Election 2016

Students confront hate

In the wake of Donald Trump's election, students face unsafe spaces at schools and universities.

Hate crime reports emerge at schools and universities in wake of Trump’s election

Donald Trump pledged to be a “president for all Americans” during his victory speech Tuesday evening. Three days later, the country appears more divided than ever, evidenced by massive protests and a spike in hate crimes.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in a wave of protests across the country to assert that Trump is “not my president.” Reports of racist incidents and hate crimes have emerged in the days following the election. Few places have felt this divide more sharply than school and university campuses.

At San Jose State University, sophomore Esra Altun was on her way to collect her sister when she says someone grabbed her hijab from behind and yanked it backward, choking her. “I was trying to gasp for air,” Altun told The Mercury News. “I couldn’t say or do anything. I was paralyzed.”

At Texas State University’s campus in San Marcos, students took part in a daylong anti-Trump protest Wednesday. But their peaceful demonstrations were overshadowed by more sinister reports that police were investigating fliers posted in bathrooms throughout the campus that called for violence and “vigilante squads.”

“Now that our man Trump is elected. Time to organize tar-and-feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage,” read one of the fliers.

Though the university’s president urged dialogue, her letter failed to address the fliers.  

At the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, student Zoie Gilipin recorded three people dressed in blackface on her walk back from a Black Student Union meeting.

The University said there is no evidence that the people involved were students but added: “The use of blackface is patently offensive and reinforces historically racist stereotypes.”

It’s not just university campuses where hate crimes are being reported this week. Daily News reporter Shaun King reported that some students had built a human wall to block Latino students from entering their classrooms at a junior high school in DeWitt, Michigan.  

Elsewhere in Michigan, a group of students at the Royal Oak Middle School chanted “Build the wall” during their lunch period on Wednesday. The video, below via YouTube, went viral on Facebook and has since been removed.

Among the student groups who feel most in danger is the LGBTQ community. “Our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are deeply concerned about Trump,” Patrick Grzanka, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, told the New York Times.

John Draper, project director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, told the Verge that the service has never been so busy: “We haven’t seen anything like that in our history.”

In addition to multiple confirmed reports of hate crimes, there has been at least one incident of a student making up a hate crime. A female student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette claimed she was attacked by two men, one wearing a “Trump” hat and yelling ethnic slurs at her, before stealing her wallet and hijab.

Police confirmed Thursday that the story was a lie. When asked why she lied, the police told the The Advocate: “That’s only one that she can answer.”

In a bid to stem the tide of hate crimes in schools across the country, officials are calling for calm. Following a report that a Muslim prayer room on NYU campuses in New York City had been defaced with the word “Trump!,” school spokesman Kathleen Hamilton told CNN that campus was a “real melting pot.” The NYPD is investigating the incident.

Hamilton added that the campus had to be safe to continue being a place for “free expression.”

Yet it was that exact notion of “safe spaces” that vandals targeted at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where perpetrators drew “fuck your your safe space” and “build the wall” in chalk outside the campus library.  

University and school officials appear on high alert and are offering services to their students to cope with the rising tensions. At the University of Tennessee and the University of Southern California, the administration invited students to attend meetings, where counselling staff were on hand.

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