Editor's Note: CEC Tri-Chair and Professor of Biological Sciences Jennifer Swann shares her recent thoughts on the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Reflections on the Election Jennifer Swann
I was shocked by the election. Stunned, I went to bed hoping for the best and woke to news that floored me. We had lost so decisively in the House, the Senate and the White House. I felt like I had woken up in a parallel universe. I was unsteady on my feet, could not concentrate, and did not want to do anything. Luckily for me, my sister and mother were at my house. The election was on my birthday (I know, right?). They had come to celebrate and spent the night. We talked and cleaned house and had lunch and ate comfort food trying repeatedly to process.
I went to work and commiserated with colleagues and coworkers and friends trying their best to maintain as they resumed their daily routine. The world felt upside down and still the same. As the afternoon drew on I went online and seeking solace in pundits and Facebook and NPR. There was none, all were as stunned as I was. I needed some relief, some explanation and there was none to be found.
I was saved by the students. Ironically, Senior Assistant Dean of Students Lori McClaind and I had arranged a post-election discussion to help the Trump supporters deal with the election. No one showed up. Instead we were invited to a meeting of the Lehigh College Democrats. This wonderful group of thoughtful folks unpacked the election with insight and a clarity that left me uplifted, inspired and curious. Though I am still processing the new world we will soon face, I am confident things will be alright because the next generation is so wonderfully in charge.
There were Trump supporters at the meeting who defended their choice. They directed me to Trump’s “Gettysburg Address,” his plans for his first 100 days. I was surprised to find that I agree with a few of his ideas (e.g. to institute term limits and block lobbyists)! I realized that in my desire to eliminate the negative soundbites and rhetoric I had also blocked out his entire platform. I was completely ignorant of his stand on the issues. I had stopped listening because I had discredited him based on his superficialities, precisely the thing I accuse those on the other side of doing!
Here’s the thing. I brought the shock on myself. Because I discredited Trump I assumed everyone else did too. I failed to hear the voices from the other side, despite their presence on CNN and NPR. And because I associate with like-minded people, my opinions were confirmed. As I watched the news I was saddened to hear “Not my president” Even as many may not like President-elect Trump’s winning, he will be the president. He won. Our democracy worked.
So I’ve begun. I refuse to demonize those that voted for Trump. They are not a monolithic group of racists or misogynists or bigots any more than my fellow democrats are a uniform whole. Some may have voted for Trump out of fear. Some must have voted because they wanted something else, something different. My goal is to find out what that something else is. My insight is that many who supported Trump are people who are and have been hurting. As I look with fresh eyes at the reports from Trump’s constituents I hear the pain of those who feel they have been forgotten by the system. Many are concentrated in economically depressed areas, where the economy has left them behind. Their vote was a cry for help.
Going forward, let’s reach out to them. Let’s find out what their goals are and work with them to achieve them. I believe that if we can work together collaboratively, we can find middle ground and both sides can win. WE can move our nation forward. Instead of endless grid lock, let’s find common ground. WE can do this. We can take a page from President Obama’s book as he welcomed the man he called “unfit to lead” to the White House. Let’s commit to finding the things that can bring us together and that work to move all of us forward. We’ve got time.
Poet Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. Let’s listen closely to all Americans so WE can build an equitable America.
The CEC is sharing a message from Frederick R. Coleman '17, President of the Lehigh Class of 2017:
Tuesday, America elected a president who boasts of his ability to sexually assault women, who has called Mexicans rapists, has mocked people with disabilities, and has insulted Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, etc. These groups are under attack. There are people on campus, including survivors of sexual assault, who fear for their lives and feel devalued.
Today, Thursday November 10th at 2pm, we will be having a Rally for Inclusion at the University Walk by the Flag Pole. Please come through and show that Lehigh as a community denounces the racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, and sexism that American now embraces. Make signs that show that Lehigh celebrates diversity, and that everyone is welcome on campus.
If you can, please wear black to this action and show your support. This is a non-violent direct action. This is a silent rally.
-- Frederick R. Coleman '17
Class President of the Lehigh Class of 2017
Senior Admissions Diversity Recruitment Intern
BALANCE Alumni Student Engagement Committee
UN Youth Representative for the African Citizens Development Foundation
International Committee Finance Chair for the National Society of Black Engineers
The Council for Equity and Community shares Pride Center Director Chelsea Fullerton's words on the mass shooting in Orlando and offers its support for the LGBTQ+ community at Lehigh and everywhere.
