My experience living in Ann Arbor as a student with conservative views

It seems like I’ve been living here in Ann Arbor for my whole life, but the reality of it is that it’s only been a year and a half. My time in Ann Arbor has flown by faster than I thought it would, and I can’t believe the time here is coming to an end. I had to adjust to Ann Arbor quickly, as I had moved here six months before COVID-19 took over. The pandemic only further complicated my transition to this new town, as I had to adjust to a new learning format, and I watched as my relationships with new friends started to dwindle. 

Things can be rough in a city like Ann Arbor. I’ve found that you have to act a certain way to be accepted, even though people think everyone is accepted here. That’s the case unless you have Republican/Conservative views. Obviously not everyone in Ann Arbor is unaccepting, but a good majority of the students that go to Ann Arbor Public Schools have this image in their head of what a Conservative is like. 

I found that new acquaintances often fell back quickly and comfortably on stereotypes. They seem to think that you’re a “white supremacist” or that you’re “homophobic and racist,” just because you supported Trump. I’ve had people in this town un-invite me to things, privately message me on Instagram and Snapchat telling me how much of a horrible person I am, and how I should, “Take my white Republican a** back to Florida,” and I was threatened repeatedly with violence by multiple people–all because I felt differently about some issues than other people did.

 I’ve been scared to say anything to anyone, because I don’t want to offend anyone, and I don’t need any more conflict with people. What makes it worse is that I’m 14 years old and therefore below eligible voting age, yet people act like I just came from a voting booth shouting, “I voted for Trump.” However, that’s not the case. Just because I have a Trump flag hanging in my room, and a flag for military, cops, and firefighters, doesn’t mean I’m any of the stereotypical persona that comes with being a Trump supporter here in Ann Arbor. I just believe most cops and firefighters are there to protect us, and I believe military service is heroic, and that the Constitution is worth preserving. It’s what brought us civil rights, ended slavery, and it’s the reason we can call America a free nation, and when it falls short, it’s where courts go to bring us justice. 

Despite all of the trials and tribulations, I have tried to remain positive and stand firm in what I believe, while meeting some supportive friends and teachers along the way who have taken the time to get to know me, and not judge me based on political beliefs. I was beginning to feel optimistic about going into 10th grade at Pioneer and being a bridge for kids in Ann Arbor to know someone different from themselves, but then my mom announced that we were returning to Florida. 

It wasn’t all bad though. There are some negative aspects that come with living in Ann Arbor, but the town itself is nothing like I’ve ever lived in before. Downtown Ann Arbor is probably my favorite place to go on weekends, as I love the store Ragstock, and getting boba. I loved seeing the seasons that Michigan experiences, especially fall. I got to build a proper snowman, and have a proper snowball fight with real snow, not fake Florida snow. I also was able to finally see the Michigan Stadium that I’ve seen so many times on TV, and go bridge jumping at the Huron River. I’m not sure if I’ll miss the negative five degree weather, but I know I’ll definitely miss the scenery. 

The truth of the matter is, Ann Arbor is a great place to live in if you’re a liberal, or if you don’t support Trump. That’s too bad. It should be a great place to live for anyone who brings good intentions and thoughtful beliefs into the community, which I tried to do. The weather is great, and the town itself is beautiful, but some of the people here make it unenjoyable. No one should feel that their safety is at risk if they don’t blindly repeat the values and beliefs of the people around them. That the people making such threats tell themselves that they are progressive thinkers is even more appalling. 

I still wouldn’t change moving here if I could, because I think this experience has taught me a lot that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. I learned to become more independent, and to not care what people think. But for a 14 year old who didn’t know anybody, those lessons were painful at times, and even drove me into therapy. This year and a half has been a big part of my life that I’ll never forget. Maybe in going back to a red state, I’ll use this pain and rejection to make sure if some kid with Ann Arbor values ends up in my community, they won’t get treated like I was in Ann Arbor.