Several hundred people gathered Friday at Baylor University to walk a student to class after she reported another student on campus pushed her and called her the n-word.
The demonstration, which interim President David Garland participated in, came after a Thursday night gathering on campus that included one side chanting “Build A Wall” and another shouting “All love, no hate.”
Both events stemmed from reactions to and messages of Donald Trump’s selection as the next president of the United States.
Baylor students joined the wildfire of demonstrations on college campuses across the country that started almost immediately after the announcement the former reality TV star won the White House. About 2,000 people gathered at UCLA on Wednesday, dozens joined on the campus of Cornell University that same day, and more than 300 students marched at the University of Texas, among other events, according to Politico.
This was the first presidential election many of the students voted in.
Trump wrote in a tweet Thursday night that he’d just had a “very open and successful presidential election.”
“Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” the tweet continued.
Nine hours later, he sent another tweet saying he appreciates the passion protestors showed.
“We will all come together and be proud!” the tweet concluded.
Many of the people gathered at Baylor this week said they were not there to speak out against the election results but against the past year and a half and ongoing messages of racism, bigotry and prejudice coming from the campaign and president-elect.
Baylor officials released a statement Thursday stating the administration had been made aware of the incident in which Natasha Nkhama was pushed and subjected to racially offensive language from another student.
Baylor officials said they spoke with Nkhama and are working to ensure she feels safe.
Nkhama, 19, said she filed a report with the university and is undecided on whether to file a police report.
“To me it doesn’t matter, because now he knows that he can’t do that anymore and he can’t get away with it on campus,” the psychology sophomore said.
The university statement encourages anyone who feels they are subjected to any bias-motivated action to report it at baylor.edu/reportit.
“We are a caring, Christian community in which acts of violence and insensitivity have no place,” vice president for student life Kevin P. Jackson said in a statement. “As Baylor Bears, it is our responsibility to care for and treat each other with love, compassion and dignity. Any behavior short of this demands our full attention so that we can hold each other accountable while seeking to reconcile and restore damaged relationships.”
Nkhama exited the Tidwell Bible Building about 9:55 a.m. Friday not knowing several hundred people would be waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Students, faculty and administrators burst into applause at her appearance, sending Nkhama into emotional tears and burying her face into a hug with her friend Erica Kaze.
During the walk, Nkhama said, she felt overwhelmed by the show of support and “super loved.”
“I know that things like that on campus won’t happen again because there’s so many people that won’t stand for it,” she said as she walked with her arms linked with friends’.
Many students said they walked to show that even one incident is worth standing up against.
During the summer, Sam Davidson, 25, a third-year Truett Seminary student, did a study program at Auschwitz to learn how the Holocaust happened.
‘Little things matter’
“It started with very small things, very small acts of discrimination, very small propaganda, very small things people didn’t really notice, things nobody got upset about. And suddenly it’s 1944 and there’s been a genocide that nobody stopped when they could,” Davidson said. “So little things matter. Little things start big things.”
Nkhama had posted a video to social media telling her story after the racially charged incident. The video rapidly spread across student channels, prompting strangers to join in supporting Nkhama. In the video she said she was on her way to class when a guy went out of his way to bump into her and shoved her off the sidewalk and said, “No n-----s allowed on the sidewalk.” She said another student told the guy to stop, and the initial student said, “I’m just trying to make America great again.”
Davidson said he saw the video on social media and wanted to join in the show of solidarity.
“I think little things like pushing someone off the sidewalk and using the n-word when nobody else is around, if you don’t respond to that and condemn that when it happens in weird outlying things like that, it’s just going to grow,” he said. “It’s just going to continue to be acceptable, mainstream, not something that people are going to freak out about.”
Baylor University spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said officials estimated 300 to 350 faculty, staff and administrators attended the walk.
Graduate student Kristiana Baez, 26, said anyone who experiences this type of violence needs to know they have a support system.
“I also hope people who supported Donald Trump understand what that means and what people who take it to the extreme will do as a response, because he invoked Donald Trump when he did what he did,” she said about the person who pushed Nkhama. “This is what we’ve been saying for a long time. Queer people, people of color, women, have understood since the beginning that his campaign and his presidency is one that incites violent rhetoric, one that tries to divide not unify.”
Sporting an “I walk with Natasha” sticker, Garland said he watched Nkhama’s video and immediately called university officials to find out what was happening.
