As many of us were disappointed to discover early last Wednesday morning, Donald Trump had become the next president-elect of the United States. It was a difficult election to watch— sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the floors of our homes, the light from our TVs illuminating tear-stained cheeks and furrowed brows. Many of us had been with her, so how could this have happened? Unfortunately, for many JMU students, the turmoil didn’t end there. Those who were out and about in the early daylight hours, were met with chalk graffiti that was both offensive and ignorant. While this isn’t the first time the privileged arrogance of the community has reared its head in Trump’s name, it’s still just as sickening.
JMU is a campus that prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming. Tour guides rave that living here for just a few weeks can make it feel like home. Everyone loves each other, everyone is supportive. Parents needn’t worry about the safety of their children— JMU is full of bright-eyed, honest and trustworthy people. “It’s practically one big happy family!” But, when we see actions of aggression like the ones we’ve seen in correlation to Trump’s candidacy, it begs the question of who is JMU safe for.
Is it the students in the LGBTQ+ community? Is it students of color or students who celebrate other faiths? Perhaps it’s the students who also happen to be undocumented? Or is it the predominantly white, cisgender middle class majority? Based on Trump’s rhetoric around people of color, immigrants and refugees, women and LGTBQ+ individuals (to name a few), aggressive and offensive graffiti that encourages Trump to “Build the wall 270 ft high,” or simply just reiterations of “Trump 2016,” those actions were made with the intent to remind minority groups that they no longer have the basic right to feel safe at their own institution of higher education. It’s a reminder that many in the JMU community didn’t need after an 18-month-long presidential campaign that reminded them nearly every day.
As a JMU student myself, I can say nothing other than I’m deeply disgusted and disappointed by the actions carried out by the unknown graffitists. However, I can’t say I’m particularly surprised. Let’s be honest, JMU is not the most diverse, nor is it the most progressive institution out there. Not only did the board hand out a ridiculously lax punishment to the three men accused of sexually assaulting (and recording) a classmate, but their statement on the repainting of the spirit rock was so concerned with being non-argumentative that they failed to stand up in support of the students that felt threatened by those actions. And, with increases in hate crimes skyrocketing since Trump’s election, now more than ever, our university needs to become a safe haven for all students— not just the majority populations.
Luckily, there were groups of students who responded to the negative graffiti with their own positive renderings. Reminders that love will always win were spread around campus and those, along with students who handed out pancakes to strangers, were reminders that love is the most important thing we can hold onto. Without it, we are no better than Trump himself.
Featured image here.