By Zainab Iqbal and Ahmed Jallow
Published: November 16th, 2016
Tears, passion, and concern took over the post-election discussion hosted by the CLAS (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) Student Government at the Glenwood Lounge in the BC Student Center last Thursday following Donald Trump’s presidential election victory.
“We are not only experiencing a great divide within the nation but, consequently, within this campus,” said CLAS Student Government Speaker Carolina Guarrella. “We wanted to provide a safe place for students to voice their concerns, to ask questions, or to simply express their feelings. Above all, we wanted to make it clear that we care about each and every student and their emotional well being.”
Partaking in the event was Dr. Margery Frosch, from the Personal Counseling Center, and Professor David McKay, the director of the LGBTQ Resource Center. Aside from helping to facilitate the discussion, they were also there to help students with tips on self-care, safety, and on-campus resources.
“Respect and civility is the only way we get through this. We all have feelings about what happened, and they’re not all going to be the same,” began McKay. “We have to respect the fact that we have our feelings… and we have to respect other people’s feelings in return.”
Brooklyn College is well-known for its diversity, which was shown through the large population in the room. Students sat in a circle, going up to the front of the room whenever they wanted to speak.
“I went numb when I found out Trump had won,” said BC student Jessie. “The first thing that came to my mind was ‘I guess I’m going back to Costa Rica. I’m going home and I know that my family hates me because I’m gay, but it can’t be any worse than here, right?’”
Fear, anger, and confusion were the common feelings that were shared.
“I’m honestly afraid of the future with Trump,” said Victoria Mclean, 21, a Biology major. “He has brought out all the biases in people, which shows how little progress as a country we have really made.” By 1:00 a.m. Wednesday it was becoming clear Donald Trump was going to reach the 270 electoral colleges needed to win. But Clinton, however, won the popular vote which Mclean says is unfair. “I felt as if the system had betrayed us,” says Mclean referring to the electoral college system which she said is flawed.
Given The City University of New York’s (CUNY) diffuse immigrant population, Chancellor James. B. Milliken—in an attempt to reassure students of the University’s commitment to them—said in a statement that CUNY’s 170 year-tradition of providing opportunity to immigrants, low-income, and underrepresented students will remain unchanged. Although it is unclear whether Trump will act on his campaign promises, the Chancellor said, “What we can be certain about are our own values and the critical mission of CUNY’s mission is the same today as it was a week ago, and it will be the same next year.”
“When I saw the news, it felt like the Statue of Liberty unmasked herself and she’s now this different person from I who thought she was,” said one student at the event. “It’s hurts me to see that a woman can have thirty years of experience, and not be valued in a country that says that she is valued.”
Many students agreed with her.
“My voice was being represented by Clinton, and now this feels like an unexpected death,” said BC student Kristen. “I take so much pride in my identity as a queer woman, and I feel like my safe spaces are no longer safe anymore… and I am so fucking embarrassed to be white.”
Anxiety and disappointment were what Bogena Dergalo, 19, a political science major felt when she heard about the result. Dergalo said she was in disbelief about how many women voted for Trump. “I don’t understand why that happened,” she said about the 42% percent of women that turned out for Trump. President Elect-Trump did surprisingly well among women voters despite prior beliefs that his past treatment of women will hurt him among that demographic. Dergalo, whose native country is Ukraine, is also worried that Trump’s cozying up to Putin will further embolden the Russian president to destabilize her country.
Many students were happy about the prospect of having a female president; at last, the glass ceiling was to be broken. “I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. just to see history taking place,” said Christevane Francois, 25, a political science major. In her concession speech the next day, Clinton said to her supporters that they “owe him [Trump] an opened mind.” Some agree. Francois who said he is not as scared of a Trump presidency said he is “genuinely curious as to what [Trump] can get done with a Republican legislature.”
From the opposite end of the spectrum were those who supported President-Elect Trump. Diana, a BC student, stood firm on her choice—though many didn’t agree with her.
“I don’t buy into this rhetoric of Trump being some sort of oppressor,” said Diana. “He’s not some racist, sexist, homophobe. I honestly think people have misrepresented him in the media… and now you’re paying the price for it.”
Another student, Anthony, also shared why he voted for Trump, urging students to be hopeful.
“As someone who is a Trump supporter, I supported him for the reason that he represents a different revolution,” said Anthony. “Four years—we can hopefully get through really well, and get a pushback of things we don’t really want. And that’s how democracy is supposed to work.”
Trump’s recent backtracking on some of his campaign promises has had some student’s hopeful that he won’t act on some of his most controversial campaign promises. During his first interview after winning the election, Trump said to the Wall Street Journal that he would like to keep some parts of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) instead of repealing it altogether— a 180 degree from his original position. Some of his close advisers are also suggesting that some of his most extreme proposals like banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and building a wall and making Mexico pay for it may be revised.
Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser, casts doubt on whether Mexico will be made to pay for the wall. “He’ll spend a lot of time controlling the border. He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it, but it was a great campaign device,” Gingrich said Thursday during a conference call sponsored by Dentons, a global law firm, according to the Washington Post.
Many of those enraged by Trump, are putting the blame on his supporters and those who did not vote for either major party candidate. This phenomena has been covered by various media outlets such as Daily Kos, Complex, and The Daily Beast.
“If you did not vote, you are on the side of the oppressor,” said a student at the event. “We have to deal with repercussions of being Black, being a woman, being queer, and in a stratified society we cannot change these things about us. And I am honestly scared—not because of Trump—but because of the people who voted for him.”
About 218 million Americans were eligible to vote in the 2016 Presidential election. Out of the 218 million, 57% actually voted; in which about 5 million were for third-party candidates or write-ins, such as Harambe—the dead gorilla.
“I voted for Gary Johnson, though I don’t believe Trump is a racist,” said another student. “But the reality is, the world goes on and facts don’t really care about your feelings.”
There were many students who couldn’t hold back their tears as they spoke.
“I feel unsafe in my own body,” said BC student Mel. “It’s had to show up for school, but I am grateful we are here, and we’re building some community around this.”
Another student also broke down in tears, after speaking about her fear of being deported by a man “who hates [her] since [she’s] Hispanic,” she said.
“They were willing to make America great again by oppressing others, and that is not the country I was taught to believe in,” said the student. “What if they came to me and told me to leave this country and go to Mexico—that I don’t belong here, that this country is theirs, and I’m not American enough?”
“It felt like a dream,” said Israel Gonzalez, 21, who was born here to Mexican parents. “As a person who comes from the Latino community, it hurts seeing him become president after everything he has said about my culture.” Gonzalez said some of his family members are undocumented and “it’s scary to see what this man is capable of doing as president.”
The fear of deportation for these Hispanic students comes after Mr. Trump’s constant remarks on illegal immigrants. According to the New York Times, Trump plans on deporting 11 million immigrants, all while insulting Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” said Trump when he announced his Presidency last year.
In August, Trump appeared to have softened his controversial proposal of mass deportation only to double down on it at a later speech. When asked if he is hopeful that Trump will continue backtracking on his most controversial issues Gonzalez said, “Not one bit. I still think he wants every immigrant out of the country.”
“I am an undocumented student… and the future is looking kind of dim,” said another student sharing his story. He spoke about the consequences of returning back to his home country. Many countries are politically torn, which is why many families immigrated to America in the first place.
“Many people come from places where there’s dictatorship, or that they aren’t accepted because of their sexuality,” said an International student. “I am fortunate enough to have a place to go back to if things were to get ugly, and I were to get deported. But I know many people who don’t have that.”
A few students cried while telling stories of their close friends being afraid and ridiculed.
“I’m scared of the people who take the extra step of showing their hate,” said a concerned student in tears. “Last night I got a phone call from my best friend in Missouri. She calls me crying that she got racial slurs yelled at her.”
Following the election, there were many incidents of hate crimes throughout the country. According to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), over 200 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation have been reported since Election day.
“These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents,” said the report. “There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals.”
Many students began to defend their feelings with political facts, in which they were then stopped by Dr.Frosch and McKay.
“This is not a forum for talking about your political views,” repeated Frosch.
“We want to talk about the way people feel. A lot of people on both sides of the issue feel unsafe,” said McKay. “The one thing we have control over, is that we can make this campus safe for everyone. This is about how you feel, and not about what the politics of this election were.”
At the end of the event, School Safety Officer D. Rojas reassured the students.
“A lot of people feel scared,” she said. “Just know that we are here for you guys.”
According to Guarrella, it is very likely some students left the event feeling more frustrated than ever.
“As much as I want to, I cannot will away the students’ frustrations and concerns in spite of having provided this event,” said Guarrella. “Some were concerned that we tried to limit political discourse since the primary focus of this particular event was emotional well being and support. We were aware of students carrying particular political ideologies regarding the election, thus, our goal was to focus on a post-election discussion centered around students’ concerns and sentiments.”
Based on the requests of the students in attendance, Guarrella confirmed that there will be a “Part Two” of the event.
“As soon as I have a date and time,” she said, “I will promote the event on the CLAS Webpage, the Bulldog Connection, and the students will receive an email from Student Affairs.”
Whether President Elect-Trump will act on his most controversial campaign promises is unknown. But until then, students in Brooklyn College and across CUNY who might be affected say the fear of the unknown has left them feeling vulnerable and anxious.