarian Church) that was held before the election,” she said. “They had all these people talk, pastors from north Tulsa, or people who’ve studied race relations, and what drove it home was those pastors saying, ‘We don’t trust white people.’”
A popular criticism of “progressives” has been that, at times, there can be little substance to their outreach efforts. In place of donations of time, goods, or money, there are hashtags, or social media campaigns. Following Trump’s election, an effort was launched to prominently wear safety pins on clothing in order to show immigrants and/or the disenfranchised that there are still people who have their backs. Critics have argued this does little more than bolster the person wearing the safety pin, with little effect on the people it’s meant to help.
“The pastors said, ‘We’re people, we need more than that. We need you to be there for us, to speak up for us,’” Simonelli said. “While I do like people talking about supporting progressive restaurants, I fear that’s as far as it will go.”