Iowa City West High School

Covering Trump—as a 16-year-old mixed-race girl

“It’s so great to see a young minority woman here!” an older white woman said to me with exuberance at my second Trump rally.

As I interviewed 5-year-old girls hiding behind their parents’ legs and men with Confederate flags branded on their arms, I found myself surprised at my own position. How did I — a mixed-race, 16-year-old girl from Iowa — manage to find my way into my second Trump rally rubbing shoulders with reporters from CNN and Fox?

Elkadi interviewed multiple young people at the Rally. Credit: Leah Dusterhoft
The author interviewed multiple young people at the Cedar Rapids Rally. Credit: Leah Dusterhoft

The first time I applied for press credentials was January 2016, and I did so through my high school newspaper. Along with getting approved for credentials, I easily brought in four other members of the staff. Acquiring credentials was less complex than I ever thought it would be, a theme that consequently changed at the next rally.

I covered the first rally with the intention of interviewing my classmates, many of whom were attending merely for the thrill of a celebrity sighting — not to support the Republican candidate. For the most part, Iowa is seen as a fairly conservative state. Iowa City is an outlier in this respect, and according to the Johnson County auditor, since 1964 we have carried the Democratic presidential candidate. The type of high school students who attended this rally had signs accompanying them that read “We are just here for extra credit.”

Trump spoke in Iowa City for less than an hour, and didn’t go more than a few minutes without being interrupted by a protester calling for him to end his racist remarks. At every rape whistle that was blown, I realized I was actually waiting for something bigger to happen. Living in a city with Democrats that outnumber both Independents and Republicans combined, it’s common to see backlash toward Republican candidates. In 2011, Michele Bachmann was heckled by a “gay robot” here, causing police to intervene.

Something “classic Iowa City” did happen as an Iowa City man proceeded to throw a tomato on stage, aimed at Trump. At the end of the rally, I felt a rush. I knew I had just experienced something that would be in the next edition of history books.

leah dusterhoft Covering Trump—as a 16 year old mixed race girl
Credit: Leah Dusterhoft

The second rally I attended in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in July 2016 was scarier, but in a different way. Applying for press credentials this time took persistence and patience, and I was only able to acquire two. Everyone in the entire room was buzzing with excitement — Trump was the Republican nominee at this point and the crowd that filled the hotel was ready for battle.

A middle-aged woman walked up to the press area and struck up a conversation with me. She asked me where I was from, and I answered Iowa City. Her attitude shifted dramatically toward me.

“We are much more conservative up here. We try not to associate with your liberal town,” she told me. Cedar Rapids is a mere 30-minute drive north. Although this conversation occurred in a battleground state, it still mirrors the widening gap between Republicans and Democrats nationwide.

As I weaved through the crowds, I tried to ignore the less-than-gentle shoves that I received, and the comments about my ethnicity and gender.

“Are you Mexican? Are you voting for Hillary? What press are you with?”

For this rally, I had homemade Los Angeles Times High School Insider credentials on my lanyard.

“Oh, the LA Times? Great. You are a part of the problem — you are the liberal media.”

Credit: Nina Elkadi

In stark contrast to the Iowa City rally, this press area was spacious and less chaotic. It seemed as though the reporters that had been following him on the campaign trail were growing less and less interested in the “Lock her up!” chants and more interested in finding the best Holiday Inn to crash in for the night. It wasn’t until Trump called out the “liberal media” that the journalists looked up for a chuckle. The element of excitement appeared to have faded.

When I went home that night and relayed the events of the day to my parents, my dad, a middle eastern man, said something that took me by surprise.

“If you want to be a journalist, you have to remain unbiased and objective,” he said. “The way you have been describing this event to me doesn’t sound unbiased.”

Sure, any journalist knows that in order to produce a fair and balanced article, you need to leave your bias out. However, the one thing I gained more than anything from my Trump experience is that before a journalist, I’m a person. If I experienced racism and sexism anywhere, I wouldn’t just stay quiet about it. A Donald Trump rally isn’t, and never will be an exception.

