Trump’s America is shaping up to be even more disastrous than I initially imagined. Sunday night, when he was told that his supporters were harassing minorities, Trump responded, “And I say, ‘Stop It.’ – if that helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop It.’” Well, in the words of the president-elect, I have one thing to say to Colgate: Stop It.
Following the election results, many members of our community felt genuine fear. Fear that their rights will be taken away, fear for the future, fear for their own safety. In several of my classes on November 9, we were given the opportunity to speak freely about our reactions to the election. What I saw around me can only be described as the physical embodiment of pain. Many people openly cried; I was one of them.
This election has constructed some terrible precedents: we as a country would rather elect a man that The Atlantic recently called, “the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227–year history of the American presidency” over a female candidate who has served as secretary of state, senator, first-lady, lawyer, professor, activist and volunteer. We learned that using hateful rhetoric and inciting violent rallies is what it takes to win an election. In response to Trump’s blatant hateful language, first-lady Michelle Obama coined the phrase, “when they go low, we go high.” However, this did not prevent the racist, sexist, homophobic language and violence that prevailed across the country in the days following Trump’s win.
The Wall Street Journal reported that, just last week, a student passed out fake deportation letters to classmates. At the University of Pennsylvania, black students were added to a group chat that showed images of lynching and racist language. While my heart went out to those suffering, I will admit, I naïvely thought that incidents like that could not happen in my own community. But then I learned just how low members of the Colgate community could go.
This past week a private GroupMe conversation, which included members from a specific Colgate organization, was screenshotted and then released via social media. I am willing to acknowledge that these screenshots were, most likely, released without the consent of those included in the messages. They were communicating within the confines of a private space, where I speculate that the individuals felt comfortable enough to express their own ideas without fear of retaliation. But, if we learned anything from Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, do not post anything on the Internet that you would not mind the whole world seeing.
This is a moment when so many members of the Colgate community feel genuinely frightened. By mocking women and minorities, among other marginalized groups, it sends the message that they are neither welcomed nor valued within this space. Admittedly, we carry ourselves differently behind closed doors than we do in public. However, what is said when we think no one is listening is often times the best indication of our true inner thoughts. We are who we truly are when we think no one is watching.
Just take our new president-elect. Do you think he would have admitted that, when it comes to getting women, he will sexually assault them if he knew that it would be shared with the world? I would like to say, “no” just because I believe everyone, even Trump, has some shred of dignity. Did this clip tell the American people more about him than any press conference or debate ever could? You better believe it. However, he was not held accountable for his actions, and as a result he is now the president-elect of the world’s most powerful country. Unlike Trump, we as a community need to hold one another accountable for our words and actions.
Even though I do not agree with what was said, I acknowledge that individuals on this campus are entitled to freedom of speech. Continuing to post and reshare misogynistic and racist rhetoric does not help to solve the issue at hand; it only perpetuates it. What this campus needs, in my opinion, are more open fora where individuals, no matter what their political affiliation might be, have the opportunity to speak open and honestly about issues without fear of harassment and belittlement. The purpose of free speech it to protect the speech that you do not agree with, not the speech that you do. Nothing gets solved via social media.
The climate on Colgate’s campus was admittedly vile prior to the election; now I cannot even begin to fathom how that climate will change (undoubtedly for the worse) over the next few months. It is terrifying to think how Trump’s hate-filled, misogynistic, racist rhetoric is influencing the American people. By allowing the now president-elect to act in vulgar and callous ways, without any repercussions, we set a precedent that hate speech and corresponding acts of violence will be tolerated, if not encouraged. If this is the case, and I sadly think it is, I am not just fearful for the Colgate community; I am fearful for our entire country. Do better Colgate. Do better America.