Hundreds of students walked out of New York City high schools on Thursday, February 9, to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim majority nations. Hardly anybody from Stuyvesant attended.
The Trump administration seems remote to many, and it is difficult to imagine his policies influencing New York City. Some immigrant families, having earned their place in society through hard work, believe Trump will create a more meritocratic system. Also, there are conservative segments of the student body which simply align with the Republican party.
Background aside, nearly every student currently attending Stuyvesant will graduate, and transition to adulthood, under a Trump presidency. His administration will have major, and potentially disastrous, effects on our lives. No matter our political affiliations, we must stay informed, and look at Trump’s policies for what they really are: discriminatory and illogical.
The First Month of Trump
Half a million people participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC, along with many smaller marches nationwide. Through protest, many Americans were able to show President Trump that they are unwilling to accept the bigotry and hatred his campaign rhetoric stood for.
Trump issues a memorandum to resume construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. This action is consistent with Trump’s claims that climate change is not real, despite scientific consensus stating otherwise, and will threaten our generation and those to come.
Trump signs a pair of executive orders which called for the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and reinstated programs that allow the federal government to work with local law enforcement agencies to detain unauthorized immigrants. This causes a diplomatic spat with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto over funding, revealing Trump’s willingness to risk U.S-Mexican relations. With this policy we will see families broken apart, communities disrupted, and our country placed in a police state.
White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon says the media “should keep its mouth shut.” Traditionally protected by the First Amendment, freedom of speech is essential to maintaining an accountable democracy, and is under assault by the Trump administration.
Trump signs an executive order banning travelers and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Trump’s travel ban not only undermines our constitutional right to due process, but also is Islamophobic, which should be particularly troubling to Stuyvesant students. Our school is filled with immigrants who fled dictatorships and came to America for new opportunities; Trump’s executive order denies equal opportunity and infringes upon civil rights.
Anti-travel ban protests erupts at international airports across the nation. In response, a federal judge in New York issued a temporary stay on parts of the order, preventing the deportation of some travelers.
Trump invites White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council and revokes the permanent seats of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. Bannon has little to no expertise in this field, while the actors Trump is removing are among the most qualified in the nation, casting doubt upon Trump’s ability to maintain national security, despite all his claims.
A federal judge issues a nationwide restraining order on President Trump’s travel ban.
Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is confirmed by a single, tie-breaking vote. DeVos is poorly qualified and seeks to direct funding away from free, public education, which may harm Stuyvesant. It will have a larger impact on our transition into adulthood in that it may potentially decrease funding for CUNY, making it harder for us to pursue an affordable higher education. Without equal opportunities for all income brackets, it is difficult to see how Trump is creating a merit-based society.
Trump’s nominee for Attorney General Jeff Sessions is confirmed despite facing intense scrutiny over a career marked by prejudice and racism. Sessions’ confirmation continues Trump’s trend of normalizing bigotry and sexism, making many doubt if they still belong in this country.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturns Trump’s executive order barring immigration, stating that there is no evidence that the specified nations pose a threat to national security.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigns due to allegations of close ties with the Russian government and withholding information from Vice President Mike Pence, showing the fragility and dishonesty of Trump’s administration.
Stuyvesant Speaks Out
Assistant Principal of Guidance Casey Pedrick sent out an e-mail addressed to Stuyvesant’s student body on the Monday after Trump’s executive order. The e-mail, sent on behalf of the counseling department, was a reassurance to those who are worried about the effects the president’s actions may have on their safety and status in this country. Pedrick reminded students of Stuyvesant’s acceptance of diversity.
“This building is your second home and I want you to feel you have a safe harbor as you walk through our doors each morning,” she said in the e-mail. She then listed existing resources within the school that are available for students and parents.
Additionally, parent coordinator Dina Ingram made it clear that she would be available for families who needed either legal assistance or emotional support in the wake of this controversial decision. Director of College Counseling Jeffrey Makris also reached out to students and families in an e-mail in which he included links to accessible immigration-related legal services.
Activism After the Election
The fight is far from over. In the next election cycle, it will become our responsibility to select a path for our nation to embark upon, but we shouldn’t wait. As minors, many of us are affected, both directly and indirectly, by Trump’s policies: our families, education, and legal rights are under attack. As students, we must exercise our ability to influence our peers and communities.
Opposing the Trump administration will require us to take Stuyvesant’s motto—“for knowledge and wisdom”—into our own hands. True education stems from our school and peers. Through local political discussions, we can remain educated about our political climate.
Trump’s executive orders are fundamentally un-American. They have drastically changed our national posturing toward Islam and various minority communities, alienating them in a fruitless attempt to keep America safe.
During his campaign, it may have been easy to overlook his derogatory language, but his actions speak volumes to the chapter of history he will be leading us through. He often spoke about reviving America to its former glory, but what Trump doesn’t understand is that being American is not to be someone, but to believe in something. America is already great because of the profound freedoms and cultural diversity it offers.
At the end of the day, Trump’s actions only serve to motivate violent extremists and breed disunity within our nation because he is dressing discrimination up as U.S. policy. The campaign is over, and now it is time to see Trump for what he is: dangerous.
Many students have protested in support of targeted groups and in defiance of the Trump administration. Though protesting the new administration may seem ineffective to some, it demonstrates political agency. Participating in protests may not immediately influence policy-makers, but it is still an important mechanism for masses to make their voices heard.
The problem is what happens after the march: often, nothing. Activism requires a sustained effort. Donating to civil rights groups, keeping the issues alive within extracurriculars and conversation, and calling or petitioning local politicians are all viable methods of effectuating political change.
When the Dust Settles: What Can We Do Next?
Although many of us are privileged enough to not be directly affected, we all bear the responsibility not only to remain informed, but to aid those who are directly impacted. Families are being divided, and their ability to remain in this country is being infringed upon—we cannot stand idly by.
Here are some steps you can take to make your opposition clear:
- Find your congressional district and representative at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
- Use Change.org to find and support meaningful petitions
- Participate with “Call Them In,” a network that seeks to connect citizens with senators by providing you with scripts and numbers to help you gain the confidence to reach out.
- Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has made a goal out of combatting Trump’s discriminatory policies
- Volunteer for organizations like Planned Parenthood or the Anti-Defamation League
- Start a conversation with a Trump supporter. Listen to their perspective, and establish yours.
- Boycott businesses owned by, or closely associated with, Donald Trump.
The recent election has deepened political divides in our school and across the nation. We ought to make the decision to reach across the aisle and listen to, instead of renouncing, the opinions of our conservative or democratic peers. Divisions will only give the Trump administration more power, and it is time to resist.