5C Students, Staff React to Election Outcome
Elinor Aspegren | Nov. 18, 2016, 10:44 a.m.
On Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump was elected president, students and staff began to grapple with the events of the previous night, what Trump might mean for America, and how they would mobilize for action.
Some students initially felt shock at the results of the election, but many also felt compelled to action.
Jacquelyn Aguilera PZ '19 said that as a first-generation college student, she felt a sense of responsibility to inform her family members about political issues. Before the election, she told them not to worry, “so in some ways, I felt like I had failed my family,” she said.
Even with these feelings, Aguilera felt motivated to take action following the election.
“I don't really know how to deal with fear or to mourn—that's what really motivated me to organize,” she said.
Noor Hamdy SC ’18 said that she was shocked by Trump’s victory because she never expected him to be president. As the president of the Muslim Student Alliance (MSA), Hamdy and other MSA leaders organized a dinner where students discussed their feelings in response to the election.
“A lot of the emotions [at the event] boiled down to fear and anger, I would say,” she said.
Many students have expressed fear about the effects of this election and Trump’s presidency on themselves or their peers—and some have already felt these effects. Isys Jo PO ’20 was walking home from practice at Claremont McKenna College when a man spoke to her and her friends.
“My friend heard him say, ‘repent niggers,’” she said.
Ahlbie Squire PO ’20, who identifies as a Gary Johnson supporter, said that he was walking on campus on election night when people started to yell expletives at him. As he began to film the incidents, a student ran over to him and started to punch and push him, he said.
“I just ran basically for a good two, three minutes, and I was pretty scared,” he said. “Obviously I’d done something that people disagree with, but that just made me feel really unsafe.”
Alec Sweet PO ’20, a Trump supporter, said that he has experienced name calling from his peers.
“I’ve been called retarded, I’ve been called crazy, I’ve had people come into my room and just shout me that I’m a racist, I’m a sexist, and a homophobe,” he said. “You do get hate for being a Trump supporter, and that’s just the facts of the matter.”
While some students have experienced harassment, many have mobilized to action. Aguilera and several other students organized a march on Friday, Nov. 11 to let the community know “that we're here, that we would not be silenced and that we would not let them be silenced.” She had heard that many people did not know what to do, but she knew she would not allow hate to be normalized, she said.
“I think that it's important to let people know that we are there to prevent this from happening and that we will not be silent in the presence of hate, but also I think that it's important to let the Claremont Colleges know that there are students who no longer fear, that we can no longer fear, and as such we expect fast and effective action among hate crimes that may arise as a result of hate as a result of Trump being elected,” Aguilera said.
Alison Choi PO ’19 said that the protest demonstrated the solidarity among 5C students.
“Hearing that solidarity and feeling that energy and seeing the people come together is such a strong symbol. I think that is a sign of our community coming together and being very open about where our community lies,” she said.
Hamdy and the other leaders of MSA organized an open prayer circle on Harvey Mudd College’s Hoch-Shanahan lawn, which over 200 people attended.
“The Muslim community wanted to see the support that we have on campus and to get a little more of a positive experience,” Hamdy said.
Shayok Chakraborty PO ’19 created the Damage Control Action Network (DCAN), a Facebook group, in order to discuss and plan concrete actions to contain Donald Trump’s policies.
“What we wanted to do is deal with Claremont city government and deal with Pomona, be active in our local government because they do have a certain amount of power and we do have a certain amount of power as stakeholders,” he said.
Chakraborty said that he created DCAN because of his own desires to cope, “to fight for a vision of America that my parents can be proud of and I can be proud of, and [for] justice for people.”
As the election results rolled in, Pitzer's Rainbow People Collaborative co-President Cliff Clifford PZ ’17 and their co-president created an event to help support those in the LGBTQ+ community as they process the election results. Last Thursday, students went to Pitzer's Lavender Resource Room to eat, draw, and talk about their feelings.
“I think it was therapeutic for some of the people who came, but it was so soon after the election results that most people were not able to be consoled. It was helpful for people to be around community members; to know that they're not alone and that we're not going to stand by it and that we're going to do something about this,” they said.
Aguilera said that one of the most important responses to the election is to self-educate.
“If you consider yourself an ally or an aspiring ally to this community, it's important to not put [the responsibility of education] on the marginalized communities,” she said.
Additionally, Aguilera said that it is important to listen to individuals and communities, and to practice self-love.
“In these times when your identity is being attacked constantly, it's important to take care of yourself,” she said.
Choi said that people, especially white people with a lot of privilege, need to make a conscious effort to reflect on their words and actions. She says that people can partially do this by listening and by uplifting the narrative of others.
“We need to contextualize our experiences and educate ourselves not only on different people in America, but that those experiences are telling and are affected by everyone's actions,” she said.
Sweet said that he has been so public in his support for Donald Trump so that he can explain his point of view on the matter. He voted for Trump because “it’s going to help my family because the working class really doesn’t have much support," he said. He added that constructive dialogue where people share their beliefs and discuss them with others is often lacking on campus.
“We’ve become so polarized and we’ve been ignoring the other side of the issue for so long. So I think the best way to foster a 'safe environment' where people are not fearful is dialogue,” he said.
Squire agreed, adding that listening may be the best way to foster a place where everyone feels safe.
“I think what the 5Cs can do to improve the atmosphere on campus, to make everyone feel safer and happier is to encourage more freedom of expression, is to encourage people to voice their ideas regardless of affiliation, and not just politically, culturally, socially,” he said.
Clifford said that although many effects for LGBTQ+ people will come later on, there still have been hate crimes against the community. They said that people can support the LGBTQ+ community by showing that they won’t stand for this type of discrimination.
"I think what's really important right now is to show the country that we do exist and that we won't stand for injustice,” they said.
Chakraborty said that even if organizing is hard, there’s always a way to help. It is especially important, he added, for members of marginalized groups and those directly affected to take a seat at the table with student leaders.
“Political movements aren’t groups of policy experts, they’re groups of people on the ground who are directly affected, who are fighting back against their own oppression. And that’s real power,” he said.
Overall, according to Hamdy, while the election brought out the worst in America, it also showed the good parts in the Claremont community.
"I think it showed something that all marginalized communities had known about America, that there are people who have different prejudices that can turn into racism, sexism, violence,” she said. “But it also brought to light, in the aftermath that many people in Claremont were there for the marginalized communities, even when America was not."