Culture centers offer a place to voice disappointment, fears after divisive election

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Some 500 people gathered on election night at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on Indiana University’s campus to watch history unfold in real time.

By 11 p.m., the mood turned somber and the party wound down as it became evident that Donald Trump would be the nation’s next president, an outcome many people present feared.

What do you do when you feel as if you’re on the wrong side of history, that your voice hasn’t been heard?

You gather yet again and mourn together.

Director Monica Johnson said on Wednesday that’s exactly what about 200 people did, with the center (which uses the slogan “where you belong”) quickly organizing a “relaxed, release lunch” during which students and members of the black community gathered again at the center to mourn.

“The mood was quiet, somber. People were grieving. I heard from a few people it felt like they were attending a funeral wake,” Johnson said. “With many of them being first-time voters, this has been a good example of disappointment and how to deal with that disappointment that your vote didn’t go to the next president.”

Johnson said many black students are feeling unsure if they are safe on campus and around town. Others have expressed fears that the president-elect will start wars that their friends and family members will have to fight in, or that their health care coverage will be lost or the progressive LGBTQ marriage equality laws will be repealed.

“There’s anxiety and fear because of all the rhetoric during the campaign -— all that dangerous racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, sexist rhetoric — that all of those things will have a real impact on their lives,” she said. “It might just give people a license to say things that they wouldn’t have been saying out loud.”

‘Stand up and speak out’

Doug Bauder, director of IU’s GLBT Student Support Services, said there hasn’t been a flood of students seeking counseling services since Tuesday, but rather a constant flow of members of the LGBTQ community simply needing to shed a few tears in a safe place, sharing many of those same fears.

“I mostly found myself paying attention to everyone just a little bit more and being as gentle as possible,” Bauder said, adding that one student flipped the bullying narrative on its head. “The student came in here after being harassed and said normally he wouldn’t have said a thing. After the election, he realized he wasn’t alone and decided to stand up and speak out.”

Bauder admitted to feeling what he called despair when he first woke up Wednesday morning, but soon began to realize (with a little help from TV late night host Stephen Colbert) that human decency can and will win out, he said.

“We need to know that we have the power to make a difference in people’s lives,” Bauder said. “Human decency is just as important as casting a ballot.”

While Bauder said he has experienced disappointment in past elections and can absorb the blow a bit more easily, he understands that the younger generation — possibly voting for the first time — will feel this sting for quite a while.

“I have the perspective of many elections; they do not. I think many of them feel robbed of that sense of accomplishment in casting their first vote in an election,” he said. “From here we’ll have to lick our wounds, catch our breath and carry on.”

‘We want to feel safe’

Among area Muslims, the reactions have been as wide and varied as their professional and ethnic backgrounds, Anna Maidi, president of the Women’s Committee at the Islamic Center of Bloomington, said on Friday.

“I think the Muslim community is like any community. We’re diverse. Certainly, there are some people who are afraid, and there are others who think it’s being blown way out of proportion,” she said. “Obviously, we don’t want to be attacked. We don’t want to be afraid in our own community. We want to feel safe.

“Islamophobia didn’t begin this election season. I think this election makes people feel a sense of urgency, certainly, but the truth is hate wasn’t born overnight, and it won’t go away overnight.”

Maidi said apart from a few instances floating around social media and reported by The Herald-Times, she hasn’t heard of many instances of harassment, and none among the Muslim community.

Barbara McKinney, director of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission, said the commission has received several reports of incidents from Bloomington police and anonymously from individuals. Friday on the B-Line Trail, swastikas and “KKK” were found painted along the path and on nearby light poles. Graffiti on a stop sign read “Trump,” while on Saturday graffiti was found on the Monroe County Democratic Party Headquarter’s windows depicting pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton slogans.

In Brown County, a church was vandalized with a swastika, an anti-gay slur and the words “Heil Trump.”

The Bloomington Human Rights Commission collects data on hate crimes and bias crimes from police, individuals, groups, the media and anonymous reports.

On Facebook, a local black woman’s account of being verbally assaulted on Wednesday by white men in a truck had been shared more than 1,400 times with nearly 600 comments by Saturday evening. The 33-year old woman says the men yelled derogatory names at her, including the n-word, and said “Trump is going to deport you back to Africa.” On the post there are many messages of support, while some say her claim is “clearly fabricated,” further illustrating the divide many individuals in a minority group now fear.

Rallies at Showalter Fountain and other sites around town have provided catharsis for many people looking to vent their frustrations.

Anxious, but hopeful

Nancy Stockton, director of CAPS, IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, said this election couldn’t have come at a worse time for students. With final exams approaching, Stockton said CAPS’ individual counseling services have been booked full.

“Students are anxious, there’s no doubt about that. But from what I’ve seen, they remain largely hopeful for a larger society,” Stockton said, having attended the rally held Thursday at Showalter Fountain. “I was very proud of what I saw. Students greeted each other with open arms. I thought it was a very mature way to handle their stresses and their fears.”

Johnson said she is seeing much the same around the Neal-Marshall center. “We will continue having conversations with our students about what happens next, but many are processing this themselves,” she said. “I heard one student at a rally say, ‘What do we need to do to figure out what our country needs, and how do we be that?’ I thought that was very well said.”

At the Islamic Center, Maidi said the Muslim community will continue its mission of outreach and education.

“Islamophobia is a fear, and I understand that people are afraid,” Maidi said. “We will continue to extend a hand of friendship to everyone in the community, and keep that hand open, to show that there is nothing to be afraid of.”

Source: The Hearld Times