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Pitt students in minority groups react to Donald Trump win

The Pitt News

Waking up Wednesday: Shock, fear for some

Kyleen+Considine+%7C+Staff+Photographer
Kyleen Considine | Staff Photographer

Kyleen Considine | Staff Photographer

Kyleen Considine | Staff Photographer

By Alexa Bakalarski and Emily Brindley / The Pitt News staff

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Students woke up Wednesday morning to a soggy, gray day.

Some of them were Donald Trump supporters, now the President-elect. But the gloomy weather seemed appropriate for others — many of whom protested the Republican in the street until the early morning.

For students from minority groups that Trump insulted and whose rights were threatened during his campaign, Wednesday morning marked the start of an uncertain future.

Even at Chat n’ Chew — an event where Pitt students and faculty informally gather to talk with one another — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, students sitting in groups cried into tissues and hugged one another.

While watching the results come in Tuesday night, Jasmine Green, a senior social sciences major who attended Chat n’ Chew, said her breathing got shallow, and she began to feel dizzy and nauseous.

“I don’t think I felt anything along those lines before,” Green said. “To that extent, I never felt that way before.”

Green went to sleep Tuesday night hoping the election results would somehow be different when she woke up Wednesday.

“When it was concrete [that Trump was president], there was this sort of hopelessness, and it kind of became anger,” Green said. “I think the only thing that got me out of that was knowing I needed to be there for other people.”

Susan Rogers, a Pitt spokesperson, said the Chat n’ Chew was planned before the election results were in.

Ami Fall, a resident assistant in Holland, offered hugs to her residents Wednesday. | Courtesy of Ami Fall

Ami Fall, a resident assistant in Holland, offered hugs to her residents Wednesday. | Courtesy of Ami Fall

Ami Fall, a sophomore majoring in political science and psychology, is a resident assistant on the third floor of Holland Hall. On Wednesday morning, she placed a sign on her door that read, “If you need a hug, an open ear, support, ANYTHING, just knock.” Fall said about 10 students came to speak with her by Wednesday afternoon.

“Everyone was just — they were in shock,” Fall said.

On Tuesday night, Fall attended a watch party held by Black Action Society, moving from the sixth floor of the William Pitt Union to the lobby of the Union and then to Market Central before joining the protests outside.

As Tuesday night bled into Wednesday morning, playful banter and mild concern soured to somberness and shock at the BAS’s election watch party.

In the BAS office, watchers stretched to the back of the room and spilled out into the common hall area. When Florida and Pennsylvania were too close to call, a prayer circle formed where the BAS members hoped to put the election outcome into the hands of God.

Aminata Kamara, president of BAS, said her heart began to hurt as she watched the results coming in — Ohio, and then Florida — sitting about three or four feet from the projector screen.

“Trump winning would be a slap in the face to black people in America,” Kamara said before the results had finalized. “It’s demoralizing that someone who has insulted multiple groups in America could become the commander in chief.”

Trump has promised strict immigration policies, including building a wall between the United States and Mexico and putting an end to sanctuary cities, where local officials refuse to work with deportation authorities.

As the results came in, Fall thought of her father, who immigrated to the United States from Senegal.

“I was just thinking about my dad and thinking about all the people I love and who love me and are affected deeply by this,” Fall said. “It didn’t feel like real life. It felt like I was in a daze. I still don’t think it’s really hit me, honestly.”

Trump faced backlash last year when he mocked a disabled reporter while speaking at a rally in South Carolina. Near the end of his campaign, a story circulated on social media about a boy who uses a wheelchair that was kicked out of a Trump rally for protesting.

There are about 750 students with disabilities on Pitt’s campus, according to statistics from the Office of Disability Services and Resources.

Brandon Daveler — a fourth-year Ph.D. student studying rehabilitation science and the president of Students with Disabilities Advocacy — also described his main reaction to the election as “shocked.”

“[Trump’s] overall projection of himself is negative, in my opinion — the mockery of people with disabilities, the way he talked about women, racist comments,” Daveler said.

More than Trump himself, what struck Daveler was the number of American citizens who supported these opinions by voting for the Republican candidate. Despite this, Daveler said he doesn’t foresee much change in Pitt’s campus environment as a result of this election.

“Change takes time, and I don’t think Trump’s impact is going to reach the university level,” Daveler said. “I think as time goes on and we realize what change is needed, people will come together.”

About 15 students offered "free hugs" outside the Cathedral. Kyleen Considine | Staff Photographer

About 15 students offered “free hugs” outside the Cathedral. Kyleen Considine | Staff Photographer

On Wednesday, despite the raucous protests of the night before that stretched until nearly 4 a.m., campus was quiet. About 15 students held “free hug” signs outside the Cathedral of Learning, trying to send a message of love and unity to people who felt ostracized by the candidate’s victory.

Frey Grant, a sophomore ecology and evolution major, wore black clothes Wednesday morning, but changed their mind by midday “to get [their] mind off of it.”

“Today was definitely a mourning process for me,” Grant said. “I feel sad for everyone who feels alienated by this.”

Grant is a member of the Rainbow Alliance on campus, a group that held a safe space Tuesday night, even before the results of the election. LGBTQ+ students worried on social media that a Trump presidency could threaten the progress that’s been made for gay, lesbian and transgender rights.

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, once supported the use of government funds to support institutions that could change a person’s sexual behavior in the wake of the HIV/AIDs crisis, according to his website in his 2000 congressional campaign. He has never, according to Snopes, mentioned conversion therapies or camps.

Trump has fluctuated on his views about same-sex marriage, and his campaign website lists no plans regarding the rights of LGBTQ+ people. In the past, he has said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Todd Reeser, director of Pitt’s gender, sexuality and women’s studies department, sent an email out to students in the department titled “On this dark day,” written in a fearful tone that remained somewhat optimistic about the power of education.

“I am worried about so much and about so many, and I am unsure what is to come,” he wrote.  

“I am trying to take heart in the fact that our reading, our teaching, our discussions, our research all aim to dismantle the racism, sexism, masculinism, ableism, [anti-Muslim sentiment], xenophobia, and lack of intellectualism that will — I fear — characterize the post-Obama years.”

Though many students who did not support Trump said they feel disheartened or angry, there are others who, as Election Day grew nearer, described their emotions as fear.

Early Wednesday morning, Aya Shehata, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and sociology and the social chair of Pitt’s Muslim Student Association, told The Pitt News she was making plans to remain safe after the election.

“I’m scared to leave my apartment building to take my exam,” Shehata, who wears a hijab, said. “I’ve got the signs right on me — screaming out ‘Muslim’ — and I don’t know what to expect.”

Sonya Besagar, a senior neuroscience and history and philosophy of science major, is the president of the Pitt South Asian Student Association and said she felt “really disheartened” when she woke up Wednesday morning and remembered the elections results. By Wednesday evening, Besagar felt she came to terms with it a bit more.

“I think what we can do now is continue working toward our values of raising awareness of diversity and raising awareness of the different ways of life, and how important those are to our society,” Besagar said. “Everyone should feel safe and respected.”

Sara Ali, a first-year student majoring in political science and a member of Pitt’s Muslim Student Association, said though she didn’t feel afraid as a Muslim-American on campus, but she did feel disappointed in the election results.  

“At this point, I kind of know that people can be terrible and they can treat you differently and it’s not a judgment of your character,” Ali said. “It’s a judgment of their character.”

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Waking up Wednesday: Shock, fear for some