“This is who Baylor really is,” he said about Friday’s show of support. “We stand with all of our students.”
Geology student Adrian Charles, 20, said no matter who is president there should not be injustice.
“We do see what’s going on and we are taking a stand against it,” Charles said.
Health science studies senior Ariel Roman Hicks, 21, said she walked to show her support and that black lives do matter.
“With everything going on and the hostility of Trump and things like that, it’s not OK,” Hicks said. “We just want to support everything and support unity and support the black community.
What started as a group of a few dozen people quickly turned to more than 200 on Thursday as students gathered for about an hour on Baylor’s campus.
Holding a sign that read “I’m not a rapist or a criminal,” art student Loisa Perez, 21, said she is afraid.
Trump’s bigotry and rhetoric against Mexicans during the campaign has been hateful, and his message has caused supporters to attack and assault others, she said.
“My people have been personally sought out, and it needs to stop. It needs too,” Perez, who voted in Tuesday’s election, said. “I’m scared for my family, for my friends. There are people that are first-generation Mexican Americans who have crossed over here, and their parents struggled a lot to build a life for them here. And honestly, it is so terrifying that people and families could be torn apart because of this, because of his words.”
Many held signs that read, “I love my country. Why can’t it love me,” “Don’t grab my pussy,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Stop hurting people,” “My university may ignore a pussy-grabber, but I sure as hell won’t,” and “It’s personal not political,” among others.
Most of those who gathered expressed concern over the rhetoric from Trump during his campaign as well as certain supporters who have turned those messages into violence. While the group stood together, another collection of students began gathering across from them wearing Trump stickers or holding campaign signs.
Wearing a Trump sticker, finance freshman Connor Price, 19, said he came to offer an open dialogue with “the other side,” or the Republican party, as he clarified.
“My main issue with these kinds of protests and the main reason I’m out here is because these protests have been turning extremely violent at other universities, you know fist fights, burning of American flags, and honestly I don’t want to see that happen here,” Price said, adding he’s not sure what he would do if something happened. “I just don’t want to see it happen.”
Price said everyone needs to put differences aside and work together. He said Trump is not going to do the extreme things people are quoting.
“When it comes to checks and balances, it won’t happen,” he said. “They are not going to ban all Muslims from the United States. They’re not going to kick out all the Hispanic population in the United States. That would be absolutely asinine. Fear doesn’t make sense.”
The event began as a giant circle, with individuals from each side meeting in the middle to talk.
Once that ended, the chanting began: “Build a wall,” “We Love Trump,” and “Lock her up” rang out from some, while “All love, no hate,” rang from others.
Wrapped in a rainbow flag, Junior Micah Furlong, 20, said he attended the demonstration because as a community everyone should stand up for minorities when they are discriminated against.
Furlong said Trump promised to further the agendas of vice president-elect Mike Pence, who rose to the national stage after signing an expansive anti-LGBT measure into law.
“The LGBTQ community didn’t choose this life. They didn’t choose to be discriminated against. They didn’t choose to not be allowed to marry the person they love. No one would choose that in this sort of world that is so hateful and so spiteful of anything different,” he said.
Accounting junior Nitya Nandamudi, 20, said he happened to pass the event and decided to join. Nandamudi said he believes Trump is less bad for America than the other options presented. Nandamudi said he didn’t like the sign being held by a student that read, “Not my president,” but sympathizes with people who feel discriminated against.
Freshman Kelsey Rood, 19, said she needs to use her voice to stand up for those being targeted, including, the LGBTQ and black communities.
“I think when an entire country, or half a country, votes to elect someone that is not shameful about how he oppresses others, someone needs to say something,” Rood said.
Junior Aysha Siddiqui, 20, said the event wasn’t a protest. The idea was to let people who support Trump defend their position.
“I don’t feel safe in my own city, and that’s not OK,” Siddiqui said. “It’s a scary world right now.”
Siddiqui said she’s afraid someone will pull off her hijab.
Freshman Sierra Christerson, 18, said she came to hear both sides and share her opinion. Christerson said she voted for Trump and believes he will do great things. She said Trump does not have a problem with the LGBTQ community or the black community like many are complaining, but he does take issue with individuals who are not in the country legally.
“What is happening is people are using his presidency as a means to say it’s OK to be misogynistic and homophobic and racist, and that’s not what I voted for,” Christerson said. “That’s not what I believe that Donald Trump wants. I feel like he really does want to make this country great.”