Credit: Nina Elkadi
Credit: Nina Elkadi


  • Reply Invisible Mikey September 2, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    It’s interesting to read things haven’t changed much ideologically in that part of Iowa, Nina. I lived in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City between 1968-1982, and the red-blue divide then was as you describe it now except for one example, the woman who suggested Cedar Rapidians avoid association with “liberal” Iowa City. That is only true of the “poorly educated”, so beloved by Mr. Trump. Those of us who studied beyond high school adore Iowa City, the Paris of the Plains.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply zdroberts September 4, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Great piece, Nina! Glad to have you as part of the journalism corps.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply Deethorn September 5, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    As someone who considers herself not only a solid Republican, and as someone who went to journalism school – and a friend of your family….I too would echo your Father’s question. And, yes – if you were wearing a LA Times lanyard people would presume that you were an all-out liberal and would not expect for the event to either be covered fairly and for any story you wrote to be biased. Your last sentences seem to imply that Donald Trump said or did something which was sexist at the CR rally which was wrong. Not his supporters, but him personally. What was it he did? What did he say or do to make you think that? Again, not his supporters. However your comments on the attitudes and focus of the regular, national, press corps were right on. They are not really interested in doing anything except continuing the accepted narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reply Henry Reed September 9, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    As a minority (non-American, Middle Eastern) immigrant, I think you should be listening to your parents more. Donald John Trump never said anything even remotely racist. Being in support of enforcing already established law that affects illegal immigrants that happen to be Mexican is not racist. You’re using the term to justify censorship of real issues that directly affect my immigration process while at the same time diminishing the value of the word “racist”.

    In case you’re wondering about my name, I recently changed it through the court system. I wish to completely make myself as American as possible, to respectfully integrate myself in this nation, which is something every immigrant should try to accomplish in their own way.


  • Reply Invisible Mikey September 9, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    @Henry Reed —

    Journalists are generally expected to exhibit a personal point-of-view, because news organizations require and prefer it. You (and her father, and the family friend) are speaking rather idealistically of the way US news used to be produced prior to the late 1970s, when it could still act and be regarded as a kind of non-profit public service.

    Unlike the UK and other nations, we no longer employ “news readers” who just present objective fact. Our current TV channels, newspapers and magazines all have targeted audiences with specific political (or other kinds of) preferences. Every journalism student has to learn how to create content that way, if they want to become professionals.

    Did you read the title of the piece? Nina is covering Trump from the viewpoint preferences and issue focus a 16 year-old would care about. She’s not trying to pretend to be a 40 year-old reporter from Reuters. The view is authentic, and well-written. This IS journalism now.

    (I’m married to a retired CBS news writer who earned five Emmy awards over a 40 year career. I’ve spent thousands of hours watching her work, and discussing with her how the requirements for journalists changed dramatically over the decades since her first hiring in the early 1970s.)


    • Reply Henry Reed September 9, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      You’re arguing a point — that this isn’t journalism — which I have never even brought up. And this is journalism, an opinion piece, to which I’ve a right to respond to, especially if it spreads misinformation.


      • Reply Invisible Mikey September 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

        @ “Henry” —
        An individual’s honest reactions to how they are treated and behaved toward by others can not BE “misinformation”.

        If you are still hyper-focusing on whether or not Trump is a racist, the answer is simple. To his supporters he isn’t. To his opponents, he is. And no one argues about whether or not he has made racist statements. He has. The only argument is whether or not saying racist things makes one a racist, or not.

        It’s in Trump’s very first campaign speech, that Mexico is “sending rapists and criminals, and some, I assume, are good people” That is a racist statement. Mexico (a country or government) does not SEND people here. They choose to come on their own. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than our native population, not more. That’s fact. It’s Trump who is spreading misinformation.

        Trump objected to the ethnic heritage of the judge who is presiding over his Trump University fraud trial, saying the judge could not be fair in his rulings because Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border. That IS racism. The judge was born and raised in Indiana! Too bad his name is Gonzalo, instead of Henry.

        In short. there’s no misinformation in the article, only in your own head.


        • Reply Henry Reed September 10, 2016 at 3:39 pm

          To address the article and the writer’s reactions, she did not disclose any racism or sexism she experienced, but did end with the following, “If I experienced racism and sexism anywhere, I wouldn’t just stay quiet about it. A Donald Trump rally isn’t, and never will be an exception.”

          She did not provide proof of sexism, racism or any other discrimination and ended with a bashful statement that she “wouldn’t just stay quiet about it”, implying she did experience the things she did not note. It’s called doublethink and also the logical fallacy Begging the Question. In short — it’s a false argument not only due to being illogical but due to being factually untrue.

          Donald John Trump has never made any racist remarks, and the quote you provided was not at all racist. Mexico IS sending criminals to the United States.