My heart is heavy. Words feel like they fall short of encompassing the sadness, the anger, and the confusion that the events of yesterday's mass shooting in Orlando elicited. I am hurting. My heart breaks for my community, my people, who were targeted in this act of violence and hate. I am also determined to continue onward in love, resistance, and solidarity.
Nadine Smith, the co-founder & CEO of Equality Florida (the largest LGBTQ+ organization in the state), said: "Through our grief and our tears, what remains absolutely constant is our unshakable resolve that we will uproot the bigotry, the fear, and the hatred that is at the core of this horror we are enduring. That is our pledge - to be unwavering. Love wins."
In the spirit of this unwavering resolve, I share a few ways that those of us who feel we need to take action can move forward. Before I do that, however, I also share a plea for those who are most impacted by this tragedy to not solely move forward in action, but to also take care of yourself and one another. It's ok to cry, to hug the people you love, to feel anger and hurt in whatever ways that looks like for you. It's also ok to turn off the news, close your social media feeds, and focus your attention on something else (true story - for me last night, it was sloth videos).
Sit with your sadness, sit with your frustration, and don't rush yourself to move forward just yet if you're not ready to.
What you can do to stand in solidarity with Orlando & LGBTQ+ folks everywhere:
Contact LGBTQ+ loved ones - One of the most powerful things that you can do is simply call, text, and/or message your LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones. Let them know you're thinking of them. Let them know that you love and support them. Ask them if there's anything they need, even if that's just space to process the impact of this tragedy. These small acts of love and of kindness are more impactful than you know.
Listen to the voices of queer & trans people of color - The tragedy in Orlando was overwhelmingly impactful on communities of color, particularly Latinx communities. Though it may not feel like an immediately impactful act, listening to stories like thesecan inform the actions of white & non-LGBTQ+ allies as we strive to make sense of this violence and respond from a place of love and solidarity.
Donate blood - Even for those of us not in and around Orlando, blood donations can make a large impact on communities of high need. Particularly because the FDA bans blood donations from sexually active gay men, allies can be instrumental in both donations as well as advocacy for the changing of these outdated & harmful policies.
Resist narratives of Islamophobia - Often, media coverage of acts of mass violence can misdirect grief and anger toward Muslim communities. As one writer stated,"We should not use this horrific act of violence to perpetuate even more hate - particularly against our Muslim [siblings]."
Donate funds - If you are able, even small donations can make a big difference to the families and loved ones of those impacted by this tragedy. There are many organizations to which you can donate - if you choose to give, make sure the organization that you fund is reputable and that their plan for the donations is clear (Equality Floridais one example of such an organization).
In pride & solidarity, Chelsea
Chelsea Fullerton Director, Pride Center for Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity Lehigh University
Abdolhamid (Hamid) Sadeghnejad, President of the Lehigh University Iranian Student Association (LUISA), recently sent the CEC a note of thanks for their support. We wanted to share his words and photographs with you.
I have to thank you for sponsoring the biggest Iranian event at Lehigh University, which is Nowruz Night (Persian New Year) on March 19th. Without your support and help, hosting this event was not affordable for me as the president of LUISA.
The event included many parts, including cultural presentations and games, funny performances, magic, and food. The goal of introducing Nowruz culture to members of the campus community were satisfied by the event. Also, there was an opportunity for people from Afghanistan and Iraq to present their culture and explain how Nowruz is celebrated in their countries. So, I am glad to say that the event was multicultural, too. At the end, we stayed together to count down to the new year, which was so fun.
I truly appreciate your favor and kindness to support us financially and emotionally to hold the event to make stronger friendship among students.
Student Mike Horgan shared the following impressions of the second annual Pride Basketball Rally and Game held Saturday, February 27. The event was co-sponsored by the CEC, along with the Student Senate Inclusion Committee, the Pride Center for Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Athlete Ally, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
"The Pride Basketball Rally and game was a great event not only because of the signal it sent to the LGBT community that many Lehigh students support them but because the event also served as a means to reach out to Bethlehem community members. The large attendance and fun atmosphere at the rally was a powerful sign that the Lehigh community embracing a group that often feels marginalized on campus. At the rally, I also got to meet a Lehigh staff member and play basketball with her lively son. These connections are important and beneficial to our community. At the game, we were able to bring 50 Bethlehem school children and their families to the game and treat them to dinner beforehand. Watching the children wear the Pride event shirts and wave rainbow flags at the game was an amazing sight and hopefully fostered a conversation among the children and their families about LGBT awareness."
