Donald J. Trump is now the President-elect of the United States after an election season that divided our country like no other. No matter your political persuasion, the reality stands that last Wednesday campus fell silent. The quiet halls of buildings, the muted sounds coming from main quad and the shuffling few in the West Union all reflected the shell-shock, fear and questioning uncertainty felt by our campus community.
For some students, this election was politics as usual and they voted along party lines. For others, this election was as hopeless as any other and they abstained along with some 45 percent of eligible voters. For still others, the election was unusually hard-fought but November 8 and its aftermath would make no great difference in their lives either way. Such are the privileges of many of us on campus.
But for others still, this election was personal. It became centered on a man who looked them in the eye on national television and time and again invalidated their identities, families, stories and very places in American society. People across the country were targeted by rhetoric that isolated, intimidated and threatened in a way that was previously unthinkable on a national stage.
Whatever you make of the actual conservative political platform, Donald Trump sounded notes of racism, Islamophobia, sexism and prejudice all too clearly in his candidacy. He left no doubt for supporters that his vision of America would allow them to break sharply from “what Barack Obama has done to this country, so sad.” Not every Trump supporter is a bigot by any means, but Trump’s election has nonetheless emboldened the very worst members of our society in recent days:
At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a Muslim woman observing hijab was approached by a stranger who demanded she remove her headscarf or he would set her on fire with a lighter. At the University of Pennsylvania, black first-years were added en masse to a GroupMe message before being sent racial slurs and violent images. At a middle school in Michigan, students chanted “Build the wall” in their cafeteria, and at New York University, “Trump!” was written on the door of a Muslim prayer room in the engineering school. In downtown Durham, a vandalized building declared “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does [sic] Your Votes.” Across the country, swastikas have been graffitied, including on the doors of several Jewish students at the New School in New York City, often accompanied by white supremacist messages and Trump’s name. The list of incidents goes on and on.
This is not “liberal fear mongering.” This is what has shaken students. This is reality for those who now feel millions have either tacitly or purposefully forwarded along a presidential ticket that freely lent a megaphone to messages of prejudice now being celebrated by a radical minority who are acting out their hate.
When students asked last week for midterms to be postponed, for the election to not be discussed just yet or simply for help, love and support from their fellow students, the skepticism and dismissal that many were met with felt personal, right in line with all the unseen pressures bearing down on them in the wake of the election. Until those who voted for Trump in spite of, and not for, his hateful speech and impacts start attending protests against Trump-inspired hate and demonstrating this supposed caveat to their vote, the hate, uncertainty and fear will continue.
This is the first editorial in a three-part arc about the presidential election and its aftermath. Tomorrow’s editorial will focus on re-engagement with politics.
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