          Mexico is in support of illegal immigration, which is criminal behavior in and of itself. According to National Public Radio’s article entitled “Mexico Pays To Help Its Citizens Avoid Deportation From The U.S.”, Mexico has been paying illegals to use DACA to avoid deportation. While Mexico does not directly send illegals here, it does aid them stay here, the difference of which is so minimal it is pedantic to note.

          Your statistic on illegals committing less crime, despite the fact that their stay in the United States of America is a vile criminal behavior in and of itself, is not only flawed due to no backup of evidence, also known as the use of fallacious logic known called burden of proof, but is also flawed due to the fact that some terrorists, such as the elder Boston Bomber and the Muslim Chattanooga Shooter, are immigrants naturalized by the federal government and their crimes are categorized as crimes of citizens. Your statistic, even if linked or cited, is flawed, as there is no distinction between an immigrant or a citizen with allegiance to this nation.

          According to the document “CRIMINAL ALIEN STATISTICS: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests, and Costs”, released in March 2011 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in 2011 about 3 million aliens committed crime, half a million of which was narcotics related and 70,000 of which was sexual assault related.

          Well, what do you know? Some of those illegals Mexico keeps sending in ARE criminals and ARE rapists. Should we ignore women’s right to not be raped or sexually assaulted because it could be labelled as racism, similar to how the Miami shooter wasn’t reported before opening gunfire on over one hundred people while screaming “Allahu Akhbar” because the neighbors feared being labelled as Islamophobes? You either deal with criminals or you don’t, there is no in between.

          Back to the statistic, that is three million criminals too many, and considering how services such as SAMHSA are still necessary in this nation many of these criminals are walking away untouched by our justice system. It is ludicrous to think that letting illegals in is racist — they are criminals, their stay is criminal, and the reason why some of them are allowed to stay in is because they got pregnant before they were discovered. That is not okay.

          And for your last paragraph, here is an example: I am still connected with problems of my original nation and if I were to be a judge or in any other place of power in issues concerning said nation, my new name would not trump (pun intended) my personal bias that I derived from friends, family or cultural origins. I would not be suitable to deal with these issues as I cannot be impartial to them. The Mexican judge cannot be trusted to be impartial, as he is ethnically Mexican. That is not “racism”. That is adhering to a fair justice system, something that the first American men have embedded into the constitution.

          I live in California, more than half of my friends are immigrants or have immigrant parents. I am an immigrant myself. However, none of us abused the generous American system and unenforced laws to stay here. My family took the time to ask this great nation if it would be open to housing us, and thankfully it was. We would not stay here undocumented if the United States could not accept us.

          Donald John Trump never said a single racist remark. He never discriminated against anybody for any reason. He never used racial slurs. End of story.

          Unrelated, but for someone who is so sensitive to issues of racism, you seem to completely okay with putting my name in quotes at the beginning of your comment, despite it being approved through a legal manner and appearing on my government issued identification card. I am not offended, but it is hypocritical of you to pretend that my name is false.


  • Reply Deethorn September 10, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Unfortunately, in response to the spouse of a ‘journalist’ – the changes in journalism since the 1970s have not been for the better. Frankly most ‘journalists’ today are a disgrace.


  • Reply Invisible Mikey September 10, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    @Henry —
    You can refer to yourself as Mahatma Kane Jeeves for all I care. Names don’t make one an American. I think you are participating in a form of “whiteface”, and had no need to alter your birth name at all, but re-inventing oneself is part of our traditions too.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the racism issue. Trump’s statements have been called “the definition of a racist statement” (about Judge Curiel) by the Speaker of the House, and by many other Republicans, including those who still intend to vote for him. You are in a small minority if you believe he has not made racist remarks. I still insist the only argument is whether saying racist things makes one a racist. Some say yes, some say no.


    • Reply Henry Reed September 10, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Please continue the use of Ad Hominem, that certainly makes your argument sound. The name change was my choice and I’m proud of it, so were the judge and witnesses present at the court in which my name change took place. I also find it ironic that you wish to say that I am “participating in a form of whiteface” when you’re so sensitive on topics of racism. Doublethinking won’t get you anywhere.

      And please keep using appeal to authority as well, because broken logic worked so well for you before. If you’d like to play that game I’ll also bring in an authority figure. Dr. Alveda King, MLK Jr.’s niece, is in full support of Donald John Trump. She is a black rights activist; her family is, I dare say, one of the biggest influences in the removal of racism; she does not think of Donald John Trump as racist because, quite simply, Donald John Trump never said anything racist and is not racist in any way, shape or form.


