My college classes on the day after
Donald Trump rocked my world by becoming the president elect, but on the day after, I had to go teach class. I have two classes on Wednesday — Law and Social Change and Women and the Law. In the first, I told them on Monday that we would talk about how social change might look in our next class — after the election.
But before class, about 3:30 in the morning when I got up because I couldn’t sleep, I saw an email from Kevin saying he was sorry but he was too depressed by the election results to be able to talk about it in class the next day. “I feel your pain,” I thought to myself, “but it’s not an option for me.”
And so I walked into class. About two-thirds of my students were there. Most of them looked stunned. One or two seemed smug, and one young woman could not contain her glee at Trump’s victory. This is the University of Arizona, and many of my students are from Hispanic or blended families — some members documented, some not. And at least three that I know about are “dreamers” or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students. They had heard candidate Trump say that he would cancel every executive order of the Obama administration, and they knew that meant DACA. Two women sat and cried quietly throughout class. One man volunteered that his Chilean immigrant father had voted for Trump. His lower lip quivered as he tried to talk about it.
Social change under a Trump administration was the theme of our conversation. The changes the class had studied — mass incarceration, voting rights, women’s reproductive rights, second amendment rights — all look differently than they did in class on Monday. Some things can be assumed and some we don’t have a clue. There will be no closing of the background check loopholes on gun purchases. There will be no immigrant pathway to citizenship, nor will young people brought to this country by their parents be allowed to register, claim an education, a chance to work and thrive, which they can under DACA. Those things, we can assume, are gone.
Race, racism, police violence against Black citizens, those have all been part of the class syllabus. Issues of race and racism have been out in the open in our society. No one believes that the election of a black man as president brought us into a “post-racial society.” Certainly not my students. But electing a man supported by the KKK and white supremacist groups has made that reality even more obvious.
Trump has spoken positively about privatized prisons and stocks of those corporations soared on the news of his election. It is likely that a justice department under Trump — and possibly one headed by Giuliani — would overturn the ban on the use of federal for-profit prisons.
Other issues depend on congress and the courts. Trump will have a congress that will probably support his legislative wishes and he will support theirs. They agree that the Affordable Care Act is a “disaster” and they vow to repeal it immediately. In the “first 100 days” is what they have said. But in the years that a Republican congress has tried to repeal it, only to be stymied by Obama’s veto, we have seen no alternative. So my class wondered — would they really just do away with it and do away with healthcare coverage for millions of citizens, leaving them with nothing? People covered by the ACA who are in cancer treatment — what will happen to them? The thousands of low income children and families covered by expanded Medicaid — what should they do now if a child is sick? We have no answers, but before spring semester comes to a close, we might.
The conversation in Women and the Law was similar. Some shock. Many heads shaking in disbelief. Some tears. How will women be affected by having a president who has admitted to sexually harassing women? Who has insulted women, while insisting, “no one respects women more than I do.”
We have not yet had the class presentation from the group working on issues of women’s reproductive rights, but there was a shocked reaction when I said that Trump had insisted he would only appoint Supreme Court justices who were willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Trump is on record saying that a woman who has an abortion needs to be “punished.” And we talked about the new vice president-elect’s unwillingness to allow any woman access to birth control. Pence was a co-sponsor of two bills that would have given a newly fertilized egg “personhood” and criminalized any birth control device that prevented implantation of the fertilized egg.
But we have had the presentation group that researched “why is there still sexual assault on campus?” My students understand the importance of Title IX and the Office of Civil Rights in their campus lives. While Trump himself has not commented on this issue at all, his surrogates have. They suggest that “Trump would scale back Title IX, or even eliminate the Department of Education or the Office of Civil Rights.” While Obama’s initiatives under Title IX may not have solved the problem of campus rape, they are addressing and diminishing it.
After class, when I walked down the front steps, several students were gathered talking quietly. I joined them. They were grateful to have a place to have a “protected” conversation. One woman had been horrified to be confronted by several sorority students who basically laughed at her concerns. She is from one of those families with some documented and some undocumented, parents and siblings. Her older sister came illegally as a child brought by parents. This student was born in the U.S.
“I’m a Protestant white male middle class man,” said one student in this group. “I won’t be touched personally by whatever Trump does. But I’m horrified. I don’t know what to do now.”
I’m a white lesbian feminist married to my partner of twenty-five years. My family is racially mixed. I — and mine — could easily be affected, depending on what Trump and Pence do. But today I don’t know what to do either