On Thursday, February 25, NYC based performance company The Black Latina Movement will perform an original work of theatre, Of Mothers and Men, at Lehigh University (see below for event details).
Of Mothers and Men presents a set of monologues spoken by women about their relationships with their mothers, motherhood, and the men in their lives. The play tells of love and struggle through an exploration of a spectrum of relationships, from healthy to unhealthy romantic partnerships to complex family bonds.
Of Mothers and Men highlights the diversity, pain, and beauty of Black Latina women and their experiences. Crystal Shaniece Roman, Black Latina Movement founder and CEO, who also appears in Of Mothers and Men, created the show to honor the “many paths these intricate relationships often take.” As such, Of Mothers and Men exemplifies the larger project of The Black Latina Movement to “advance the Black Latina voice” through the arts (BlackLatinamovement.com).
Of Mothers and Men is brought to Lehigh’s campus by a collaboration among the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Office of International Affairs, and the Women’s Center. The play is also supported by multiple campus partners, including the Council for Equity and Community. In addition, because of the nature of some of the monologues, representatives from Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh University Counseling Center and Advocates will be present and available to talk with anyone immediately affected. Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley will be accepting donations. Donations are voluntary. No donation is needed to attend the play.
The organizations and individuals who have worked to bring Of Mothers and Men to Lehigh hope that the play will spark campus and community wide conversations about the experiences of women of color as well as the diverse roles of the women in our lives and communities. A 30 minute Question and Answer session with the cast will directly follow the performance, and the discussion will continue on Friday, February 26 at a Brown Bag Lunch meet-up in the M-Room at noon.
Both the play and the post play meet-up are free and open to Lehigh students, faculty, staff and the general public. Come out to hear the stories of Black Latina women and join in the conversation about relationships, love, and struggle.
For more information, contact Rita Jones, Director of the Women’s Center, at email@example.com, for more information.
The Black Latina Movement Presents: Of Mothers and Men
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016
Admission is Free!
Post-Play Brown Bag Lunch Conversation:
Friday, Feb. 26, 2016
M-Room (2nd floor of the University Center)
Event is free, bring your lunch and responses to the play!
The CEC’s recommendations to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) which resulted from The Lehigh Survey are now available for students, faculty, and staff to review on the Diversity and Inclusion Updates page. Please take a moment to read this important material which came out of a great deal of work on the part of CEC members during the month of January 2016.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have any questions or thoughts about the CEC recommendations? Would you like to participate in implementing and supporting them? Do you have any thoughts or suggestions to share about The Lehigh Survey? We want to hear from you.
Commenting on the CEC blog is open to Lehigh staff, faculty and students (graduate and undergraduate). To post, simply log in below.
Thank you to everyone who responded to The Lehigh Survey and for all you do to help foster inclusivity and equity at Lehigh.
Lehigh's MLK Planning Committee is excited to share the news that this year's commemoration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will include some of the nation's most significant voices in social justice today.
In late January, Lehigh University will welcome multiple Grammy Award-winning rapper Macklemore, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometiand activist Bree Newsome. This powerful lineup of speakers is a result of the MLK's focus on social activism that will span this academic year and the next, and will no doubt provide an engaging and thought-provoking roster of events.
Bree Newsome, in an act of civil disobedience, removes the Confederate battle flag from its pole in front of the South Carolina state house.
This year's schedule includes the following:
January 24th: Activism: A Conversation Between Opal and Macklemore,moderated by Lehigh Professor James Peterson in Baker Hall 1 to 2:30 p.m. (Tickets for this event will be free and will be able to be reserved inadvance - more details to come.)
January 27th: "WAKE" Brown Bag and Talk Back, moderated by Lehigh Professor Darius Omar Williams at a campus location to be decided.
January 28th: Bree Newsome, Activism and Her Climb for Justice: Baker Hall 7 p.m.
The MLK Celebration at Lehigh will kick off with the Lehigh Valley Multicultural Student Leadership Conference that will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, January 16, 2016, in Iacocca Hall. The event is organized through Lehigh's Office of Multicultural Affairs, in conjunction with local school principals. It is geared toward high school students engaged in and looking to enhance their leadership capabilities.
The Committee be sharing more information as these events approach. This year's celebration is certain to be extraordinary.