On Jan. 20, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. Being on a campus as liberal as Swarthmore, tense emotions were palpable within the community following the results of the election. Classes were canceled, tears were shed and a multitude of distressed Facebook posts were written. However, inauguration night seemed much less intense, with most students choosing to ignore it completely. Walking around campus, there was really no sense of panic or despair, a contrast to that which was starkly felt in the days following the election. I, personally, forgot it was the inauguration day last Friday – simply because no one had really been talking about it. I unwillingly caught a few glimpses of the ceremony while in the Ville, but other than that I spent my time watching a movie with a friend, it was a normal Friday night.
As an international student, I feel I have an “outsider-looking-in” vantage point from which to view this election. Therefore, in order to truly understand the individual experiences of minority Americans – from election night up until now – I sat down with three Swatties to talk with them about what this new president means to them. I talked to them about their emotional processes during this intense election cycle, and their preferred methods of reprieve.
On inauguration night, I sat down in the ML lounge with September Porras ’20 where she passionately talked about her commitment to protesting. The mood in the room was friendly and casual, everyone around us was nonchalantly socializing and studying. You would never know that a political event as major as a change in presidency occurred just earlier that day, an oddity on a campus as politically charged as Swarthmore.
“I didn’t even remember it was inauguration this morning,” Porras admitted, “which is good because I can focus on things and not be too upset by what’s happening.”
Although she wasn’t too concerned on the day of the inauguration, Porras spent election night covering the polls on Swarthmore’s radio station, WSRN, with her friends until 2:15 in the morning.
As a patriot, she felt particularly betrayed because she believes that what makes America great is its diversity.
“To think that so many people find that to be not American – that shook me,” Porras said. However, as time went by, Porras found solace through protesting.
“[The protests] helped me a lot…everyone decided ‘we’re angry and ready to fight back’…it was a sort of catharsis.”
Porras described her emotional process from election night to inauguration night as a journey from being “sad and devastated, to being angry and then ready to solve.”As to whether protesting is an effective mechanism of resistance, Porras offers the following.
“Protesting an inauguration isn’t going to stop an inauguration. We all know that…the point of protesting is to let the rest of the nation know that people care, … years from now when people look back on documents and photographs – you’re looking at a divide in a nation, this is documented evidence that people did care and people did fight,” said Porras.
The Sunday following the inauguration, I sat down with Mirayda Martinez ’20, who said that she was heartbroken when she realized Trump was going to win.
However, Martinez found solace in solidarity on election night.
“I left the viewing party and went off with a couple of my friends who are also undocumented minorities and Latinx students. We talked about how it would affect us. It was very upsetting and there was a lot of crying, but we let each other know ‘hey, we can get through this,’” she said.
Martinez also notes the in-your-face nature of social media as it relates to the coverage of the new president.
“I try and stay away from seeing posts on Facebook, I kind of just ignore them – just because it breaks my heart a little bit more every time I see it,” she said.
Martinez says she “definitely” still feels heartbroken and disillusioned, and it’s been that way “since the day this election started.”
In terms of protests, Martinez says “I’m really happy that people are acknowledging that this is a problem.”
However, she points out that protesting without active action is not enough. “I feel like some people go to these protests and then the next day they act like nothing happened …Yeah you can go to a protest and show your support…but if you’re not doing anything about it in your own life and you’re just going to these events that make it sound like you’re doing something – then there’s no point in you trying to join the movement,” said Martinez.
She also acknowledges the positive ways in which social media has been manipulated for resistance. “I definitely think it’s good when people post about [issues regarding the election] on social media because you are making people aware that these are issues that need to be tackled,” she said.
Byron Biney ‘19 remembered that on the day of the election “people were looking at the results as they came in – this was still around the time Hillary was in the lead, but still any time someone brought it up I’d tell them to stop talking about it — I didn’t want to hear about. Something about it just made me feel very uncomfortable, the fact that we were choosing between Hillary Clinton and this” he ominously references the newly elected president.
Like Porras, Biney was also broadcasting live with WSRN. “There were so many emotions in that room, I feel like I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life,” he said. Biney also expressed the need to be in contact with loved ones during the elections.
“This is a move which threatens so many different people based on their identities, so there was just a longing to be in contact with my family,” he said.
After the broadcast was over, however, Biney spent time with his friends, “they were trying to create a safe space to relax and calm down, and I did what I could to contribute to that safe space” said Biney.
The night ended for Biney with him walking back to his dorm, “playing the saddest song on my phone, and crying quite a bit.”
Biney continued by describing his headspace. “America is a system that has never really been for marginalized groups…[the election] is just a continuation of having to create a place for yourself in a system that really doesn’t want you to begin with, and now that Donald Trump is our president it’s just more upfront.”
When news about the inauguration came up on his phone, he ignored it because it made him feel powerless amidst the day’s events- “the inauguration was going to happen and Donald Trump was going to come out looking like a bowl of spilled milk,” he said.
“I definitely have a more cynical viewpoint where I feel as if the protests aren’t going to convince people who are Trump supporters to not be Trump supporters,” Biney said.
“It’s almost as if they live in two different worlds.” he went on to say about the divide between Trump supporters versus those against Trump,
What effect does this have on protesting? “Protests are more or less and expression of grievance and call to action, but Trump supporters won’t find those grievances valid – so what you end up with is people like Tomi Lahren saying it’s a gathering of cry babies,” Biney stated.
“I’m someone who goes to DIY punk shows, which are specifically made for marginalized groups. I see a lot of utility in the gathering of people from marginalized backgrounds and people actually creating discussions and expressing themselves through art or physical action,” said Biney.
Biney also acknowledges the fact that violence as a protesting tactic has become a very divisive feature of protests. He believes however, that marginalized groups are often inevitably considered aggressive or violent when they try and advocate for themselves.
“[Protests] are the tools which they have, we can’t villainize those people just because they are using the tools around them.” His parting message for America: “My advice would be for people to stop treating these issues as if they’re new.”
Oppression isn’t new, it just has a new face, and Americans must be ready and willing to fight against it as they always have.