Three hours, at most, was how long I napped before I checked the election results on November 8th. Throughout the day I had been quietly holding my breath and hoping for the best. Going to work, attending class. The usual. Hillary Clinton had to win, right?
After waking up, I immediately checked the election results on my phone, and its glowering screen greeted me with a gruesome surprise: Donald Trump won. The little bar indicating the percentage each candidate acquired in electoral college votes was overpowered by red. I couldn’t believe it- were my parents okay? What did they feel as they too watched what was unfolding?
Parents’ reactions to the election revealed how political issues permeate a campus and its climate much more thoroughly and in greater concentration than elsewhere; students at my college are young and angry- students so full of mental energy that public injustices afflict them personally.
When I called my dad, his voice was cool. Despite my parents being documented immigrants, Trump’s win indicated xenophobic views reigned. Despite Trump supporters assuring us that only undocumented immigrants deserved to be deported, their spite against “illegals” was unlikely to be free of anti-Latino sentiment. My dad’s calm demeanor in turn kept me grounded. He assured me by saying that he’s lived through pretty bad presidents. And about the wall that Trump wanted to build? It already exists, in some form. (A news headline on Facebook I came across later confirmed this.)
News of Trump’s victory swept over my college’s campus, and the sadness that ensued manifested itself in tears running down sobbing people’s faces, and social media welled up with similar lamenting. My timeline, my feed was full of anger, fear, remorse- looking back, a high amount of posts were white liberals voicing how appalled they were at the results. Their surprise at how prevalent bigotry proved to be was insulting- how sheltered were they from the discrimination that people of color faced daily!
Student protesters’ activity heightened around this time, and a popular demand among us included that professors should offer academic accommodations for people of color. While to conservatives who belittle safe spaces, this may seem like coddling, I need to stress that the election results were a source of mental and emotional health decline in many: our health center even made an announcement about making its counseling more available, since rates of depression and even suicidal ideation had risen. My friend’s lab partner took an emergency leave, which means they did not attend class for a few weeks and were not required to turn in work until weeks later(if they could turn in the work on time, of course, that was to their own discretion.)
Wealthier students offered to buy low-ses students and students of color mace for self-defense. News at that time reported heightened hate crimes, and peers posted about being harassed on the street. Our fear was not in vain. These were difficult times.
It saddens me that next semester may be even worse, because Trump will be in office by then. I feel I did all I was realistically capable of doing as a reaction by attending a Trump protest in downtown Portland, but he’s still going to be pledging to be the next president of the United States. The best I can do for myself, and that I can recommend to others is to seek counseling if mental health issues persist during these times. There isn’t a better time to reach out to campus identity groups, as well.