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Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election rattled Harvard’s campus, provoking a particularly strong reaction among students of color who feel they will be disproportionately targeted by his policies.
Many minority students, fearful of how the Trump campaign’s racially charged rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies will manifest in his presidency, gathered in discussion groups hosted by various cultural organizations and affinity groups Wednesday
Nearly 70 students, most of whom were people of color, crowded Quincy’s Junior Common Room for a town hall hosted by the Harvard Foundation focused on the implications of the election for people of color. Institute of Politics fellow Michael A. Blake, who was re-elected to his New York State Assembly seat Tuesday night, traveled from Hillary Clinton’s election night event in Manhattan to lead the discussion.
In an emotional and intimate conversation, students shared their anxieties and fears for a Trump administration. Discussing hate crimes that have occurred since Trump’s victory, many students expressed fears for their own safety.
“We haven’t made as much progress as we thought we had, and that was a distressing realization for me,” Matthew G. Moore ’19 said.
Ata D. Amponsah ’19 said he was particularly upset by Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke’s endorsement of Trump, and was concerned about Republicans sweeping gubernatorial and Congressional races.
Attendees questioned how to discuss issues of race with conservative-minded peers, as many were minorities, both racially and politically, in their hometowns. Harvard Foundation intern and Harvard Democrats board member Devontae A. Freeland ’19 acknowledged that organizers walked “a tricky line,” as the Foundation does not endorse particular political viewpoints.
“We are a nonpartisan office that deals with issues of race, with a guest speaker who is an elected Democrat,” Freeland said. “We have personal stakes in this, but we weren’t making statements on behalf of the Foundation or the IOP.”
The election results stunned Harvard’s student body, as undergraduates overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton: 87 percent of undergraduates responding to The Crimson’s election survey this year said they would vote for the Democratic candidate.
The student leaders of some affinity groups and cultural organizations held informal events in response to Trump’s election. Renegade Magazine, an art and advocacy collective focusing on issues of social justice, held an unstructured art workshop for members to decompress and respond to the election. Domenica A. Merino ’17, president of Latinas Unidas, sat in Ticknor Lounge for four hours, welcoming members of the group to discuss their feelings on Trump’s victory.
“It was devastating to see so many members feel de-legitimized as women of color,” Merino said.
In Harvard Hall, the College’s Diversity Peer Educators, also nonpartisan, had planned a talk on race, policing, and the Black Lives Matter movement, but instead held a session for reflecting on the election results.
“It caused such a profound emotional and intellectual response among students and members of this community as a whole.” Hannah Lemmons ’20, a diversity peer educator, said. “We obviously felt the need to shift the focus [of the event] to serve as a beneficial space to have people express that response.”
The College’s BGLTQ office, the Women’s Center, and the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion had office hours planned for Thursday. South Asian Women’s Collective president Madhavi L. Narayanan ’17 planned two events for the end of the week, the first a “nonjudgmental” session in which the group's members “can support each other as women of color” and the second a discussion about the future of South Asians under a Trump presidency. Event organizers said they were motivated by student need, praising the broad variety of supportive spaces made available for students, particularly students of color.
“I’m not really focused on turnout [at this event] because there are a lot of spaces that have opened on campus in the last few hours,” Lemmons said. “There are some overlapping times and different focuses for each of these events, so I’m happy that this is just happening in order to provide one more space that might serve one more member of the community.”
—Staff writer Marella A. Gayla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @marellagayla.
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