By Coral Nafziger
The day after the election, the SCC community was invited to join “a collective conversation about the election results.” This was hosted by the Student Leadership Center and organized by Rezina Habtemariam, SCC’s director of student life, and Ángel González, the assistant director of student leadership.
Habtemariam says that she planned to hold a post-election debriefing, regardless of who won because she wants to be proactive in assessing and responding to student needs.
Although there was minimal advertisement for the election debriefing, it had to change venues from Room 9203 to the Quiet Dining Room based on the attendance, and some participants still had to stand.
The Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a community discussion a week later on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
According to Habtemariam, “People shared that they were really confused and shocked more than anything else.”
Dr. Ernest Johnson, from SCC’s equity and social justice department, helped moderate the event and he estimated that about 80 percent of the people there said they hadn’t expected Donald Trump’s election.
Reflecting on the shock expressed in the debriefing, Habtemariam says it is important to recognize that “violence and discrimination and targeting and marginalized groups feeling unsafe — that is not new in this country.”
On a large sheet of paper at the debriefing labeled, “How do we feel,” one participant expressed the same sentiment, writing that they felt “alienated from people who are surprised.”
There is not one simple explanation for the results of the presidential election. Participants of the election debriefing included the following as contributing factors — white supremacy, non-voters, poverty in the blue collar class, incorrect polls, the two-party system, complacency, false progress, money, fear, neoliberals and Hillary not being seen as a strong candidate.
“This is the true character of our country,” said one participant.
When participants wrote the answer to “How do we feel?” the most common response was the expression of fear on the spectrum of “scared” to “absolutely terrified.” One person explained that she didn’t even feel like she could protest because it would be unsafe.
Other responses, such as “ashamed,” “embarrassed,” and “waking up,” seem to reflect the feelings of people who were blindsided by the election results.
Participants had various thoughts on how to react to the election results, but most agreed that we need to do something.
Habtemariam says a common answer was to start with personal change, and then move towards broader change. She says participants talked about the importance of analyzing their own privilege, perceptions and understanding.
According to Johnson, there was a lot of talk about what engagement means. He says students talked about whether or not destructive actions would be productive.
For a synthesis of thoughts from the SCC community about what to do next, see Moving Forward.
These debriefings were not the answer to the election. Some students after the first debriefing expressed frustration with the conversation, saying it felt tense. They said they could tell that people were angry, but holding themselves back.
Habtemariam says that the first conversation was a great first step, but the school needs to keep it going. She says that she and others are working to determine how to incorporate larger themes brought up by the election into campus programming.
In the second debriefing, many students expressed hope that the school administration will do more to make people on campus feel safe. They say they have seen an increase in hateful remarks and graffiti, and would like the school to clearly lay out what students should do when they feel unsafe on campus.
The BSU plans to hold weekly conversations in the PUB about how the SCC community is doing after the election.
There is work to do as we move forward. As one person at SCC wrote in one of the debriefings, we need to “change the story we tell ourselves about what the U.S. is, then organize accordingly.”