Donald Trump’s victory in last week’s presidential election has elicited reactions from many campus communities. His campaign opened a Pandora’s box of divisive rhetoric aimed at people of color (POC) and religious minorities not used in mainstream politics in recent memory. This rhetoric, which alienated these communities, was widely predicted to cost him the election.
Muslim Chaplain Ailya Vajid, in describing the reaction to Trump’s win, said “part of it was anger, but a lot of [POC] students were not surprised.”
“It felt more like reality. I think that many were hopeful in this election but also knew the ugly truth that is a surprise to so many,” said Samia Osman ’18, an international studies major and Somali-American student.
Sharing this sentiment, Arnold Sanginga ’19, who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said, “It was more like [an] affirmation of something that was already present… what this country actually stands [for].” He added that he was not shocked and felt Trump had a real chance at winning. “It was interesting to see that reality happen and the surprise that shook the country, as an outsider,” he said.
When asked how he was processing Trump’s win, Sanginga said it “has been a wake-up call to appreciate the people in your life and spend time with them.” Sanginga also feels the election has imbued in him a sense of “distrust.” Despite the college’s ethos echoing values like multiculturalism among students, “deeper down you don’t know,” he said. Osman feels unsafe off-campus and spoke of being more vigilant when running errands at Wal-Mart recently for fear of having her hijab pulled off.
“I’ve just been going to safe spaces — something already limited on this campus for POCs — and I’ve been having healing conversations with incredible people, reconnecting with who I am and what my identity means to me in this reality and on this campus,” she said.
Vajid also stressed that “we appreciate the ally-ship,” but “we need space to process this ourselves.” Her challenge as chaplain is to create spaces within the Muslim community where “students will want to take action” and where “people across cultures, beliefs and practices can come together.”
Kava Garcia Vasquez ’17 said that she wanted to be in black spaces during this period of time. She expressed frustration in being treated as a “missionary” in college-wide spaces. “People are only interested insofar as I can function as a mirror for them,” Vasquez said. “It’s still about what I can get out if it. It’s a transaction. They look at me as diversity, then all of a sudden they’re not racist, because they’ve talked to me, they know how to pronounce my name.”
All three students felt disappointed with the college’s response and called for action to face up to the impending Trump presidency. They also cautioned against moving on from a state of grief. “Action and a call for change should be the response, not grief,” Osman said. She added: “We are so focused on a mythical ‘bigger picture’ and finding ways to change the world that we forget that that change begins with us in all forms. Change isn’t an equation; it’s a struggle, one we must undertake first as individuals, then as a collective.”
Vasquez feels that there is an overall sense of apathy on campus and that many students simply “do not care.” She said, “No one in this bubble wants to say, ‘I don’t care’ [but] they find other ways of saying it.”
Trump was carried to the White House on the back of overwhelming white support that helped tip traditionally Democratic states in the rust-belt. On the point of Trump drawing support from economic insecurity, Vasquez said, “It comes as a package.” All three students agreed that it was difficult to separate Trump’s racist discourse from the rest of his candidacy. However, Sanginga said that it was important to “[try] to listen to the points that Trump has been making.”
Vasquez emphasized the need to step out of the Mac-bubble, saying that “white liberalism… makes you look at the world and say ‘I’m tolerant, I’m a safe space.’”
Over the past few days, President-elect Trump has backed off on several outlandish campaign promises. Nonetheless, his appointment of Breitbart news editor Steven Bannon, who has been accused of anti-semitism and racism, as Chief Strategist has raised questions of Trump’s pandering to the far-right. Rabbi Barry Cytron said, “This is just so abnormal. I can’t imagine for me if it’ll ever be normal.”