  • Reply Invisible Mikey September 10, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Bravo, Henry. You’ve looked up the list of logical fallacies. It doesn’t make your accusations true. I said I didn’t care what you called yourself. That isn’t Ad Hominem, but the false accusation does make me respect your opinion less for mislabeling it. If MLK’s niece agrees with you, the two of you can meet and celebrate. It’s still a minority opinion.

    Most believe Trump has made racist statements, has elevated the profile of known racists, and encourages the support of other racists. Some believe that isn’t enough to qualify a person as being racist themselves. We’re at exactly the same philosophic impasse.


    • Reply Henry Reed September 11, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Your first paragraph in past comment was Ad Hominem. It isn’t a false accusation.

      “You can refer to yourself as Mahatma Kane Jeeves for all I care. Names don’t make one an American.” That is an attack on my personal identity. That is an ad hominem attack. It is not a false accusation.

      “It’s still a minority opinion. Most believe Trump has made racist statements, has elevated the profile of known racists, and encourages the support of other racists.”
      Really? Most? Where’d you get that statistic from? Before you said a couple of nameless Republicans thought of Trump as racist. And now you’re saying that most people think he’s racist? Another logical fallacy, Hasty Generalization. Except you didn’t even give any names, so that makes your argument all the more incorrect.

      Donald John Trump was met with praise at Great Faith Ministries, a black church in Detroit. He was even given a prayer shawl by a black priest. During the Republican National Convention, you could see crowds of people holding “Latinos Para TRUMP”, “Women for Trump” signs. He has never ever said anything racist, in fact since you’ve yet to quote him using racist remarks or slurs that just proves my point even further.

      Donald John Trump is going to make this nation one again; Donald John Trump will be the best president of the twenty first century; Donald Trump will make America great again. Your false, unsubstantiated accusatioms will not change reality to match your skewed, broken political agenda.


  • Reply Invisible Mikey September 12, 2016 at 10:35 am

    No, Henry, at worst it was sarcasm, not Ad Hominem. You didn’t “get” the joke, so you mislabeled the behavior. I apologize for having used a cultural reference too obscure for your familiarity. Mahatma Kane Jeeves happens to be a pen name (pseudonym) employed by a film comedian we know as “W.C. Fields”, whose birth name was Dukenfeld. (

    Practically every performer in that era who had a complex name chose simpler ones easier to put on theater marquees. An unusual-sounding name (Meryl Streep) would have also been viewed negatively by employers in the 1940s, but that has not been true for decades. So I was making a comment about your perceived “need” to change your name, to “fit in” better, or maybe get more work, not attacking you personally at all.

    You didn’t need to change your name, but you are free to if you wish. Just don’t pretend it’s anything more than your personal preference. The current culture doesn’t much care unless it’s for marketing purposes (shorter is easier to remember). We elected Barack Obama (not a typically “American” name) twice, and after all “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” That’s Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II. Wouldn’t want to be accused of more Ad Hominem.

    I’m not going to play “link wars” with you, and individually list all the racist quotes, retweeted material from white supremacists, and all the Republicans besides Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus and John McCain who HAVE said Trump’s statements have been racist. You won’t accept the obvious, you’re only one voter, and I have a life offline that’s more interesting. I’m sorry we have so little basis for comity, but not very sorry.


    • Reply Henry Reed September 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      No matter what you label it under or what reference you use, it is still Ad Hominem. And I love that you tried your very best to sound eloquent when in reality you were just saying, “I don’t have any evidence and I’m too stubborn to admit it.”

      Donald J. Trump is not racist and never said anything racist; your above comment just proves that further.


    • Reply Henry Reed September 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Writing this a second time because my first reply must not have gotten through for whatever reason. If you see two messages, that is why. Moving on…

      No matter what you label it under or what reference you use, it’s still ad hominem, plain and simple.

      And I love how your last paragraph basically says “I have no evidence for my argument because I couldn’t find anything that Trump himself has said, so I’ll vaguely mention some people who have nothing to do with the situation we’re discussing.”

      If you wish, you may deny reality, but facts stay as facts. Donald John Trump is not racist and has never said anything racist.


  • Reply Andrew Barron November 1, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    Really great article Nina! Very interesting and an insiders scope of the happenings. So sorry for the racist and misogynistic remarks. Great article. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  • Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s