2016 Presidential Election

I'll never not vote again.(1) - Aaron Taylor

VARIETY MAGAZINE

Prompted by the 2016 election, the individuals involved in the Students of Color Oral History Project were particularly interested in students experiences since the nomination of President Trump. Reflections from narrators fell into three broad categories: immediate reactions, reflections on racism, and the personal experiences of racism that followed this event.

Immediate Reactions Bubble

Immediate Reactions:

After hearing that Trump would serve as the 45th president of the United States, narrators’ responses ranged from shocked to actually voting for Trump as the lesser of two evils. They used words such as upset, angry, ridiculous, and “a joke.” Shaun Carter’s reaction mirrored that of a few other narrators,’ recalling that while he was upset, he nonetheless remained nonplussed about the outcome.(2) Aware that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Diavian Gunner and Nicole Smith questioned the integrity of the election, asking “what’s the point of us voting if we [are] not the ones actually making the vote count?”(3)

Michea Wolfley

"Unpopular opinion, I actually voted for Donald Trump and I get a lot of criticism for it. Like, “Oh, you're black. You voted for Donald Trump. That’s wack.” I was like, “Mmm, is it?” Albeit, you’re judging me on my opinion, where I feel like this election, this past election, was picking the better of two evils."(4) - Michea Wolfley

Out of the 31 narrators, the 2016 presidential election created a personal, internal conflict for two students. For Michea Wolfley, he was raised in a conservative town whose family members voted for Trump. To him, the criticism he received from individuals because of who he voted for was unwarranted. For Mekdes Woldu, both candidates went against her moral beliefs with abortion on the one side and her stance against discrimination on the other.

Shaun Carter

"Yeah! Everyone from who I grew up with was like, 'Yeah, this is great! This is everything we wanted.' And, I just kept my composure. Just. . .I know it happens and I knew where everything was going, and. . .yeah, I just kept my composure. That’s about it"(5) - Shaun Carter

Sabra Baker

"So, after that I kind of lost confidence in the voting system honestly."(6) - Sabra Baker

Diavian Gunner

"And then, when I got to government class on that Monday my government teacher said he won the electoral votes and not the popular votes. I was like, 'So, what’s the point of us voting if we're not the ones actually making the vote count?'"(7) - Diavian Gunner

"I don't know. I feel like my classes just became more divided and just people were really showing their true colors and like. . . Like I said, I lost of couple of friends cause’ I was just like, 'If you. . . Like, how can you be my friend and if I’m telling you my experience as a student of color on this campus and you can support that, like, that says a lot about you.'"(8) - Brittney Brown

Reflections on Racism Post-Election:

Some narrators’ noted that the atmosphere on campus became divided and heavily rigid. To them, the political and social climate of the 2016 presidential election heightened racial tensions on campus. Floored that people voted for someone whose campaign actively attempted to divide the country instead of unit it, they started to wonder who on campus they could trust. Elizabeth Wright represented a handful of narrators as she talked about the fear she felt in not knowing which students at Millersville supported the racist narrative that grew out of the election.(9) This apprehension and rigidity spread into classroom environments as discussions became increasingly hostile. Many narrators’ believed that the outcome of the election served as an event that symbolically communicated it was okay to openly express racist beliefs and remarks without the threat of being reprimanded for it. To avoid the racial animosity, tension, and personal insecurity, a few narrators distanced themselves from their peers by locking themselves in their dorm rooms or refusing to approach the topic.

Nicha Smith

"I would say for the I realized how racist America was, and not the racism that you know in history, not the racism that you experience from time-to-time, what people might experience, just the fact that someone could promote racism and promote a campaign based on us being different."(10) - Nicha Smith

Terrence Pearson

"I wasn't surprised. I really wasn’t. So, basically, freshman year I was friends with way more white people on campus than black people. It was just sort of how it was. I didn’t pick any friends it just happened. And while I thought I found my niche, I thought I found some friends that I was going to be friends with for a while and for the ones who didn’t drop out, they were around for the election. And regardless of stereotypes, regardless of resumes, and regardless of political opinions, we both knew what both the candidates stood for. We both knew the dirty laundry. We both knew all of the skeletons in their closet. One was seen as a bigot. One was seen as a liar. And while I respect other people’s opinions because we are all entitled to have our own personal opinion, it wasn’t until the election that I found out that all the friends I had made were actual bigots."(11) - Terrence Pearson

Washington Square Park, NYC tonight

1. Aaron Taylor, interview by Christhiena Stinson, Cassie Twyman, and Nicole Todd, April 10th, 2018, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

2. Shaun Carter, interview by Emily Young and Lauren Davis, May 8th, 2018, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

3. Diavian Gunner, interview by Julia Pavlow, November 14, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

4. Michea Wolfley, interview by Nate Stevens, November 10th, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

5. Carter, interview. 

6. Sabra Baker, interview by Leah Fergusen, March 29th, 2018, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

7. Diavian Gunner, interview by Julia Pavlow, November 14th, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections 

8. Brittney Brown, interview by Jeremy Hull, May 9th, 2018, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

9. Elizabeth Wright, interview by Michael Lynch and Eliana Pablon, December 6th, 2017, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

10. Nicha Smith, interview by Sebra Garner, March 30th, 2018, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA

11. Terrence Pearson, interview by Basil Wright, May 1st, 2018, transcript, Millersville University Archives and Special Collections, Millersville, PA