DePauw in The Trump Era: Has Trump Influenced Racist Incidents on Campus?

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Photograph by Byron Mason II

Race. It’s an unavoidable topic in today’s social and political climate. After centuries of racial tension in the United States, it’s a subject that still persists, leaving many hurt or enraged. It seems almost ironic that amidst the swirl of racial tension, the President of the United States promotes racial tension through his actions. Now, racist occurrences have been happening across the country long before Trump took office. But, it seems as if racists have been more open about conveying their distaste for people of color, and it makes one wonder if Donald Trump’s’ presidency is the source of this open racism, or at least contributes to it. With that said, DePauw has experienced a plethora of racist occurrences on campus. Could it be that Trump’s condoning of– and even facilitation of– racism encourages individuals at DePauw to be racist towards people of color?

Even before President Trump was in office, he had questionable responses to racist acts and even conducted racist acts himself. For instance, during Trump’s campaign, two white men beat and urinated on a Hispanic homeless man and explained that Donald Trump had inspired them to do so. In response, Trump said that what happened was a “shame,” but that his supporters are “passionate.” It was as if he was condoning the actions of the two white men. It wasn’t until later that Trump said that what had happened was terrible and that he doesn’t condone violence.

Only a few days after Trump’s remarks on the attack on the Hispanic man, he mocked the accent of Japanese and Chinese negotiators during a rally.

Then, when Trump first took office last year, he issued an executive order that kept people traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen from entering the United States. Each of these countries has a majority Muslim population, raising the question of whether or not Trump’s executive order was a ban on Muslims.

But perhaps the epitome of Trump’s offhanded and racist actions was his reference to third world countries as “shithole countries.” According to CNN, during a meeting with lawmakers, Trump couldn’t understand why the United States would want to bring in Haitians and Africans. Instead, Trump remarked that the United States should bring in more people from countries such as Norway. Per CNN, the lawmakers who were in the room with Trump when he said the remark were shocked, and his comment shocked the rest of the country as well.

It seems that Trump’s election and his comments like “shit hole countries” are having an affect on the rest of the nation. According to BBC News, after Trump’s election back in 2016, hate crimes were reported on social media. For instance, in Philadelphia, swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti were painted onto buildings. In Westville, a small village in the New York State, a swastika was painted onto a building along with the words “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.” If Trump was not president, would these occurrences have happened?  

This racial tension that stems from Trump’s presidency even extends to Greencastle. On DePauw’s campus, six racist occurrences have happened in the past week and a half. It began with graffiti in two locations on campus. On one, someone wrote “All niggers must die -KKK” in a bathroom stall and on the other, someone drew a swastika on a bathroom door. Over the same weekend that the obscenities were written in campus bathrooms, someone spelled out “Nigger” in rocks in DePauw’s nature park and a white student was dressed in what appeared to be blackface while wearing a nametag that read, “Blackie.” Following these racist incidents, the words “Fuck Chink” was written on a toilet paper dispenser in one of the student dorms and “Die Sand Niggers” was written on a toilet seat in an academic building. This is not the first time racist incidents  have occurred around DePauw either. In August of 2017, a white student defecated on the doorstep of two students of color. And only a year before that, racial slurs were written on the doors of first year students of color.

All of these events happened while Trump was running for or was already in office. Now does it mean that Donald Trump has a direct connection to what has happened on DePauw’s campus? The answer isn’t clear. Racist incidents have been occurring on DePauw’s campus long before Donald Trump was in the political arena. A series of microaggressions and racial slurs were hurled at students in the years leading up to Trump’s presidential run. But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s presidency is void of blame. Just as Trump inspired those men to beat and urinate on that homeless Hispanic man, who’s to say that Trump’s position hasn’t inspired DePauw students to act out against students of color? And if this is the case, it’s not hard to imagine that whoever was acting out of bigotry felt encouraged to do what they did because of Trump’s actions.

If Trump is the leader of the free world and mocks people of Asian descent, the perpetrators could say: why can’t I? But at the same time, these racist acts could have been done out of hatred and ignorance. However, one would think that it’s hard to imagine Trump having no impact on these situations. It makes one wonder, if Trump was not the president, would these racist incidents be happening? At least to the extent that they are now? Regardless of the answer, the racists incidents that have occurred at DePauw have no place on the campus. It shouldn’t matter who the president is, everyone should be respected no matter the color of their skin.

Byron Mason II is a junior at DePauw University as a English Writing major. As both a Media Fellow and an editor at DePauw's Midwestern Review, Byron contributes to the DePauw community by producing and monitoring the compelling content that DePauw has to offer.