By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
After a long election season laden with hate speech, the results of Tuesday’s vote have left many populations feeling vulnerable and targeted.
On Thursday, a BGSU student reported on Facebook that as she volunteered to collect election signs from yards on Crim Street, she was physically attacked and called racial slurs by men shouting they were “making America great again.” Bowling Green police are investigating the incident.
On Wednesday evening, as a peaceful rally was held in the green space in downtown Bowling Green for those troubled by the election, Krishna Han said three teenage boys walked by yelling, “Black lives do not matter.”
On Tuesday evening, a BGSU student from Tunisia explained during a city-university relations commission meeting, that international students are reporting threatening incidents to her, and worry about the climate created by the election.
After years of inching toward inclusion, President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign “whitelash” is being blamed for legitimizing hatred toward many populations – Latinos, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, women and more.
“It was a pretty traumatic day,” BGSU student Allie Dyer said Thursday during a Not In Our Town meeting. “We are in very real danger now. We have to watch our backs now.”
In response to the student reporting the attack on Crim Street, BGSU Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice Provost Thomas Gibson released a statement to all students.
“BGSU is committed to ensuring that we have a welcoming and safe climate for all members of our community. We believe in the value of respecting one another, promoting diversity and being inclusive in making Bowling Green State University a place we can all be proud of and where our community members can thrive,” Gibson wrote.
Gibson encouraged students to report incidents in person, online or by phone. He also urged that students attend a town hall meeting on Monday, at 6 p.m., in 101 Olscamp Hall, on the “Impact of the Election and Respect within Our Community.”
Bowling Green City Schools are also keeping an eye out for any increased bullying or discriminatory behavior that are being reported elsewhere in the nation. High School Principal Jeff Dever said there have been a couple cases of individual students arguing about the presidential election, but no spike in bullying behavior.
But BG Superintendent Francis Scruci said he does have some concerns about the lack of civility spurred by the election.
“This election has taken the filter off,” he said. “The disappointing thing to me is that these feelings have existed, but this election has removed that filter.”
That lack of tolerance has been evident in social media posts by adults, Scruci said. “I’m watching the adults exhibiting all the cyber bullying that we tell kids not to do.”
The Not In Our Town organization members grappled with the fallout from the election as they met on Thursday. Rev. Gary Saunders said that the election should not be viewed as a referendum against diversity and inclusion – but rather a choice between two candidates.
But others saw the nation’s support of Donald Trump as something more cynical.
“I truly think it was a statement of hate,” said Julie Broadwell.
Some see Trump’s campaign as a forum allowing white people to openly say what they have been thinking, Leslie Galan said. And now the floodgates have been opened, and hate speech has become acceptable.
The hate has filtered down to children, who are feeling new feelings of vulnerability. “They’re scared. They’re absolutely frightened,” Linda Lander said.
To combat what has become this new norm of hatred, several efforts are underway in Bowling Green, including:
- Peaceful gatherings will be held every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., in the city’s green space in the downtown, until Trump’s inauguration.
- The town hall meeting on the impact of the election will be held Monday, at 6 p.m., in 101 Olscamp Hall.
- A Not In Our Town Peace March will be held Friday, Nov. 18, at noon, starting downtown and traveling along sidewalks to the BGSU Student Union.
- Efforts will continue by NIOT to talk with local businesses and ask them to place NIOT clings in their shop windows.
- The “I Stand” program is continuing at BGSU, encouraging people to not stand by quietly when discriminatory comments are made by others.
Members of Not In Our Town also talked about holding an “I’m a Racist” program at the public library.
“People aren’t forced to confront the harsh realities of what’s happening,” Dyer said to the group. White people need to recognize their privileged roles, she said.
Galan said she hears from members of the community who don’t think racism exists here. “I get a lot of email from the community that it’s not a problem,” she said. “They are lacking the empathy.”
“We have a lot of well-meaning people, but they just don’t get it,” Saunders said.
Roger Grant challenged the Not In Our Town organization. “Are we a group that’s interested in educating the white community?” he asked. “We need to get real raw about what’s happening. I think there’s an appetite to learn.”